Thought Leadership

ARM Tech Con 2010

By Colin Walls

Last week I attended the ARM Technical Conference in Santa Clara, California. I am not sure how many years this event has been running, but it seems to be going from strength to strength. There was a change to the management company this year, but the event format was basically the same: a 3 day multiple-stream technical conference, with a selection of keynotes and an associated exhibition area.

Obviously, the key theme to the event is the discussion of all things ARM. I mentioned MIPS during one of my presentations, so I will probably not receive an invitation next year. The result of this starting point is the sessions offer coverage of hardware design issues, embedded software and everything in between. This suits Mentor very well, as we uniquely address that whole spectrum. Aside from this diversity of engineering expertise, there were some technical themes that really stood out this year …

From where I was standing, there seemed to be 3 technical areas that were widely addressed in the conference program: designing for low power consumption, multicore and user interfaces. This is closely in line with the trends that I have observed at other shows and conferences.

I had 2 presentation slots and a number of my colleagues were talking too. My papers addressed 2 very different topics. The first was about medical electronics and its relationship with Android and traditional RTOSes. This seemed to go very well and I received some very positive feedback. The other was about multicore – specifically addressing MCAPI, which is an emerging standard facilitating source code compatibility for inter-core communications. This also seemed to go fine, with a selection of questions. Please email me if you would like copies of either presentation.

Although I was not doing so on this occasion, I have commonly talked about graphical UIs over the last couple of years. This topic was, as I mentioned, very active at the conference, but I also stumbled across something interesting elsewhere. I had a rental car, which was equipped with a GPS (sat nav to my UK friends). Although I know the Silicon Valley area quite well, this device was quite useful. However, actually using it was quite challenging. I have been quite skeptical about touch screen displays – often wondering whether they really are much use or benefit in many situations. A few days with a pre-touch UI has converted me. Although I could use the thing, it was a struggle. I felt like one of these unfortunate people who are largely paralyzed and write complete books using their ability to blink one eye. I was soon looking forward to getting home to my own car and its somewhat more state-of-the-art little helper.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at