Embedded World 2022: Structural Changes In Ecosystems

The transformation from a domain-oriented architecture to vehicle-centralized and zonal architectures is paying returns.


As my train approaches Nuremberg for the Embedded World conference—which this year is in June versus its usual timing in February—I am reviewing my past related blogs back to 2012. My complaints about the cold weather have been a common thread in past blogs, but with a weather forecast of 28°C/80°F, I will probably ask for cooler weather at the end of the day. Past key themes included technology horizontals like embedded software, security, safety, IoT, AI/ML, digital twins, 5G/6G and requirements defined by industry verticals like automotive and industrial. The keynotes by Bosch on “Brains and Nerves of Future Mobility – E/E-Architectures of the Vehicle and Beyond,” Lattice Semiconductors on “Embracing Change: The Mandate for Success in the Next Generation of Embedded Design,” and Beyond Reach Consulting on “Responsible AI: From Principles to Practice” will be right on topic.

How fast is technology progressing in the automotive vertical?

Let’s look back two decades. I vividly remember a discussion at a dinner with BMW’s design methodology experts back in 2001, where I asked, “So when will I pull up to a gas station and get a software update for my car?” Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli had spearheaded communication-based and platform-based development approaches for SoC development. Still, OEMs deemed applying them to the car as a system platform as too far off into the future and my question was attributed to the wine at the table. At the Design Automation Conference in 2011, Alberto led a seminar on networking in the car, and at the time, we concluded that Ethernet likely had the edge over other options.

Fast forward another decade, and Ethernet is the frontrunner for on-car networking technology. We are today talking about zonal architectures in software-defined vehicles, and safety/security are mainstream considerations across the still very complex automotive design chain. And the automotive design chain itself is rapidly transforming as well.

The reality from Bosch

On Tuesday, Day 1, I caught the Bosch keynote by Dr. Matthias Klauda, EVP of the Cross-Computing Solutions division. Dr. Klauda focused on three key messages—car architectures, data and DevOps, and partnerships. He explained the transformation from a domain-oriented architecture to vehicle-centralized and zonal architectures with the consolidation of central computing platforms, the trend towards reduced wiring by the individual zonal ECUs, and intelligent and safe power nets with eFuses and an always-available connection to the back-end. He nicely quantified the returns of such a transformation, including up to 20% wiring weight reduction, up to 30% reduction in cable length, up to 4% cost reduction, and up to 9% fewer ECUs.

On the topic of data and DevOps, Dr. Klauda described the combination of development and deep learning loops that require fast access to data of actual and simulated driving scenarios that focus on system validation. In addition, developers need to consider the learnings from corner cases from billions of driven miles. Consider how neural nets may handle use cases of a man in a chicken suit crossing a street or a boat falling off a truck but being upside down.

In the area of partnerships, Dr. Klauda described the transformation away from the traditional, very hierarchical, tiered supply chain. Classically, OEMs interact primarily with Tier 1 suppliers, who work with Tier 2 suppliers. In the future, we are facing an OEM-centric constellation that is free of hierarchy and enables direct interaction with Tier 2s.

Scenes from the show floor

Speaking of ecosystems, when walking the show floor, it was clear that RISC-V has entered the “mainstream” as in RISC-V not being the exception for support in microcontrollers and debuggers but now as a standard alternative alongside other processor architectures. We have moved beyond the “jeans and shovels” gold rush of RISC-V-based architectures.

Security and safety were pretty much omnipresent on the show floor, and it felt a little like more intelligent AI/ML-enabled devices were on display than smart people discussing them. Embedded World 2020 was my last trade show with the pandemic already looming, and, at the time, it had already scaled down a little. We are not fully back yet. The show felt smaller this year, with lower numbers of attendees also attending the keynote, before which the organizers cited there were 20,000 registered visitors. Incidentally, the taxi driver asked me whether something was wrong because his profession had more significant expectations for the show.

That said, it was universally noticeable that everybody seemed happy to be able to interact in person again. Fingers crossed that the next Embedded World—scheduled for March 14 – 16, 2023—will return to past heights of attendance again.

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