Microsoft, via its European Microsoft Innovation Centre (EMIC) in Aachen, Germany, is engaged in the ARTEMIS Joint Technology Initiative on scaleable, distributed embedded systems - a top priority for both Europe and Microsoft.
Advancing Europe’s goals in Embedded Systems
FUTURES interviewed Goetz Brasche, Lead Program Manager at the EMIC, about Embedded Systems, its relevance for Europe's economy, and how Europe and Microsoft are responding.
Goetz Brasche, Lead Program Manager at European Microsoft Innovation Centre (EMIC) in Aachen, Germany, is looking forward to a bright future of embedded systems in Europe.
What are Embedded Systems - and why do Embedded Systems matter?
Most people don't realise that by far the most common form of computer in use today is the embedded computer. In fact, 98 percent of computing devices are embedded in all kinds of electronic equipment and machines, such as credit cards, mobile phones, cars and planes, and are being used throughout our lives, in places such as homes, offices and factories. Over 4 billion embedded processors were sold last year and the global market is worth €60 billion with annual growth rates of 14 percent. Forecasts predict more than 16 billion embedded devices by 2010 and over 40 billion by 2020.
Broadly speaking, the 1960s was the Mainframe Era, in which there was one large computer per many users. In the 1980s we saw the Personal Computer Era with one computer per user. What we currently see in the 2000s is the Mobility Era where we have several computers per user. In the future, perhaps the 2020s, we will probably have the Ubiquity Era with thousands of computers around every user.
Embedded Systems have evolved from stand-alone single-processor computers of the eighties and early nineties, to the special-purpose sophisticated fixed-function multi-processor systems of the present day associated with increasing communication capability. They are anticipated to evolve to the standard-based multiprocessor platforms and to ad hoc, opportunistic, adaptive, self-organising ‘processor ecosystems' of 2010 and beyond.
Embedded computing and electronics add substantial value to products. Within the next five years, the share of embedded systems are expected to increase substantially in markets such as automotive (36 percent), industrial automation (22 percent), telecommunications (37 percent), consumer electronics (41 percent) and health/ medical equipment (33 percent). The value added to the final product from embedded software is much higher than the cost of the embedded device itself. For example, in the case of a modern car, by 2010 over 35 percent of its value will be due to embedded electronics. Similarly, a modern cellular phone has more features than those of a laptop from a few years ago with integrated digital camera, camcorder, video/music player and, of course, a phone!
What does this mean for Europe?
Embedded computing systems are facing unprecedented challenges. They are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to design and build. Europe has led the revolution in embedded systems, in particular those built upon so-called enterprise devices that are used in business and industry, for example in automotive, aeronautics and manufacturing. Therefore, it is strategically important for embedded systems to remain one of the strongholds of European industry.
What is the response of the EU to this challenge?
The European Union recognises the strategic importance of Embedded Computing Systems. Together with key industry players, the EU has launched the ARTEMIS Joint Technology Initiative. ARTEMIS means Advanced Research & Technology for EMbedded Intelligence and Systems. Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) in general contribute to defining and implementing pan-European research agendas, the so-called SRA – Strategic Research Agenda. Therefore JTIs are a new mechanism to provide greater and more focused input from all of Europe's R&D actors in a particular field, including small, medium and large enterprises as well as research organisations, on the direction of public and private research programmes and to identify structural obstacles that may arise from policies and regulations.
The ARTEMIS JTI is implemented as a Joint Undertaking (JU), a publicprivate partnership between the European Commission, Member States and ARTEMISIA the legal non-profit organization for the R&D actors that participate in the ARTEMIS JTI. The Strategic Research Agenda serves as the foundation for a multi-annual research program, in which the Artemis JU will manage and co-ordinate research activities. This is managed through open calls for proposals under a 7-year €2.5 billion research programme on Embedded Computing Systems that the partners of the ARTEMIS JTI committed to.
Why does Microsoft engage in ARTEMIS?
Microsoft has been engaged in ARTEMIS from the beginning as a member of the ARTEMISIA. My initial role as Chairman and now Vice-Chairman of the ARTEMISIA Chamber for the industry members has been a clear sign of our commitment to help the Joint Undertaking gain momentum as quickly as possible.
“Forecasts predict more than 16 billion embedded devices by 2010 and over 40 billion by 2020.”
Our engagement in ARTEMIS acknowledges both the need to work together to accelerate progress in Embedded Systems and the strengths of European partners in this domain. Embedded devices and systems are a very good example of where collaboration between different fields is having an accelerating effect, which is crucial for competitiveness: new hardware developments and new devices have to keep up with the development of software and computer science concepts to run the devices and enable the capabilities.
Europe is at the forefront in this domain: industry and academia in Europe have specific and proven strengths in enterprise devices and embedded systems such as industrial automation. We believe that, hand in hand with European partners, we can move the boundaries of what is possible today and in the future. Already, in several FP6 and FP7 projects we have been sharing our expertise and knowledge with key partners. Earlier this year, to drive both collaborative research and joint product development with key partners in Europe, we established the Microsoft Embedded Systems Development Center (MESDC) which is co-located with the EMIC in Aachen.
What are the top priorities of the ARTEMIS Strategic Research Agenda?
The Strategic Research Agenda addresses not only the research agenda itself but also identifies the future market drivers as well as the industry and innovation policies needed to turn the research agenda into reality. First of all, identifying and defining visionary applications helps to focus and prioritise research and ensures coherence, compatibility and synergy of technologies. The application domains identified in ARTEMIS' Strategic Research Agenda range from industrial systems (automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and processes) to private spaces. The issues to be tackled are secure and safe, instant and easy to use access to information and connectivity in four different application contexts:
Industrial systems in automotive, aerospace and manufacturing, and increasingly in healthcare
Nomadic environments i.e. mobile devices such as onbody devices that frequently change the network connectivity
Private spaces such as homes and offices
Public infrastructure such as airports, cities and highways
Basically, as computing devices have become smarter with ever more capabilities and connectivity, there is a need for more service-oriented devices - which means devices that don't only consume services but also expose information to be monitored and help to manage the devices. Otherwise it is increasingly difficult not only to develop software that runs on very different devices, but also to develop software systems that encompass and connects all these devices.
This is why we believe that the ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking is a key vehicle for partnership in Europe in this key research field and we are very happy to contribute to this important endeavour!