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Embedded Systems Conference West - editorial

Embedded Systems Conference West
Embedded Internet, Anyone?
Microcontroller.com Special Report

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Its that time of year to visit the Embedded Systems Conference. For those of you that have never been to, or have never heard of, the Embedded Systems Conferences, they are a series of convention-type events held by Miller-Freeman of Embedded.com fame. Anyone who is serious about the embedded industry, excluding hobbyists, except maybe serious hobbyists, make the trip to ESC at least once a year.

For attendees, there is the opportunity to discuss the latest products from your favorite microcontroller vendors and to find out who is serious about what. The latest vaporware is always on display, and demos range from the useless to the utterly fantastic. Attendees also have the opportunities to see first hand demos of a wide selection of C compilers and other development tools, and you are given the opportunity to crash them right there on the showroom floor...

This year's theme was on embedded internet, and it seemed that everyone had scrambled to come up with a demo in time for the conference. Common topics of discussion in amongst peers in this vein seemed to center on the validity of emWare's solution, the silliness of internet-enabled consumer appliances (or, "why do I want Mr. Coffee to talk to Mr. Toaster?") the novelty or uselessness of the iPIC, or, "just why do I need embedded internet anyway?"

The uniqueness of the booths seem to have dropped off. Inventiveness seemed to be at its height of the Embedded Systems Conference two years ago when Microsoft had a Corvette and Keil had a biker bar, complete with two Harleys. Another vendor had a marching band that every hour marched right thru the showroom floor - I remember the marching band better than I remember the actual vendor.

This year it there seemed to be a sense that there was a rush to get something out on the vendor floor. There were several noteworthy exceptions. Parallax had a booth that could only be characterized as "cool", with loads of neat Basic Stamp™ toys all over the place. Companies like US Software, Agranat, and NETSilicon had embedded internet demos that actually did something useful.

But the booth that attracted the most attention was the ST-Microelectronics booth. There, in the middle of ST's booth, was the passenger compartment from a Jeep Grand Cherokee, with full multimedia capability. Behind each rear headrest was an internet-enabled Sharp full-color LCD display, and a media control center with GPS capabilities. This was not a concept, this was a live demo! As Michael Kasparian, ST-Microelectronics Market Development Engineer for Car Entertainment and Car Multimedia explained, "We took this to the ITS America (Intelligent Transportation Society of America) show earlier this year and it opened everyone's eyes to the current state of car multimedia. Everyone has been talking about car multimedia for years. At ST, we have all the silicon technology in-house to finally bring the concept to reality. While others are still talking about concepts, we are the only ones to introduce this much content in a live, working demo".

Next installment - The Word from the Showroom Floor plus the Best Booth Award


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