Windows Embedded collaborates with European businesses
In February 2008, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Embedded Systems Development Centre (MESDC) in Aachen, Germany. The MESDC was created to foster product development in Europe by addressing the needs of industry partners and customers. Products developed at the MESDC are intended to tackle challenges faced by European customers, but also demonstrate applicability throughout the globe.
Bill Dunlap, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, talks to FUTURES about the new centre.
What is unique about the MESDC?
With the MESDC, we've located a Microsoft development team close to where partners and customers are creating new embedded solutions. By doing this we can engage more frequently with these companies to understand their business and vision for the future.
In particular, we're interested in how customers intend to network a system of embedded devices. The general term for this is ”distributed embedded systems” or DES.
These solutions are useful across a large number markets. Examples might include industrial automation and vehicle-to-vehicle communication, to name but two.
As we gain an understanding of how customers plan to utilise DES devices, our job is to determine what changes we can make to the Windows Embedded platform to better enable development. As a software engineering team we will implement these changes and make them available to our customers. In this way, we really are an extension of the core development team back in Redmond. Depending on the opportunity, we might also work closely with a customer on a specific, high-impact project to ensure they're getting exactly what they need in the underlying operating system.
Why is the MESDC located in Europe?
Across Europe there's significant innovation happening in embedded systems. Market segments where you can readily see this include automotive, aerospace, retail, healthcare and energy. Of course, these aren't the only places where embedded development is occurring. Europe has well established manufacturing industries, and there's a push to improve efficiency through the use of embedded systems. The European Union is also helping drive new research through investment in ARTEMIS [a public–private partnership] and the Seventh Framework Programme.
The best part about all this activity is that it's easy to meet with a variety of partners and customers. Given our mission to move the Windows Embedded platform forward to enable DES scenarios, I can't think of a better place to be located than in Europe.
The MESDC and EMIC are both located in Aachen, so what is the difference?
The MESDC and EMIC are complements to one another. The EMIC team is focused on pursuing collaborative research with European partners. Their goal is to incubate ideas and create technology prototypes. As was mentioned previously, MESDC is a product development centre. We're tasked with driving innovation into the Windows Embedded platform to better support DES scenarios. The work we do at MESDC goes into shipping products and is made available to our customers. The EMIC team freely share their research with us and we continuously evaluate whether it's applicable to our specific mission.
How do you see the potential of the market for embedded systems?
We expect the market for embedded devices to be one of the fastestgrowing over the next few years. Projections show that the market for embedded devices will outpace that of both laptop and desktop hardware. We estimate that the market for connected enterprise devices is expected to grow by 23 per cent per year, and the market for connected consumer devices is expected to grow at a rate of 50 per cent per year.
Of the 3 billion embedded devices shipping this year, we estimate that approximately two-thirds of them will be connected to a network or management service. Further, the use of connected devices in the enterprise is expected to grow at a rate of more than 20 per cent per year. This growth provides a great opportunity to work with customers across Europe to bring a range of innovative, next-generation devices to market.
What will be the trends over the coming years?
The move to 32-bit processors has enabled a wide range of new capabilities. There's been consolidation of processing power resulting in significant cost reductions. We're seeing more sophisticated user interfaces being incorporated into devices. The devices themselves are smarter so they can solve more problems.
At the same time, the devices have become IP-addressable. They can connect to other devices, the personal computer and to services in the cloud. We've only begun to see the improvements provided by these connected devices. Consider, for instance, a vending machine that can communicate over the Internet. Such a set of devices could enable centralised management across geographies. The vending company can know instantly what is selling and where. In addition, they can get alerted to which machines need maintenance. The end result is much better inventory management and this translates into better profits.
On the horizon is even more powerful silicon, specifically those supporting multiple processing units. These multi-core and many-core processors will open up even more interesting possibilities for embedded devices. The Windows Embedded team is working to update our platform and tools to better build and consume services as well as to architect distributed embedded systems.
Where do you want to add value?
Our goal is to give software developers and systems engineers the tools that will help them more easily create distributed embedded systems. We envision improvements to the embedded platform including device management and more reliable, safe and secure connectivity. Through the MESDC we'll be able to understand the needs of our partners and customers to build out these platform innovations. Through this we can help respond to some of the key concerns of the European marketplace.