Understanding and Embracing the Era of Embedded Computing

Prashant Vitankar, Business Head, Client Computing Devices Product Group at Fujitsu India

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The exponential growth and advancements in the field of electronics, wireless communications, networking, cognitive and affective computing and robotic devices are helping human beings communicate in more ways than ever imagined. IoT has been shaping the future of many industries, and has been contributing to their growth by generating an unprecedented amount of data. This exponential growth in the Internet of Things (IOT) technology puts the impact of embedded computing in the technology industry, in perspective. The Internet of Things (IoT) essentially refers to an ecosystem of discrete computing devices with sensors connected through the infrastructure of the Internet (Information Age). These discrete computing devices that perform independent functions and yet integrate as a system in achieving a shared goal, form the crux of embedded systems.

The embedded systems industry was born with the invention of micro-controllers and since then it has evolved into various forms, from primarily being designed for machine control applications to various other new verticals with the convergence of communications. In the early 1960s, development of embedded systems began and since then it has grown exponentially in terms of power as well as functionality. Due to the large scale proliferation of integrated chips and other related parts, costs of such systems have also come down drastically.

Since then, the world has witnessed the impact of embedded circuits in tackling complex issues pertaining to bind the physical and computational world. Many of these solutions have been in the form of portable, embedded or wearable devices and systems while others have been distributed, decentralized and massively networked. A System on Chip (SoC) technology embodies and symbolizes much of these advances. It comprises several cooperating, interacting, and potentially heterogeneous hardware/firmware/software sub-systems.

Embedded systems are the cornerstone of the electronics industry today. Embedded systems are used in almost all the areas like consumer, cooking, industrial, automotive, medical, commercial and military applications. Its important characteristics are low-power, real-time responsiveness, low thermal dissipation, small physical form factor/footprint, low radiation/emission, ruggedness in design and to protection from external radiations to name a few.

In order to achieve key requirements, embedded systems are generally restricted to limited resources in terms of computing, memory, display size etc. With the continued convergence of other technologies, many more functionalities that were once part of traditional computing platforms are being pushed into embedded devices. This further adds a major “decision challenge” for architects and product managers regarding the selection of processors, operating systems, and standards of usage.

As per a recent report published by Allied Market Research titled, “World Embedded Computing Market” the world embedded computing market is likely to generate revenue of $236.5 billion by 2022, with an estimated CAGR of 6.2% from 2016 to 2022. In the year 2015, North America was the highest revenue-generating region owing to the high adoption of technology, higher standards of living, and the presence of dominant market players. The Asia-Pacific region was the second largest market, in terms of revenue generation, and is expected to obtain a dominant position during the forecast period. Major factors that boost the demand of embedded computing systems in the Asia-Pacific region include increasing adoption of technology, declining prices of consumer electronics, and improving living standards in countries such India and China.

While the ever-decreasing costs of embedded computing hardware is expected and not too exciting, there have been a few key price points that are an indicator of things to come. The most well-known is the Raspberry Pi Zero, created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, will continue to push this impressive level of development capability into schools, really giving the next generation of engineers (and non-engineers) some hands-on experience. Perhaps a lesser- known release is C.H.I.P, the new development platform from Next Thing Co. The hardware is like the Pi Zero, but the drive behind the company is quite different.

We are surrounded by various classes of embedded systems such as home media systems, portable players, smart phones, embedded medical devices and sensors, automotive embedded systems. With the continued convergence of communications and computing functions within these devices, embedded systems are transforming themselves into really complex systems like hybrid vehicles, MRI, and avionics.

The growth of wireless communication infrastructure is the key driver for the expansion of this market. The increasing penetration of smartphones and tablets has resulted in the development of wireless communication infrastructure. Since embedded computers are an important component of telecom devices, their usage in sectors like telecom and transport is expected to result in market growth during the forecast period.

The global market for embedded computers is positively affected by the technology’s increasing application in sectors like transportation, energy, telecom, and medical technology. The widespread applicability of embedded computers in different end-user segments is expected to result in its healthy CAGR of more than 14% by 2019. This market is fragmented and contains multiple local and multinational vendors. Recently, it has been observed that the presence of limited target customers in this market is intensifying the competition amongst vendors. This is expected to generate a price war, which will lower the bargaining power of vendors.

The digital revolution has now reached a stage where we cannot conduct our normal modern daily lives without this technology. Indeed, it is reasonable to say that everyone already owns at least one device, which contains a processor or microcontroller in it whether it is a phone, a television, an automatic washing machine, an MP3 player, or microwave oven.

We are on the horizon of some exciting advancements in the field of embedded computing. The Global Embedded Computing Market Research Report 2017 offers deep insights into the status of key regional markets in the Embedded Computing Industry on a global level, focusing primarily on the core regions including continents like Europe, North America, and Asia and the key countries such as United States, Germany, China and Japan. In addition to seeing an ever-growing number of IoT and smart devices, it can be concluded that during the next few years we’ll see embedded computing enable great advancements in AI and smart cities. Backyard developers will be empowered to create more impressive and advanced systems, and technical literacy will become more widespread. Needless to say, the scope and reach of embedded computing and IOT is crossing leaps and bounds towards an exciting future.

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