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Is embedded software just not sexy?

Does embedded software just not seem to be as sexy and interesting as its surface-installed cousin? It could be the apparent lack of ‘tangibility’ that may be perceived with embedded.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor on

Does embedded software just not seem to be as sexy and interesting as its surface-installed cousin? It could be the apparent lack of ‘tangibility’ that may be perceived with embedded. It could be the fact that embedded software often resides in comparatively unexciting locations such as train ticket machines and clever toasters.

Of course it could just be the fact that there is less general fuss and debate made over ‘that which lies beneath’ (so to speak). There’s less of the whole, “support for advanced development through revolutionary API technology,” discussion. I think there’s also an engrained perception that once installed, then that’s the state at which this technology will stay – no updates, no patches, no extensions etc…

“Hey Mr shop owner, this toaster you sold me won’t integrate with the newly shaped Hovis Jalapeno Bagel so I need an upgrade.”

“Ah yes, sorry sir – you’ll need our new model the Bagel Buddy 2.0 with the advanced half-moon toast slots for bagels."

Now this is obviously not going to happen, but I hope you see the problem. In reality, embedded software has been getting more and more interesting for years now – for example, it first appeared in a car as far back as 1968 when VW used it in a fuel injection system… and you don’t have to stare long at a modern Sat Nav system to wonder at just how far we’ve come.

I think it was three years ago when I was at an Adobe event in the US that Kevin Lynch drove on for his keynote in an open top Mercedes with an embedded array of Flash technology as he was played on by the Blue Man Group – sounds more sexy doesn’t it (software sexy I mean).

We’ve come so far now in this space that you see companies like Microsoft rolling out specific ‘platforms’ such as Windows Embedded NavReady 2009. According to some Portable Navigation Device (PND) manufacturers, they are quite keen to work with this kind of technology as it provides a common development environment with familiar Windows Embedded tools such as Platform Builder

Today in fact, market data and analysis firm Canalys is holding its Navigation Forum event in Budapest to extol to virtues of so-called smart, connected service-oriented PNDs.

According to the event organisers, there’s a bright future for embedded software in location-aware portable devices, “Canalys forecasts that approximately 27 million mobile phones with integrated GPS and a further 25 million PNDs will ship in 2008 in EMEA.”

So there you have it, well – there you have a bit of it, there’s far more to discuss than here in this blog. Apparently, embedded software is now so sophisticated that it is being used to detect urine in elevators in Singapore. So if you are bound for South East Asia this year, don’t chew gum and don’t pee in a lift OK?

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