Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's a tactile green embedded world

Last week I visited Embedded World 2010 in Nuremberg in Germany. Nuremberg is a nice city with a mediaeval city center and even though I had a hotel room right on the main market place, I did not see much of the town because of the show. The show was pretty big, more than 700 exhibitors spread out over three halls and allthough I spent two full days there, I did not have enough time to see everything.

The main theme of the show was green electronics. Lots of companies showed off green products, low-power boards and microcontrollers. Although low power electronics is very important, there were not many real green novelties. Microamps per megahertz is the most common term now and several manufacturers claim that their products have the lowest number. Unfortunately these numbers are difficult to compare, because one manufacturer talks about a 32-bit controller whereas another is talking about an 8-bit controller. Actually uA/Mhz is not a good measure, it would be better to use something like uA/MIPS or so. Energy Micro, a company that I didn't know before, won the Embedded World award in the category Hardware. Their EFM32 32-bit MCU (ARM Cortex-M3) consumes 180 uA/MHz (running at 32 MHz and 3V).

Another big thing these days is touch technology. In the coming years everything will be tactile, if we can believe the Embedded World exhibitors. Personally I am a bit weary of touch interfaces. At the end of the seventies touch keys were hot too. Being a poor student I had recovered a third-hand color TV with touch keys for the channel selection. These keys were very sensible to weather conditions and my TV changed station randomly, especially when humidity was high or when I really wanted to see something. One day this TV caught spontaneously fire and I finally got rid of it, but that's another story.

Now I have a monitor with touch keys. I also have a cat. It has happened several times that the cat changed the settings of my monitor in a completely random way just by striking the tactile surface of the monitor. I guess I’ll just have to wait until the touch craze has passed before I buy any new kit.

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