A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


ESC Boston Day 2: Wine with Programmable Systems on Boards and Chips

Day 2 of the Embedded Systems Conference here in Boston kicked of with a key note by T. J. Rogers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, one of the longest tenured CEOs as he started Cypress in 1982. The key note was themed around “solving problems you don’t know existed for customers you have never met”.

It started with a fun connection of wine to systems. Rogers, an avid wine enthusiast, showed papers from which he learned and optimized wine making. What else is more natural than using Cypress products to help with the wine making? In an effort to keep enough sun on his Pinot Noir but to not over heat it at the same time, a couple of videos introduced how Rogers used his company’s product PSOC – the programmable system on chip – to control the temperature system in his wine/backyard “Clos De La Tech”. Temperature sensors are literally inserted into the wine, gauge and wirelessly transmit the temperature and then literally trigger water cooling for the grapes.

psoc_1Rogers outlined the history and reasoning behind PSOC and also was giving interesting insight into some of the PLD wars. He admitted Cypress’s loss against Lattice due to some of those issues they had not thought about. In the processor their customers simply chose the competitive solution to do “PSOBs”, i.e. programmable systems on board. However, the subsequent improvements positioned them well for some of the consumer needs in 2007 with products they did in 2004. With respect to the “evolution of programmable systems” Rogers clearly argued for PSOC 3 and PSOC 5 being the next steps after the transitions from PLD – CPLD – FPGA – PSOC. According to their business plan, this will let Cypress expand from being “the biggest dwarf in the room” (i.e. being a player only in the $5B 8bit microcontroller market) into the 16 Bit and 32 Bit markets, which they are addressing with 8051 and ARM Cortex M3 based products.

At the end Rogers turned his keynote theme around into “solving problems your boss jerked you around on because he talked to customers you never met”. Oh well.

Roger’s keynote was noticeably better attended than the keynotes on the first day. That made me think about the relevance of this show to our business here at Synopsys. We are here in the ARM Partner Pavillion and I was a track chair for sessions around “Improving Productivity at the HW/SW Interface”. Software becoming more important for our customers in the System on Chip (SoC) domain is a clear trend.

However, the type of embedded systems dealt with here in Boston are not 100% in our core target market. Browsing through the exhibition guide there are 132 companies. They fall (according to their own characterization) into the following categories:

Semiconductors 55
Embedded System Development Tools 73
Services 38
Board Level Products 82
Security Products 17
Networking/Internet Products 10
Software 40

This explains why I am looking here at a lot of hardware boards, lots of 8bit and 16bit microcontrollers … all of which are a tad less interesting for virtual platforms. It will be interesting to see which direction this conference and exhibition will take going forward.

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