`Embedded' at ESC 2003

San Francisco, CA—The 15th Embedded Systems Conference (ESC 2003) enjoyed an eventful run in the "City by the Bay" on April 22-26, 2003, and included some 11,500 attendees from 41 countries and 270 exhibiting companies.


San Francisco, CA— The 15th Embedded Systems Conference

ESC has come a long way since its 1989 inaugural in the ballroom of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Powell Street, with total attendance amounting to 300. Back then, Motorola's 68000 processor was one of the highlight technologies on display.

At this year's presentations, it was quite easy for an editor and other visitors to be thoroughly "embedded" in ESC 2003's more than 140 classes, tutorials, and panel discussions-plus products galore on the show floor.

Applications in telecom, networking, commercial and home electronics, and automotive areas were prominent; yet a growing industrial flavor was also in the air for embedded products. Design for harsh environments is being incorporated into more products; for example, extended temperature capability allows applicable boards to operate in a range of -40 to 85˚C.

Forward-looking keynote
A standing-room only keynote address by Sir Robin Saxby, executive chairman of ARM Holdings plc, coupled the future of embedded systems to the world of biotechnology, unfolding through numerous advances in medical and security applications. (By the way, the keynote audience was larger than total attendance at the first ESC.)

Under the topic of "Turning Good Design into Good Science: The Convergence of Embedded Technology and Biotechnology," Saxby explained that CMOS will remain the enabling technology for at least another 10 years, but new materials are emerging, such as silicon carbide. "Tomorrow's challenges will require radically new designs, not simply cramming more transistors onto a silicon chip," he said.

Saxby sees embedded applications in biotechnology (all the life sciences) emerging rapidly, if not already here in some places. Examples cited range from tablet PCs for hospital data flow, continuous glucose monitoring, and smart surgical devices (data knife) to prenatal 3D ultrasound, cameras small enough to swallow, an implantable "brain pacemaker," and the bionic ear. In the security arena, new biometric techniques, such as iris scans, are promising to replace PINs.

However, new technology developments take a long time to become established. "Patience is the number-one ingredient needed to make advances and develop products of the future," Saxby reminded the audience.

`Best of show' product
Elmic Systems (San Francisco, CA) walked away with the first annual "Best of Show" product award for its work with the Vocera Communication System to produce a lightweight, clip-on, wireless device based on the 802.11b standard that allows voice-activated communication among people located throughout a building or "campus-like" enterprise. Elmic's Turbo Treck TCP/IP Internet suite is used at the connections management layer.

Deciding on the winner must have been exceedingly difficult for the panel of editors and analysts due to worthy competition from 14 finalists from among 30 entries. The finalists targeted applications as diverse as a PDA for blind users, a high-speed motion camera for harsh environments, and intelligent universal control of the "connected home."

Synergistic direction for ECS
A major change is coming for Embedded Systems Conference as announced during the show. Next year, electronicaUSA will be integrated with ESC as a combined event at the same Moscone Center venue on March 29-April 2, 2004.

Originated in 1964 in Germany, "electronica" is reportedly "the world's leading tradeshow for the electronics industry." Adding a show with international recognition is expected to bring synergy to the new event. The move is a result of a strategic partnership between CMP Media LLC and Messe München GmbH (Munich Trade Fairs), which are the respective organizers of the two shows. The goal is to produce one "key event in the U.S. that brings the entire electronics community together," according to Paul Miller, CMP's senior VP for electronics.

Participants appear to be keen on the change, with 120 exhibitors reportedly signing up in the two days following the announcement. These include Agilent Technologies, Analog Devices Inc., IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments. Six electronics-industry-related organizations support the event, including the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI).

Expectations already are running high for the show's new format. ESC 2004 is expecting 500-700 exhibitors organized by product segment, which would expand the show to encompass the Moscone Center's north and south halls. Attendance figures are projected at 18,000 to 20,000. The conference portion of the program is set to expand as well. Besides the Embedded Systems Conference, there are conferences slated for Communications Design; International Power Electronics Components, Systems & Applications; and others still being planned.

Given well-attended technical sessions and other positive indicators on the show floor, organizers predict that next year's "electronicaUSA with Embedded Systems Conference" may well "become one of the largest technology and business gatherings in the U.S. for the electronics design, development, and test community."

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos, executive editor

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