Hop on the Moving Train

Input Voltage

–Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

JeffHeadShot

We work pretty far in advance to get Circuit Cellar produced and in your hands on-time and at the level of quality you expect and deserve. Given that timing, as we go to press on this issue we’re getting into the early days of fall. In my 27 years in the technology magazine business, this part of the year has always included time set aside to finalize next year’s editorial calendar. The process for me over years has run the gamut from elaborate multi-day summer meetings to small one-on-one conversations with a handful of staff. But in every case, the purpose has never been only about choosing the monthly section topics. It’s also a deeper and broader discussion about “directions.” By that I mean the direction embedded systems technologies are going in—and how it’s impacting you our readers. Because these technologies change so rapidly, getting a handle on it is a bit like jumping onto a moving train.

A well thought out editorial calendar helps us plan out and select which article topics are most important—for both staff-written and contributed articles. And because we want to include all of the most insightful, in-depth stories we can, we will continue to include a mix of feature articles beyond the monthly calendar topics. Beyond its role for article planning, a magazine’s editorial calendar also makes a statement on what the magazine’s priorities are in terms of technology, application segments and product areas. In our case, it speaks to the kind of magazine that Circuit Cellar is—and what it isn’t.

An awareness of what types of product areas are critical to today’s developers is important. But because Circuit Cellar is not just a generic product magazine, we’re always looking at how various chips, boards and software solutions fit together in a systems context. This applies to our technology trend features as well as our detailed project-based articles that explore a microcontroller-based design in all its interesting detail. On the other hand, Circuit Cellar isn’t an academic style technical journal that’s divorced from any discussion of commercial products. In contrast, we embrace the commercial world enthusiastically. The deluge of new chip, board and software products often help inspire engineers to take a new direction in their system designs. New products serve as key milestones illustrating where technology is trending and at what rate of change.

Part of the discussion—for 2018 especially—is looking at how the definition of a “system” is changing. Driven by Moore’s Law, chip integration has shifted the level of system functionally at the IC, board and box level. We see an FPGA, SoC or microcontroller of today doing what used to require a whole embedded board. In turn, embedded boards can do what once required a box full of slot-card boards. Meanwhile, the high-speed interconnects between those new “system” blocks constantly have to keep those processing elements fed. The new levels of compute density, functionality and networking available today are opening up new options for embedded applications. Highly integrated FPGAs, comprehensive software development tools, high-speed fabric interconnects and turnkey box-level systems are just a few of the players in this story of embedded system evolution.

Finally, one of the most important new realities in embedded design is the emergence of intelligent systems. Using this term in a fairly broad sense, it’s basically now easier than ever to apply high-levels of embedded intelligence into any device or system. In some cases, this means adding a 32-bit MCU to an application that never used such technology. At the other extreme are full supercomputing-level AI technologies installed in a small drone or a vehicle. Such systems can meet immense throughput and processing requirements in space-constrained applications handling huge amounts of real-time incoming data. And at both those extremes, there’s connectivity to cloud-based computing analytics that exemplifies the cutting edge of the IoT. In fact, the IoT phenomenon is so important and opportunity rich that we plan to hit it from a variety of angles in 2018.

Those are the kinds of technology discussions that informed our creation of Circuit Cellar’s 2018 Ed Cal. Available now on www.circuitcellar.com, the structure of the calendar has been expanded for 2018 to ensure we cover all the critical embedded technology topics important to today’s engineering professional. Technology changes rapidly, so we invite you to hop on this moving train and ride along with us.

This appears in the November (328) issue of Circuit Cellar magazine

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