- Please introduce Toradex and its contribution to the embedded computing ecosystem.
Toradex is the leading provider of ARM-based system on modules (SoMs). A very broad portfolio of computing platforms with 10+ years product lifecycle combined with highly optimized OS’s enables lowest Total Cost of Ownership for the developer of IoT Devices.
- Can you provide a detailed overview of the impact of Toradex on embedded computing in recent years?
Toradex has set global trends for ARM computing which have become standard meanwhile. Toradex SoMs allow engineers familiar with microcontrollers to easily upgrade to a full featured OS with standard interfaces and GUIs, which is now an industry-wide.With the introduction of the Apalis SoM family,Toradex also enabled developers, who were previously deploying industrial PC platforms, to transitionto lower-power and lower costARM-based solutions. ARM-based computing platforms keep on outpacing Industrial PCs with regard to growth rate.Having established a very close collaboration with the major SoC manufacturers, Toradex has been able to always bring the latest technology to tomorrow’s embedded product.
- What sets Toradex apart from the competition?
Toradex is one of the few SoM providers who is fully into direct sales and support for its B2B customers.This business model allows us to be very close to our customers and their needs.
Our unique offerings are our global network and premium, free-of-charge support for product developers. Together with the production-ready BSPs developed in-house, Toradex is the one-stop-shop for inventors of embedded products.
Purely focusing on the embedded market, Toradex in addition provides free lifetime product maintenance (Hardware and Software).
Last but not least, Toradex offers two pin-compatible product families (Colibri and Apalis), each one of them allowing for usage in a scalable application and/or in multiple products using just one single carrier board.
- While selecting a CoM partner, what are the factors OEMs should consider and how does Toradex address these requirements?
Clearly the most important requirement of embedded customers is shortest time-to-market. In order to facilitate this, Toradex is offering free professional support in the local language in the major markets around the globe.By not charging for the support of our products, the interest of both the OEM and of Toradex are fully aligned. Revenue on both sides are only building up if the customer makes it to market in time.
Another important aspect to consider is the quality of the software provided and the related cost. The difference between a BSP ported by an external third party or a highly optimized operating system with premium performance and true industrial robustness can end up in multiple man-years of additional development at the OEM. Toradex develops both the hardware and the operating systems in-house, while the latter makes up around 90% of our engineering effort. Still, Toradex is the single point-of-access for an OEM, independently whether the issue is related to SoC, the hardware design, or the software.
Furthermore, OEMs of embedded products should care about product maintenance and product changes, both being essential requirements when talking about 7+ years of product lifecycle. At Toradex, you are not just getting free lifetime product maintenance, but also a product change policy which is suitable for embedded products.
- With established locations in India, what are your future plans for the Indian market, and how does this tie in to your global roadmap?
The Indian Embedded market is still small compared to other regions, but developing at a very high pace. In the past, the country with the very young population was the workbench for software engineering, developing products targeting foreign markets. Nowadays, we observe a fast-growing Indian middle class, which is driving a huge domestic market demand.
Currently, the term SoM is not yet known to all the engineers in India. The ever-increasing product requirements drive the migration from microcontroller-based products to a SoM.
But we also expect the demand for high-end modules to significantly grow over the coming years, as the Indian industry will ask for more demanding computing platforms.
- Key products you are manufacturing and your focus markets?
Toradex is focused on the SoMs and the respective Operating System. The product portfolio does range from a Cortex-A5 based module with 400MHz up to a Quad Core Cortex-A15 with a very CUDA-capable GPU.
While offering a generic embedded computing platform to its customers, Toradex did not decide to favor any specific market segment.
Currently, our major market segments are:
- Industrial Automation
- What do you see as the most active areas for research and advancements in this field?
Very clearly, Artificial intelligence / Deep Learning (which seem to be the only technology to enable driverless cars), is one of the biggest topics in technology. The potential behind Deep Learning is disruptive, hence no one can provide an estimate today.
Other areas which need improvements are Networking and Communication, IoT protocols, Image Processing, Deep Learning, Security, and ease-of-use.
- Can you talk on the technology and trends evolving around embedded computing?
Customers are expecting any device to offer a Graphical User Interfaces and/or to connect via Bluetooth, are becoming a standard even for simple devices, this leads to the use of standard operating systems like Linux.
Like on the PC, temperature is becoming the limiting factor for high-performance ARM systems. Low power consumption at high performance is becoming a key design element. Software plays a significant role, too, by delivering appropriate and reliable power management capabilities.
More and more parts of the parts used for embedded systems are only driven by consumer applications (e.g. RAM and Flash). This is against the long-term focus of embedded systems, and needs to be addressed in a product maintenance strategy.
- Which areas of embedded computing have the potential for successful development in the near future?
In the future world, private users will expect any device to be connected to the internet in order to access these devices remotely from any place in the world. We will therefore continue to see a fast-growing demand of embedded computers across all industries.
Looking at the industrial world, “IoT” and “Industry 4.0” combine data collection technologies at the node(which have been invented already many years back), with latest data processing services in the cloud. This new combination allowsfor previously unseen insights into complete processes or data mining and respective conclusions based on the input data.
Today, it is not possible to properly rate the many technologies in embedded computing. Some of the key drivers, which are still in work in progress, are interoperability, security, imaging, artificial intelligence and, last but not least, edge computing (i.e. where data is processed at the node and not pushed into the cloud).
- What according to you will drive the evolution of embedded computing globally in the next few years?
In the consumer world, x86 PC systems are increasingly being replaced by ARM-based tablets or portable devices (i.e. smartphones). Driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), a similar evolution is happening in the embedded market and the requirement for interoperability of the devices will push the need for the standardization of interfaces and protocols.
Backed up by various market overviews, it is a proven fact that the number of ARM-based embedded systems does grow significantly faster than the traditional PC-based platforms. The major driver for this change in architecture is lower power consumption, lower cost as well as the wider offering in the market.But asthe software ecosystem of ARM is not as standardized as the one of the PC environment, the quality of the related software will be the key to the success of any ARM-based product.