CEOs, engineers, and theoretical physicists…oh my!

Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) 2010 has come and gone, but not before revealing new technologies, exciting shifts in the industry, and current trends in the embedded community. This annual conference—held in San Jose, California at the McEnery Convention Center—attracts many thousands of attendees ranging from executives and investment bankers to engineers and product mangers—plus, one famous theoretical physicist.

World renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku

Dr. Michio Kaku, born in San Jose, was the opening day keynote at the conference. Kaku is one of the most influential theoretical physicists in the world today, specializing in String Field Theory (SFT). SFT takes String Theory and reformulates it with Quantum Field Theory (I warned you that I was geek!). Kaku’s goal in life is to complete the work Albert Einstein began, defining a Theory of Everything (ToE) that is aimed to provide one elegant equation that would unify the inherently incompatible sciences of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Kaku is also a world-renowned futurist, and the future was the topic of his keynote. He spoke about what he and some of his colleagues predict the world will look like 10 to 20 years in the future. For all you Trekkies out there, he revealed that the famed Tricorder is likely to be produced in the not-too-distant future. The technology behind it is no longer a mystery, yet you’ll be surprised to find it applied in an unusual location–your toilet! Who would have thought we would have toilets analyzing our health? Kaku said that the technology will be so advanced that the toilets will dwarf current day datacenters in computing power and could detect cancer in our body at a very early stage. Just send in the nanobots to remove the cancerous clusters and you’re good to go. Kaku then moved on to augmented reality. He presented an image of and discussed a contact lens with embedded computing technology that has been produced at the University of Washington–Seattle. The technology is in its infancy (not currently a working model), the possibility exists that small, but powerful computers will fit on a contact lens. He likened the technology to having Terminator-vision. Imagine walking down the street and having on-demand access to and a constant overlay of data, the computer in our contact lens tracking and analyzing everything we see. When we encounter someone we know but can’t recall their name, the information is instantly displayed to us, whether projected into our retina or on the lens itself. This innovation would not only revolutionize society, but have impressive applications and implications in mil-aero environments. The mind reels at the thought of how future warfighters could benefit from this novel technology. Unencumbered by goggles, handheld devices, heads-up displays, and other bulky equipment, soldiers on the ground and in the air would be instantly linked with the latest and greatest military hardware and software tools, repositories of information, off-site commanders, and their colleagues. Talk about an instant network-centric battlefield! The fast and effective development of technology innovations such as this requires the use of advanced electronic design automation tools. I look forward to the day when these technology visions come to fruition. It is a geek’s dream! In the next few blogs, I will cover many facets of the embedded computing industry—such as new technologies, shifts in the industry, and trends in the community—and how they relate to and impact the mil-aero market. Here’s a teaser: I spoke with a prominent military hardware supplier that uses Mentor Graphics’ software exclusively in the design of its printed circuit boards. Any guesses? Stay tuned to find out.


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