ESC 2006 Silicon Valley hits lively note


San Jose, CAEmbedded Systems Conference (ESC) Silicon Valley was alive with the latest embedded system developments and products during its April 3-7, 2006, run here. Perhaps it was the new location at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center that instilled a fresh outlook on the 18th edition of this annual high-tech event catering to the needs of embedded systems developers and engineers.

Unchanged for ESC was its synergistic combination of “how-to” technology sessions, design seminars, and tutorials on the Conference side—numbering 290 this year—plus an Exhibition featuring the latest products from leading companies. Some 300 companies participated on the show-floor.

Event keynoter on April 4 was Dean Kamen, entrepreneur, technology advocate, and inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, among other accomplishments. In his presentation, “Innovation: Rude Realities & Realistic Suggestions,” Kamen put a down-to-earth touch on what it takes to come up with true product innovation. Companies and developers need to follow a path that’s different from the conventional product development schedule, which inherently is non-innovative, he explained. Among a number of “rude realities” Kamen offered was: “Great technology alone rarely constitutes innovation.” Rather, true innovation follows a torturous, convoluted (nonlinear) path involving euphoria, disappointment, surprise—and even a dash of the miraculous.

Kamen also commented about other areas of his activities. As founder of DEKA Research & Development Corp, he noted its mission “to foster innovation and creativity while encouraging employees to question conventional thinking”—a process said to promote innovation and a formula responsible for DEKA’s success. He also mentioned FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an initiative to inspire young people about participating in science and technology, in which Kamen is much involved. (See bottom for a link to more about creative product development.)

A random sampling of product announcements at ESC 2006 included:

PERC Virtual machine from Aonix has been upgraded with full Java 5 language features like generics, annotations, type-safe enumerations, and the addition of Java SE (and other new libraries). Also introduced with PERC Ultra were various performance, porting, and tool improvements. Performance upgrades included optimized large object reclamation and a 12% footprint.

Echelon Corp. showed its new Pyxos Embedded Control Network that gets down to device-level objects (or essentially the “atomic” level). Pyxos, which will be commercially available by year-end 2006, was demonstrated via a Smart Carpet Display (SCD), illustrating the role of embedded networking in essentially any environment from household devices to networked controls in the utility industry to medical, emergency response, and crime-prevention applications. Pyxos enables nano sensors to be embedded into carpets or clothing, for example, to detect patient falls or unauthorized intrusions, then provides messaging to responders via cell phone or the Internet.

Kuka Controls displayed how its technology allows either of two real-time operating systems to coexist with Microsoft Windows XP on one processor without the need for OS modifications. Use of either Wind River’s VxWorks or Microsoft Windows CE real-time operating system (RTOS) eliminates the need for extra controls or separate display hardware, while raising system reliability. The software-only solution from Kuka Controls offers determinism and response of commercial RTOSs along with connectivity, graphics, hardware support, and end-user comfort with of Windows XP.

Parvus Corp. showed new families of ruggedized mobile IP networking solutions (DuraMAR mobile access router) and embedded computer systems (DuraCOR rugged computer processing platform), among other products. DuraMAR’s design supports seamless mobile roaming among different wireless networks, supporting applications such as mobile hot spots, mobile Voice Over IP (VoIP) communication, inter-vehicle networking, Internet protocol (IP) technology bridging for legacy communications, etc., says the company.

DuraCOR Series systems are modular, highly configurable embedded computers designed to meet military and transportation environmental standards. They’re engineered to withstand the shock, vibration, humidity, extreme temperatures, and power requirements of vehicles or aircraft, says Parvus.

For more from Control Engineering on product development tips, see “ How to improve product design .”

Frank J. Bartos , executive editor

April 7, 2006

Real-time application platform for optimization of process operations

PAS has released PlantState Suite 5.0, which has been enhanced to include a number of embedded capabilities that, until now, have only been available as separate products from various vendors.
Highlights of the key capabilities embedded in Suite 5.0 include:

  • Event Historian for collection of events from process monitoring and control systems, including process alarms, operator logbook entries, or any other event;

  • OPC Server for the transfer of data as collected via the PlantState system interfaces to other applications and/or systems using the OPC protocol;

  • APC Studio for development of real-time calculations and advanced control strategies, including simulation and deployment testing; and

  • APC Online to provide real-time I/O from PlantState applications to various distributed control systems, programmable logic controllers and other plant-floor devices.

PlantState now supports a broader range of real-time performance improvement applications:

  • Advanced process control of linear and non-linear systems;

  • Alarm management for a wide range of process control systems;

  • Control loop monitoring and controller tuning of field control devices; and

  • User-defined key performance indicator (KPI) calculation and reporting.

Richard Phelps , senior editor, Control Engineering

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