So, I’ve give a short summary of what I saw at the Intel Developer Forum 2010 in San Francisco, so now I’d like to do the same for the show I went to the following week, which, of course, was Embedded Systems Conference 2010 Boston.  To be honest, this was my first time going to ESC in Boston, but I have been to ESC in San Jose many times, so I have that perspective.  I’ll share the highlights of what I saw, but also my Key Takeaway: The #1 Problem Facing Embedded!


First, some of the best parts: For me, I really, really enjoyed the Microsoft Industry Address given by Kevin Dallas. I thought it was brilliant in really demonstrating the breath of what was going on in the embedded market space – from smarter gas pumps to some kind of gizmo you can wear on your head for (I think) Augmented Reality:


I won’t steal the guy’s thunder, but if you want to few the whole slide deck for yourself, you can see it here == ==


On top of that, Microsoft had a very respectable sized both & threw a great party Tuesday Night, so, clearly, Microsoft (follow them on Twitter: @MSFTWEB for “Microsoft Windows Embedded Business” – not Web=WWW) was large & in charge as you might say. Clearly, they are deeply invested in this space & given how many areas of “rub” they have going on (Windows vs Linux vs Mac OS X, Microsoft Office vs OpenOffice vs Google Docs, etc.) they clearly must see the Embedded Market Segment as an exciting place to be.  And, as anyone that follows me on Twitter will tell you I’m know Microsoft Fanboy (I love all OSes equally), I will say I was genuinely impressed by what I saw from the folks from Redmond.


Speaking of Impressed, in my humble opinion, my friends at Dell (follow them on Twitter: @DellOEM) were also impressive.  They also had a healthy sized booth, showing all kinds of cool things including well-designed Kiosks & the always popular always popular “Video Arcade” Demo:


Plus Sarah M (Twitter: @SarahMatDell) was a marvelous hostess for the Dell party. 


Additionally, Ms. Mercer also was a fabulous co-panelist with me for the delightful Using Twitter in the Embedded Marketplace session, moderated by Patrick Hopper (@patrickhopper) with Andrian Valenzuela (@adrianvalenz) from TI & Chris Gammel (@Chris_Gammel) also on the panel. And, of course, thanks to Karen Field from EETimes (@KarenField) for coordinating the panel! In my opinion, I thought the panel went pretty well & I think, together, we identified the 2 leading reasons why Engineers aren’t embracing Twitter:

  • At 1st Glance (before you log in) Twitter is 99.999\% NOISE
  • After you sign-in for the 1st time, Twitter is 99.999\% SILENCE

In reality, neither extreme is good and, IMHO, the quickest way to fix this is to add “Channels” to the initial page of Twitter.  For example, let’s say there was an “Engineering” Channel (which you could see whether you log-in or not), it might look for the following words: Engineer, Engineering, Design, Board Layout, Compiling, etc. – several key words that are (usually) only spoken/Tweeted by Engineers or people that play Engineers on TV.  It could be further refined by EXCLUDING certain phrases like “Sanitation Engineer” or “Web Design” or “Surf Board” and such to further improve the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR).


In my opinion, Engineers on Twitter today is like “Women on the Web” in the early 1990s. There was a time when some 80\% of the people on the Internet were Men. Why? Because women can’t read? No. Because women could get a hold of computers? Nope. Primarily it was because, at some early point, MOST of the CONTENT on the Internet weren’t topics women tended to care about. However, at that point, someone could have concluded:


“Don’t bother with female-friendly content, there is are no women on the Internet”


Conversely, someone could have said:


“Oh My Gosh! There are no women on the Internet – quick, let’s corner this market”


As memory serves, iVillage took the second approach & in 1999 reached a $1.86 Billion Market Capitalization after its IPO.  Granted, that was during the boom era of the Internet, but even half a decade later in 2006, it was acquired NBC/Universal for $600M – not bad for a website that catered to an audience that “didn’t exist” (or at least didn’t when it started).


To me, the same will hold true for Engineers on Twitter – I shared with the crowd the most recent “Tweets per Day” chart directly from @Twitter itself. You can’t look at that picture & even BEGIN to tell me that “Twitter has peaked!” If anything it is as strong. I’d personally estimate that by the ringing of the new year, we’ll be around 100M Tweets / Day (TpD or, for the ÜberGeeks among you, ≈1.1kHz).  And, 18 Months later, I could see it hitting 200M TpD around July, 2012.  Now, I don’t want to start some kind of Mantion’s Law of Twitter that the Tweets / Day will double every 18 Months, but what if that held true? If in January, 2011 we hit 100M, then by January 2017, we’d be around 1.6 Billion TpD, or 18kHz.  Fortunately, given that every Tweet is only about 160 Bytes (we’ll round up to 200 to be safe), that would only translate to 3.7 MBps or about 30 Mbps – far less than DS-3 Line & probably about what most home broadband connections will be by then.  Unfortunately, that is ONLY for the “source” traffic & does not account for the hundreds of millions (maybe billions) of “drains” to that traffic.  Even if there were only 300M subscribers by then, that could be nearly 9 Petabits / second of traffic, if everyone followed everyone else.  Since I will never, EVER follow @LadyGaGa, we know this worst can’t happen, but it does help to illustrate why Twitter needs so many servers to keep up with their traffic.  Sometimes, nobody cares about what it takes to maintain something if they just take it for granted.  


And that brings me to my #1 Problem Facing Embedded:


Nobody Knows (or Cares) What Embedded Is!


Specifically, at some horrible junction, the word “consumer electronics” somehow got disassociated with the word “Embedded.” Pragmatically, almost ALL of THE Coolest things on the market (Robots, cell phones, Smart TVs, Music Players, Game Consoles, Robots – yes they deserve to be listed twice) are EMBEDDED Products. By that, I mean that when you hit the big green “ON” button, you expect it to just work.  And, by in large, you don’t expect to EVER do maintenance on it.  In an ever evolving role, we do now expect its functionality to increase over time by downloading “apps” to it (unlike your old Boom Box that you never expected to get any better down the road). But, still, you hit the “jump” button & you expect it to look back at you and say “how high?” Unfortunately, it seems that “Embedded” has somehow evolved to a dirty word, or at least a boring one, getting associated with gas pumps, ATM machines (yes, I know that’s redundant) and many other vital, but “boring” machines that just don’t generate excitement.


I won’t pretend that I know what the solution is.  Do we change this market segment from “Embedded” to “Science Fiction?” Do we change the “Embedded Systems Conference” to the “Gadgets & Gizmos Expo?” I don’t know but we need to look at doing something because somehow, when you tell someone you went to an “Embedded Show” there is a pity in their eyes that demonstrates a glaring lack of awareness of all the miraculous things we are working on so, in the comments below, write in your suggestions on how to fix this! Also, feel free to add what you saw at ESC 2010 Boston that you thought was memorable!