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In emerging markets such as India, embedded and communications platforms have unique requirements, in terms of form factor, modularity, reliability, long-life cycle, and so on.
"To cater to the booming retail industry here in India, we realised that local systems integrators needed a small form factor and a fanless solution that worked without moving parts (like the hard-disk). It had to be simple and easy to assemble, based on readily-available components. Our team worked with key local systems integrators, to understand their needs, and developed a POS reference design," says Rao.
Intel announced its first reference design for a retail POS in October 2007. Intel's partners demonstrated their POS devices, based on the reference design, at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) 2007. This POS reference design is powered by Intel's Celeron-M/852GM family of products. The fanless design is based on a mini-ITx motherboard, and ensures a small form factor. A compact flash interface eliminates the need for a hard disk, thereby ensuring that there are no moving parts in the system (these are usually the first point of failure in the field).
One of the hottest trends is the migration to dual-core platforms in several embedded market segments. Embedded systems today require substantial performance. Developers in India are also increasingly adopting state-of-the-art microprocessor technology in their designs. For example, in industrial automation equipment, a chip with multiple processors can dedicate one core to running a robot under a real-time operating system, while the second core runs enterprise applications.
In the interactive-client segment, we see developers turning towards increased connectivity and rich graphics. For example, the latest POS terminals incorporate dual displays for advertising, and are increasingly connected to a central server for remote configuration and accounting management.
Medical equipment is another rapidly-growing segment in India. These devices require speed, high-resolution imagery, reconstruction capability, and high bandwidth. Reconstruction algorithms especially require a tremendous amount of processing power. Developers are moving towards standard IP (intellectual property) building blocks (like general-purpose embedded IA processors from Intel) to reduce development time.
In addition to these activities, the Intel Embedded team in India focuses on product development for the worldwide market, working in close collaboration with the other development sites worldwide. The R&D team is currently working on hardware and software for the latest embedded system-on-a-chip products, which are part of the embedded roadmap.
"I cannot disclose the names, but we are working with some of the top Indian companies. How much we do for the Indian market and how much for the global market, depends on the sectors. Entertainment in vehicles is very popular abroad. Almost every car has some form of entertainment. In this space, there are several evolving usage models. For example, you could download the latest childrenâ€™s movie on to your PVR set-top box and then directly sync it with your car's infotainment system, so that your kids can watch the movie when you are driving them to school. Though it is being deployed abroad, the development work is being done here in India," says Rao.
Security or surveillance is another area of importance. Though the deployment here in India may not be as much as abroad, the team works on these solutions and caters to the global customers. "Surveillance can be a very challenging job. The solution deployed at a parking lot, where cars keep moving, could be different from the one deployed at a deserted lobby. The focus is on intelligent surveillance, where there is no/minimal human monitoring required. This requires a system running image-processing algorithms, where a video stream from a security camera is processed and an alert sent out based on the results. We see OEMs adopting our dual-core or quad-core embedded processors for security-surveillance systems," adds Rao.
All this boils down to one thing: while 'Intel Inside' makes a machine one of the best, working 'inside Intel' offers Indian developers a chance to create products for the most challenging markets anywhere in the world.