I just got back from the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, and I am so excited about the future of embedded that I can barely sit still. Intel started the show with a thrilling preview of its 14nm technology. The big news here for embedded developers is that the Intel® Atom™ is being pushed onto the process roadmap as Intel® Core processors. That means we can expect Intel Atom processors to leap from 45nm today to 14nm by 2014. This rapid advancement is expected to bring significant improvements in power, integration, and performance.
I’m also pumped about the way Android is shaping up. Intel and Google announced that they will work on kernel-level optimizations for Android that will take advantage of the Intel Atom processor’s power management, graphics, and multimedia capabilities. What’s more, I stumbled across a roadmap revealing that Android support is coming to the Intel® Atom processor E6xx series in January. I’m optimistic that this partnership will make Android an even more appealing option for embedded development.
We also got an intriguing preview of McAfee’s DeepSafe technology. This forthcoming product uses Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) to run beneath the OS layer, enabling it to provide kernel-mode rootkit protection. Here’s a demo:
I also got to see a ton of cool demos. The most impressive demo was the Adidas adiVERSE virtual shoe rack. I’ve known about this demo since it was first shown in January, but I didn’t appreciate how cool it was until I saw it in person. The graphics are so immersive that it really feels like you are standing in front of a rack of shoes. Pictures and videos just don’t do this demo justice – you should go see it for yourself! Having said that, here is a video of the set-up:
I also thoroughly enjoyed the interactive Lego augmented reality kiosk. Hold a box of Legos up to this display, and it projects a fully animated 3D rendering of the finished kit onto the surface of the box. If I hadn’t already been a Lego geek, this demo would have turned me into one! Here a video of the demo in action:
This video runs on an Emerson Network Power MITX-CORE-820 powered by the second-generation Intel® Core processor. It’s a great example of what you can do with the graphics processor (GPU) built into the second-generation Intel® Core processor.
The second-generation Intel® Core processor is also pretty darned good at video analytics. Here’s a signage demo that combines the processor with the Intel® Audience Impression Metric Suite (Intel®AIM Suite) to detect the gender, age, and number of viewers, and to change the ad accordingly. This technology is generating a huge amount of buzz. Advertisers are understandably intrigued by the ability to adapt to changing audiences and to evaluate the effectiveness of each ad. Like the Lego kiosk, this demo runs on the MITX-CORE-820 (note that I circled the audience analytics):
Swinging around to the opposite end of the performance spectrum, AAEON has a svelte 7” tablet that shows off what you can do with the Intel® Atom Z670 processor. This rugged tablet runs Microsoft* Windows* Embedded 7, Wi-Fi*, and GPS without breaking a sweat, all while offering up to 6 hrs of battery life. That’s a lot of beefy functionality in a small package!
I am also extremely excited about the fast-boot technology Wind River showed off. This technology builds off the Intel® Boot Loader Development Kit (Intel® BLDK) that lets you ditch the traditional BIOS in favor of lightweight, custom firmware. One benefit of Intel BLDK is significantly faster boot time – and Wind River has taken this to the next level by incorporating the key Intel BLDK technology directly into VxWorks. The result is an OS that boots in just 600ms – darn speedy by anyone’s standards! Currently this fast-boot technology is only available as a customized product, but Wind River plans to roll out support for a range of embedded boards in the future.
Speaking of the Intel BLDK, Arium announced at the show that its SourcePoint debugger now allows developers to debug source code used in Intel BLDK development. If you want to do your own boot loader development, this will be a big help!
Finally, I was struck by the number of boards and modules featuring the next-generation Intel Atom processor codenamed Cedar Trail. I discovered a whole wall full of products from companies including NEXCOM, CenterM*, Pinion Corp*, Advantech, SBS, SBG, CjoYin*, and Shenzen NetXeon. It’s clear that the industry is excited about this forthcoming processor and ready to support it from the moment it is launched.
There was tons of other cool stuff at the show – I wish I could cover it all! If you want to learn more about the show, I recommend checking out Eric Mantion’s Day 1 Recap and Day 2 Recap and doing a Twitter search for #idf2011. And make sure to mark your calendar for the next show so you won’t miss a thing!
Advantech and Emerson Network Power are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. AAEON, Microsoft, and Wind River are Associate members of the Alliance. Arium, NEXCOM, and SBS are Affiliate members of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance
Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston