What is “Embedded Computing”?

This is a question I was pondering last week as I walked the exhibit hall at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco.  The Technology Showcase, as the event’s trade show area was called, contained a wide variety of companies and organizations, from large system vendors showing their desktop, workstation, server or blade hardware, to small technology startups demonstrating components or boxes built with Intel technology.  Some were there to highlight their specific piece of some larger puzzle while others were there to share with customers their supposed unique puzzles.  It was clear that one company’s system is another company’s embedded portion of a larger solution.

In addition to the Technology Showcase, there was some fascinating technology demonstrated during Tuesday’s Embedded keynote session.  You may have heard about the gasp-inducing reveal of the keyboard on the new Inspiron Duo, starting at 30:20 on this video.  The gearheads have certainly taken notice, with great feedback from Engadget, ZDNet and Gizmodo.   But aside from that, I was blown away by the diversity of areas where Intel “embedded” technologies were showing up, from TVs to exercise equipment, from handhelds to cash registers, from tablets to automobiles.  The embedded world continues to expand well beyond just custom-built boxes with targeted functionality; the roadmap is clear for a not-so-distant future where computing is truly pervasive.

I wrapped my day up by sitting in on the technical session for their next generation embedded microarchitecture, code-named Sandy Bridge.  While not showing anything groundbreaking, Intel is going to continue pushing the envelope for embedded applications, particularly in the areas of power efficient performance gains for digital signal and image processing.  If there is something that an “embedded” system isn’t quite powerful enough to run, just wait 15 minutes and try again with the latest hardware and software.

In my eleven years in the IT industry, I have been to a variety of tradeshows and events around the world and this was certainly on the technical end of the spectrum (think the more technical halls and sessions of CeBIT mixed with the geeky polish of a Microsoft TechEd).  Intel is clearly working to push the boundaries of embedded computing, which is in-line with what we at Dell OEM Solutions are working toward, as well.  While the legacy mindset around embedded remains, we have a number of case studies where a desktop or server acts as the embedded brains to a larger solution.  And in an effort to continue further down this path, we had some excellent meetings with the Intel Embedded team.  Without divulging too much, I can say that we are working toward strengthening our partnership and expanding the capabilities that we are able to bring to market to “embedded” customers.

How do you think embedded computing has changed in recent years?

About the Author: Jeff Otchis