Editor's Letter Insights

More Power to the Makers

Written by Sam Wallace
February 2023 – Issue #391

The widely reported layoffs in the tech industry—150,000 in 2022 according to some sources, with a large amount of those occurring late in the year—are an obvious cause of concern. I don’t hope to convince you otherwise. But some suggest that this moment is to the benefit of startups and smaller tech companies, as a growing number of talented industry professionals are on the hunt for new jobs. Granted, this might be little comfort to the recently laid-off. Still, I wonder what the ultimate outcomes of the turbulence seen in tech over recent years will be. How will the market change? What factors will play the biggest role in the next phase of tech?

Even less certain is how economic hiccups will impact the embedded systems industries, given the breadth and variety of companies under that umbrella. Online searches yield only speculation and anecdotal evidence. (On that note: If you have anything to share about how your job has been affected by recent economic ebbs and flows, send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.) Stability will of course be determined in large part by what sector your company serves. If you build products for scientific research, chances are that long project cycles and secure funding sources provide some assurance that your job isn’t going away anytime soon. Consumer-facing companies might be a different story.

From where I sit, I see opportunities for the embedded systems developer. 3D printing, to name one example, continues to grow in popularity and usage among design teams. This tool is just one of many today that gives more power to the prototype maker at home, and the overall trend seems to be one of further democratization of embedded systems development, even while those systems grow in complexity and sophistication. And so I’d like to suggest—or at least I hope—that while the behemoth tech companies suffer their stormy weather, the prototype maker and inventor has more opportunities and tools than ever.

In any case, we have a few articles in this month’s issue that would seem to suggest as much. Two of these deal with printed circuit boards (PCBs): Stuart Ball writes about PCB design and the software tools that can aid your process, while Joseph Corleto writes about his method for assembling professional-looking PCBs for his clients. More articles in the realm of democratizing software include: Raul Alvarez-Torrico’s two-part article on building a custom Internet-of-Things (IoT) app with AWS IoT Edukit, focusing in this issue on the implementation of a serverless application; and Pedro Bertoleti’s discussion of the free, open-source Appache NuttX real-time operating system (RTOS) and its uses. Ever the problem-solver, Jeff Bachiochi’s project this month uses an electromagnetic vacuum/pressure sensor and a PIC16F18313 microcontroller (MCU) to build an I2C peripheral for monitoring the backwashing cycles of a filtration/softening system in a well water tank. And speaking of problem-solving, Bob Japenga brings us another installation in his series on debugging embedded real-time systems—in this issue he covers how to determine whether your bug is in hardware or software. Alexandru Dumitrache writes about his use of a PSoC 6 MCU with Picovoice artificial intelligence (AI) to substantially improve user control of color and brightness in an analog LED strip. And in our second Technology Feature, Michael Lynes covers data acquisition technology (DAQ tech)—what it is, examples of its use, and key players in the DAQ industry.

To bring it back to where I started, this issue’s Datasheet column covers just a corner of the many box-level embedded PC products that have been released in the last six months. These devices continue to grow in popularity, partly because of their applications in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), which many companies have deployed to accelerate production and address supply chain pressures. This is to say that embedded systems are themselves an apparent part of the solution to the economic woes the tech industry faces today. I trust that the embedded systems developers and makers reading this magazine already have their sights on as-yet-undiscovered solutions to problems—a cause for celebration, indeed.

Issue Table of Contents can be found here,
as articles are made available online they will be linked.

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PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY #391 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Editor-in-Chief at KCK Media Corp. | + posts

Sam Wallace - became Circuit Cellar's  Editor-In-Chief in August 2022.
His experience in writing, editing, and teaching will provide a great perspective on the selection, presentation, and clarity of editorial content. The Circuit Cellar audience will benefit from his strong academic background encompassing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors. His passion for learning and teaching is a great fit for Circuit Cellar's continuing mission of Inspiring the Evolution of Embedded Design.

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More Power to the Makers

by Sam Wallace time to read: 3 min