ESC SV 2011 - Themed or ThemelessDuane Benson
5/11/2011 4:53 PM EDT
The Embedded Systems Conference ended last week and after the show plus some unwind vacation time, I’ve been reflecting on this year’s event; what was there of significance and what differed from past years.
I've been going to ESC for half dozen years now. There always seems to be some sort of product or technology that stands out as the major theme. I don't think it was dinosaurs this year. As Jack Ganssle mentioned, LeCroy had an actual T-Rex skeleton in their booth. It took up an awful lot of floor space, but didn't have any contemporaries that would have helped to call it a theme.
It could have been low-power devices. All of the microcontroller folks seemed to be talking about their low-power chips. That may have been it, but I've seen a lot of low-power emphasis in past years too.
The closest to a “theme” that I sensed would be the proliferation of low-cost and / or self-contained evaluation boards. Eval boards have been around almost as long as the T-rex, but this new breed is different. These are really more of self-contained systems than simple chip evaluation boards.
A few years back, Texas Instruments introduced the Beagleboard; an open source, almost fully complete computer on a 3 x 3 inch board. Not long after, ARM and NXP released the mBed; a full-featured dev board with a cloud-based IDE and compiler set. Ti struck again the the Launchpad, an 8-bit MSP-430 family eval board selling at about five dollars. This year Renesas and a few others were giving out package development boards as well. I picked up an RL78/G13 board by listening to a presentation at the Renesas booth.
The lack of a clearly defined theme is bothersome to me. I’d like to know if, by manning a booth most of the time, I just missed the theme. I’m open to that possibility. To me, a theme for a show is a lot like a famous keynote speaker. It doesn’t change why most of us are at the event, but it can add excitement and give a focal point to the show. In general, I felt that show floor traffic was down from last year, when the recession was still on. This year, in the midst of the alleged recovery, I saw less traffic and less enthusiasm in general. If my take on the show is accurate, I don’t know how optimistic I can be about the coming year for the electronics industry.