We’ve returned to soggy San Francisco from chilly Nuremberg following the close of Embedded World 2023. We’re still waiting for some of the numbers, but my gut tells me that the turnout was higher than last year which was delayed a few months over Covid concerns. At least our booth had more than a 50% increase in visitors over the previous year.
It’s a quality show. CES is the only other show that can draw all of the major microcontroller makers to a single location. But while EW is like a science fair drawing engineers, CES is more like a raucous county fair attracting the masses. We find the conversations at EW to be far more productive. Embedded Systems Conference in the Bay Area used to be similar but has failed to stem years of decay.
We were there promoting our flagship Production Line Tool (PLT) which customers around the world use to flash firmware, provision hardware, and automate testing. To show it off, we designed a PLT Demo Board which runs Zephyr and is OSHWA certified. Alicia Gibb, the founder of OSHWA, would be pleased by how many people recognized the OSHWA logo silkscreened on the board’s solder mask.
Opening things up that do not need to be kept proprietary can have unexpected benefits. For example, at the Zephyr booth, we met with Renode who has made emulators of boards that support the Zephyr project. We were happy to see an emulation of our PLT Demo Board available on their docs site already. These emulators could enable teams to develop production test plans even before they get the first spin of their hardware.
Another interesting exhibit was an open-source flying probe tester called PROBoter. Schutzwerk built this machine to automate a lot of the work they were doing for penetration testing of boards. I’m told the bill of materials is around $2,000. It’s not something you’re going to assemble over a weekend, but it looks like a fresh take on a space that has not seen a new player emerge for decades.
The show also functioned as a sort of company offsite where Ivo Clarysse, Jeremy Wood, and I were able to hash out a lot of significant design decisions. The Production Line Tool is an evolving product that has the formidable job of flashing a wide variety of microcontrollers. The complexity of microcontrollers is increasing with the addition of security features and adoption of multicore architectures. We are more confident than ever that a purpose-built piece of hardware that is directly updated via the cloud is the right approach to the challenge of programming hardware in the factory.
On the culinary side of things, I had heard that the Nuremberg signature red beer (rotbier) does not travel well but is actually quite good at the source. I would like to +1 that assessment. After the last day of the show we went to a restaurant dating back to 1498 and had a hearty German dinner washed down with Tucher Rotbier.
Thank you to the dozens of people who dropped by our booth and gave us positive feedback on our products. Thanks also to the hardworking show organizers for another successful event. We’re looking forward to participating again April 9-11, 2024!