I honestly get very excited about embedded systems. Why?
- The realm of Very Small Things with Brains is being charged with all of the power of threading, 32 bit and 64 bit computing and the Internet. This is opening up a lot of new capabilities in simple devices.
- Open Source has broken down many of the barriers to embedded software development. You no longer need an expensive, proprietary real time OS to deliver interesting capabilities.
- This power, openness and democratization have opened up a raft of gnarly social issues around privacy and security. I’m thinking about a scene in the movie “The Island” where your health and diet are being monitored based on your little morning rituals. Imagine if someone could hack into this and publish your health info on Twitter, or hack in and subvert the diet information.
In this, I disagree with Portlander Rick Turoczy who writes in Silicon Florist that he doesn't get excited about embedded systems. He recently contrasted his startup-oriented blog to the old media writer Mike Rogoway from the Oregonian:
"While I got to cover all the fun exciting startup stuff, Mike got to cover old Silicon Forest tech. Embedded systems. Wa-effing-hoo! (No offense to anyone who gets really excited about embedded systems. It’s just that I don’t.)"
I think the reason why folks like Rick don't get as excited about embedded systems is that they don't see the amazing and frankly scary potential here.
But what really gets me excited about embedded systems are the developers I see working there. We joined forces with a group of very young and cool engineers (called Opened Hand) who were developing some very beautiful and magical applications and infrastructure. And it was all for embedded systems. (Some of these guys didn't look old enough to shave, but they are brilliant open source developers).