How do you go from the normal six to twelve month development cycle to 45 minutes? Here are highlights from last week's Embedded Systems Conference.
Boston’s Embedded Systems Conference last week may have been smaller than in its heyday, but there were a number of interesting exhibitors and talks. There’s never enough time to attend more than a handful of the presentations I want to see, but here are a few highlights.
The expo show floor. Photo by author.
Jacob Beningo gave a talk seductively named “Creating an IoT Device in Only 45 Minutes.” The room, packed to capacity, listened intently. How do you go from the normal six to twelve month development cycle to 45 minutes? Jacob admitted that 45 is really 45ish, and I’d wager that his approach, while blazingly fast, would take a couple of hours or more. But still, he discussed using innovative approaches based on already-developed platforms to greatly accelerate time to market.
His primary platform was the Electric Imp. This is an SD card and mounting board based on the ubiquitous Cortex M that has wifi and all required firmware. Plenty of I/O—GPIO, PWM, I2C, etc.—is included. He connected it to a weather station board from Sparkfun. The hardware work was done, using canned components.
The firmware was almost done as well as the hardware is accompanied by almost all required code. What little development needed takes place in the cloud. There is no IDE on your PC. Developers use scripting lingos like Python and Squirrel (Squirrel? With over 1000 extant programming languages I guess they’re running out of names). Like the mbed environment, there’s no setting up of complex peripherals; a line or two of code is all that’s required to access devices.
A “blink up” process uses your phone to configure the Electric Imp hardware. The phone’s screen blinks in some rapid pattern; the Imp reads those blinks to configure the wifi. It’s all pretty cool. Jacob feels that this is the future of the embedded space.
I’m not so sure. Recurring costs and form factors have always challenged these sorts of canned solutions. But for makers it’s hard to beat the platform idea. Pro engineering will likely need different solutions. Still, this innovative approach does make one think, and might be a great way to do rapid prototyping.
Continue reading on EE Times' sister site, Embedded.
Note: The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is owned by UBM, which also owns EE Times, Embedded.com, EDN. Jack Ganssle has gone to almost every ESC since it began in 1989, in addition to speaking at the conference and writing for the associated magazine, Embedded Systems Programming/Design magazine, and website Embedded.com.