Microsoft: Cloud to expand embedded devices

Embedded devices can leverage cloud computing to expand functionalities, but there remains gap between today's embedded systems and cloud, says exec.

The functionalities of embedded systems can be extended with cloud-based data storage and analytics capabilities, but there is still gap between the integration of such devices and cloud technologies.

According to John Boladian, Microsoft's marketing director for Asia-Pacific and greater China for Windows Embedded, cloud will play a "pivotal role" in expanding the scope of embedded computing. The executive was referring to Redmond's belief that embedded devices can leverage the vast amount of data storage and analysis available potentially via cloud computing.

"Being able to capture the intelligence from the edge of the network will make a profound change in the value it can deliver for enterprises," said Boladian, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

However, he said the industry still needs to plug the gap between embedded systems and future intelligent systems. "The adoption of cloud computing as well as the integration of cloud technologies into embedded devices is still at the infancy stage," he noted.

Despite the gap, he said embedded devices have matured from serving single functions and having limited capabilities to become more intelligent systems, thanks to increased processing power and more sophisticated software.

Elaborating, he said single-function embedded devices have evolved to become "smart systems" with powerful processors, operating systems and connectivity. With these smart systems, enterprises are able to deploy complex, interconnected systems that collect, analyze and communicate data, he added.

Quoting research from IDC, Boladian said smart systems will more than double between 2010 and 2015, and again within the next five years. According to the research firm, unit shipment of embedded systems with the ability to connect to the Internet will grow from approximately 1.4 billion last year to over 3.3 billion in 2015.

In Asia, the intelligent systems market is currently worth about US$144 million. By 2015, this segment will clock 800 million units and generate US$455 billion in revenue, according to IDC projections.

Boladian added that the embedded market presented a "tremendous opportunity" for businesses that manufacture and sell hardware and software for such devices.

Connecting embedded devices to cloud
Microsoft is now focusing its efforts on software that aims to address the gap in integration between embedded devices and the cloud. Boladian further noted that the software vendor has been in this market since 1996 with its Windows CE 1.0 offering.

"Moving forward, we will continue to deliver a suite of products that extend enterprise software and cloud services out to everyday devices, which include examples such as point of service (POS), industrial automation and medical equipment, among others," he said.

He noted that industries such as automotive and medical are looking for an embedded systems platform not only to build cars and devices, but also to create good customer experience and improve business intelligence.

"By taking full advantage of the cloud, Windows Embedded is bringing anytime, anywhere access to the 'data currency' that resides inside our intelligent devices," Boladian said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Microsoft's partners are already developing software based on the current Windows Embedded platform, he said. In the first half of next year, he added that these partners will also have resources to plan for the next version of the Windows Embedded platform, called vNext.