IEN: How would you describe the market development for embedded systems and components over the past four decades?
Goren: Looking at the last four decades, there have been four major trends:
- Increasingly more integration, which is natural to anything we do with silicon.
- Migration from specialized ASICs to programmable solutions. Customers are moving to and preferring an "off-the-shelf-programmable solution" and leveraging catalog devices, rather than custom-tailored devices. This shift has been to minimize investments. Also, before, there were not as many standard products that solved customer issues, so they relied on custom devices. Now, there are more programmable, generic solutions that can do the job and provide more flexibility.
- Trend toward lower power for several reasons. There may be a limited supply of power on industrial lines, or there may be battery-operated solutions. There is also a matter of thermal heat dissipation coming from a device - sometimes it must be limited.
- More connectivity in industrial systems. Industrial systems are becoming connected to some kind of network. At first there were Ethernet-based connections, but now industrial systems are moving to wireless-based connections, and there are more networks with sensors and processing elements to handle this trend.
IEN: What are the current hot topics?
Goren: By far, the number one "hot topic" in industrial embedded systems is the communication and the connectivity aspect in communication. Looking specifically at factory automation and the use of a motor drive connected to PLC over proprietary serial interfaces is a great example. In the last 10 years, industrial systems have moved toward standard Ethernet based protocols, such as Ethercat, Profibus, and others. There is more of a trend toward this type of connectivity/communications.
Safety is also becoming a huge trend in these areas - and there are now more requirements for safety in industrial systems. If you have a big motor, you need to be sure it won't harm people. And if there is a motor failure in an industrial system, functional safety standards need to ensure any possible failure would not compromise operator safety.
IEN: Could you please give us a brief overview of your product portfolio and the industrial markets you serve?
Goren: Unique to TI, our embedded processing portfolio is complemented by a huge analog portfolio, enabling designers to obtain all system devices from TI to work seamlessly together. However, key industrial solutions for embedded processing can be categorized in three buckets:
- Microcontrollers (MCUs). MSP430 MCUs provide ultra-low-power in industrial systems. C2000 MCUs offer real-time control and performance with a ton of analog integration to reduce system complexity in industrial systems. Hercules MCUs are designed to work in industrial functional safety applications. Tiva C Series MCUs are ARM-based and enable smoother Ethernet connections.
- Processors. The Sitara processors product line contains devices that run off Linux or other high-level operating systems with strong capabilities in communications and control. DSP processors offer extremely high-performance and the capability to run algorithms.
- Wireless connectivity (WCS). There are 14 different WCS technologies that support broad spectrum of wireless standards. We have WiFi to sub 1 GHz to ZigBee 6 LoPan and so on.
IEN: Apart from the hardware: Which services do you offer?
Goren: TI is really unique because we offer so much on top of our silicon. We provide foundational software for the device for peripherals, drivers and more. We also provide libraries, examples and more for specific systems, such as industrial and automotive. In particular, our InstaSPIN software embedded on the ROM of our MCUs, along with MotorWare help customers get motors spinning in minutes versus months, as well as provide improved motor efficiency - as much as 80 percent. Software tools include compilers, debuggers, integrated development environment, JTAG emulators and so much more. Then we have any type of development platform you could possibly need to evaluate a solution and begin designing - LaunchPads, BoosterPacks, Evaluation Modules, Development Kits, Application-specific kits and so much more. TI also has a broad sales force and 24/7 support with our E2E community. One key offering, introduced last year is TI Designs - a large (and growing) reference design library online that enable customers to quickly develop new projects.
IEN: Also with industrial automation, wireless solutions have become very popular. At the same time the concern to protect machinery and software from outside threats and attacks is all the more virulent. How do you meet those requirements with respect to your products?
Goren: Anytime a system has a wireless, or even wired connection, tying devices together, there is a risk for compromised security. And if cloud-capability is also utilized for remote access, there is further risk. This means adding security features to devices is critical. Each TI device that could be used in a wired or wireless connectivity application, comes with a security. This security is enabled on every wireless interface, and security encryption algorithms are supported. Within the embedded device itself, we provide security against any attempt to break into the code. Secure boot, secure code, secure interface - these are provided at the hardware and software level. High-end processors provide virtualization, which means security between secure and non-secure apps. Access from remote control could be decoupled with this virtualization.
IEN: What sets you apart from your competitors in the embedded market?
Goren: There are quite a few things that make TI unique in the marketplace:
- Depth and breadth of TI portfolio for embedded and analog offerings
- Experience with industrial: We've been working in this market a long time and understand issues industrial and work to meet these standards. We also manufacture industrial grade devices and are quite experienced with this.
- Stability for the long run in the industrial market. We've been around a long time and plan to be around for even longer.
- We have a broad force of sales and field support to touch many customers. Coupled with one of the best websites in industry with TI Designs, we are well-equipped to support customers directly or indirectly.
- Unique device-level differentiations:
- World's lowest-power MCU - "Wolverine"
- Best real-time control MCUs - C2000
- Most advanced solutions for functional safety with Hercules MCUs
- Sitara processors with a programmable communication engine, allowing us to support all industrial protocols (i.e. Ethercat, Fieldbus) to enable us to address all those without the need for external ASIC or FPGA
- Broadest wireless connectivity portfolio in the market.
IEN: Where do you see the biggest challenges for embedded systems and components in the near future?
Goren: I see the biggest challenges for embedded systems in industrial designs in three major areas:
- Growing security threats
- Increasing safety requirements
- More wireless connectivity