Embedded Design Trends

I’ve written here previously on being truly engaged with our profession; one engagement opportunity is keeping an eye on trends in embedded systems development. EE Times conducts an annual survey of embedded market trends, and they recently published this year’s results:

Slideshow: 10 Embedded Design Trends

The 2014 survey marks some interesting shifts in embedded systems markets, and keeps with the AppliedLogix team’s experiences and observations over the last year:

  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Android are hot – With more and more end-users carrying smartphones and tablets, we’ve observed increased interest in leveraging these mobile devices for the rich user interfaces, remote-access and notification capabilities they can provide. Mirroring the trend EE Times observed, AppliedLogix has seen increased demand for networkable embedded devices, and mobile application development to match.
  • Rise of the 32-bit MCUs – If you get the sense that the embedded industry is rallying around 32-bit microcontrollers, you’d be right – constantly setting performance-per-dollar records, these little 32-bit powerhouses are steadily eating their 8- and 16-bit cousins’ market share (though Greg Robinson of Microchip still (rightly) sees a place for 8-bit). Driven by the ARM Cortex ecosystem’s rapid adoption by Silicon vendors, interoperability and breadth of tools, we’ve been seeing the new crop of 32-bit parts enable microcontroller-based functions previously only achievable with DSPs.
  • Multiprocessing – While multi-core micros still strike many embedded control developers as somewhat exotic, dropping multiple MCUs into a design is becoming increasingly common. We’ve seen this trend too, but it’s not without complications. Inter-processor communications, firmware updates and debugging all get more complex when an architecture includes multiple controllers – but this complexity can be worth adding when self-checking, hardware diversity or redundant communication channels are required for functional safety.

Not all the news in the EE Times Embedded Trends survey is welcome, however: the industry overall has done little to improve the rates of late and canceled projects. On-time projects have slipped from an unimpressive 4-in-10 down to 37% for 2014. Since founding AppliedLogix in 2006, we’ve incorporated various project management tools and techniques to help meet tight schedules. We’re especially proud of the on-time delivery of our most recent project, an aggressive 8-week controller development program that included custom hardware, firmware and PC software.