Embedded in 2011
Hi there, welcome back!
At the core of technology innovation (and one of the linchpins of our business) are embedded electronics. Where are they headed in 2011?
(Off-topic: By the way, did you know that we provide expert Linux development and do some clever FPGA stuff?
What is Embedded Technology?
Embedded technology is the proverbial unloved child come to overtake its parents. An embedded system is any machine that has computerised electronics helping to do its job, and they're everywhere. The days are gone when your only interaction with a computer was with the standalone box you used to create emails, documents, or CAD designs.
Like the cutting-edge T2 lift controller which you can see in the picture (running software we've worked on in conjunction with TL Jones
to provide a customisable touch interface with up-to-date information, enhancing the passengers' journey, and providing differentiation for the building owner) most embedded devices are designed for highly specialised purposes. Other typical examples which we have experience with:
- Agricultural monitoring units
- Custom-designed medical devices
- Water-vehicle controllers
This year, we expect to see the line between "embedded" and "computing" blurred even further. You'll be interacting with your world in ways you've never expected, using advanced technology — much of which, you probably won't even notice you're using.
We believe that in the next few years, your laptop and desktop PCs may disappear entirely, not to be replaced with something better, but with something unexpected. Radically new ways of interacting with technology are so close it's scary.
We intend to be a part of this revolution. In fact, we already are.
What is "good" embedded technology in 2011?
Or, to be more precise, of really good embedded technology.
Really good embedded technology is defined by what makes it so incredibly difficult. Like what?
- Because the gap between transistors and the (more?) important business concerns (like the high-profile needs in medical technology) is such a large gap, a good embedded designer needs to have a good handle on the whole big picture, and the best do. This is not going to change in 2011.
- As consumer electronics is perfected and real competition ramps up, a simple engineering degree will no longer suffice to create great technology. Your development team needs to be multi-skilled in customer relations, user-interface design, iterative usability testing, and much more. This will only become more so in 2011.
- Technical rigour remains as important as it always has been, but add to that the increasing need for best practices, standardization and compatibility. More often than not we see our customers needing to completely rewrite software because, technically, it is holding their business back.
- Designing for a theoretical problem, but forgetting about production, waterproof plastic housing, sizing constraints, connectivity, or cellphone network coverage is a no-no. Connectivity and casing are critical in 2011. Find a team that cares about it. (You don't need a hint for this one.)
- Devices that just work are essential in 2011. Technical or non-technical, people have very little patience for advanced configuration that doesn't directly relate to their concerns. Plug-and-play is an old concept, but in 2011, it's essential for devices to work intuitively, first up.
Embedding: C or C++? It may seem like a technical detail, but if you're starting out on a project, choosing the right tools is important even for the managers. Our C++ guru writes helpfully on whether to use C++ in an embedded project.
Computing history: What mix makes innovation happen? Read about the colourful ride of the 3 inventors of the transistor in our latest blog article by guest writer Latesha Randall.
How do we know?
We provide a lot more than embedded technology at Brush. Web development and software are two of our other broad brush-strokes. Bad puns are another. But what happens when these areas of technology meet?
Smartphones are one such meeting-place. These devices can connect wirelessly to sensors distributed around, say, a farm or city to help farmers or business owners keep an eye on weather, intrusions, product temperature, and more, while on the road.
Another place these technologies meet is in the medical world. Cameras and highly specialised, ergonomic, controller devices connecting to high-quality displays showing interactive pictures of your lungs, eyes, or anything, helping doctors to train or keep patients informed about their bodies.
We've had years of experience helping these sorts of products to succeed, and in 2011 there will be an explosion of such products. Don't miss the opportunities!
Let's see the goodies
We've waxed eloquent about good embedded design. But let's go looking at what's out there:
- This is a cool compound-microphone that can pick out your voice from hundreds of others in a crowded stadium. I'll bet that thing packs a punch of embedded processing power to keep all those microphones in control. Really, this is 'just' the reverse of positional speaker systems.
- Are you thinking we might put GPS in your next product? You may find you'll also this wee digital compass as a backstop.
- This cleverly-design USB-rechargeable battery with a builtin USB connector—no extra charger need.
- Solar death rays. Not exactly embedded, but we can think of zillions of good uses for novel methods of disintegrating stuff.
Thanks, and see you in April
Next issue we plan to give an overview of the state of web-based software in 2011. If you're a SAAS provider, or a state-of-the-art web-design company, or even if you just want to build a successful web presence for your business, you'll want to stay tuned. Or let us know your ideas: we might just pop them into our newsletter for you.
Till then, Ciao.