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2008 Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Writeup

April 16th, 2008

I actually had a great time and talked to lots of interesting people at the ESC conference.  I did notice two trends that seemed prevalent — not that they have much to do with my project, but that I still found interesting.

First, the massive interest in capacitative touch sensors.  It seems as if a number of big players from Silicon Laboratories, Atmel, Cypress, etc. are really promoting their touch sensor products.  Atmel bought Qmatrix which was the original player in this space, and it seems as if other vendors developed their own tech.  I didn’t see much of the guts of the Silicon Labs product, but I did get a demo board of the Ateml product.  It doesn’t work very well.  The Cypress guys seemed to have a neat product — it seems as if they’ve incorporated FPGA-like logical blocks that you can configure on the fly — as well as assign any pin any function (or so it seemed).  Though I can’t really recommend them as they made me sit through a 10 minute long speal which was really 20 minutes long – was boring and conveyed no information for the promise of a dev board to play with — only to walk away with a tshirt instead.  *Grumble*

The second big trend is in using 2.4Ghz transiever ICs for zigbee, zigbee variants, or for propriatary devices.  All the products seemed quite low power, small form facture, required a minimal of extneral components and promised quite a range.  Atmel’s new Raven product demos software developed by some company up in SF which lets you put an IP stack on one of Atmel’s transievers.  They were able to ‘ping’ a remote device which was really nice.  I like the idea of being able to telnet to my wireless peripherals.  The guy I talked to was an eecs major from Cal.

On other notes, they had some other interesting stuff going on.  They took apart a $2000 10″ OLED display to show the innards, but it was fairly boring.img_0028.jpg  Supposedly they took apart a space-suite the day before but I missed that.  They supposedly had beer, but it was all gone by the time I got there.  I played with some real oscilliscopes that made me drool with envy — seems doing real time decode of various serial protocols is the new big thing in that catagory.  Of honorable mention is a company that makes hardened memory that looks like physical keys, and a company playing this video on one of it’s demo boxes of an elephant painting.  I have no idea what they were selling, but was blown away by the video.  It make me seriously respect elephants.

Finally, I had a nice talk with the people at TI and they mentioned how Harvard, and Rice University came out with a nearly identicall device as the Tricorder we are working on.  Here’s a photoimg_0025.jpg of the rice device.  It’s the same size if you exclude the antenna at the top of our device, has the same microcontroller, and uses the same instrumenation amplifier.  We started our project almost 2 years before we posted anything online — I’m not sure what the harvard groups device looks like, but I would imagine it to also be simmilar.  It makes me think of the quote by the inventor of PCR (who is a surf bum from my understanding).  He said something to the likes of his discovery was a natural consequence of several discoveries that preceded it.  I wonder if this device is just a function of the technology becoming mature. They did introudce a new processor that’s 2x faster, has more memory, and uses less power when it’s in a suspend mode.  Given that it’s pin for pin compatible with the processor we’re using, I hope to implement them on the next version (which I hope to get out this weekend).

I also went to a tasty Thai restaurant afterwards with Corpse and Taner.  Super tasty food.  I’m not telling you were as I dont like places getting popular; I find that popular restaurants get complacent and the food starts to suck.  Happened to Thep Phamon. img_0030.jpg

Electronics, HealthMonitor, Recreation

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