2012 Top Embedded Innovator - Strategies: Dr. Kwok Wu, Head of Embedded Software and Systems Solutions, Freescale Semiconductor
Kwok Wu has many years of experience in advanced embedded systems and software, FPGA software development, and Electronic Design Automation (EDA). He has delivered high-performance scalable software platforms and products for Freescale’s Power Architecture, Starcore DSP, ARM, and ZigBee Systems-on-Chips (SoCs) in the wireless broadband networking, telecommunications, consumer, automotive, industrial, smart energy, and telehealth segments. Kwok holds a PhD, EECS (Computer Engineering) from the University of Texas at Austin.
ECD: What emerging trends and challenges do you see in embedded design?
WU: Internet traffic will grow 5x its size in the next three years (according to Morgan Stanley), driven by wireless and video traffic as well as by the Internet of Things, which is connecting an increasing number of sensors and smart appliances with on-demand access via multiple smart handsets. Local wireless routers and access points thus need to become smart gateways, enabled by open-source scalable network platforms, in order to efficiently handle local traffic in homes, offices, and factories.
The #1 theme is a focus on smart residential gateways with the Internet of Things – usually for home automation and remote monitoring to control sensors including smoke alarms, smart meters, smart appliances for smart energy, and IP cameras for security. For example, Freescale’s MPC8308nSG smart converged gateway with integrated wireless connectivity including 3G broadband, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and ZigBee wireless sensor network addresses many market opportunities in the smart energy/smart grid, health monitoring, industrial and residential automation, and mobile transportation segments.
The #2 theme is a focus on smart business gateways that deliver various cloud services for multi-user collaboration and office-in-a-box, such as unified communications, PBX VoIP, wireless video-on-demand, network video recording, and video surveillance. Office automation is another growth area offering businesses cloud-based services across a large number of users, sometimes in different offices.
ECD: Which engineering specialties are most valuable to your company, and are they difficult to find?
WU: Freescale Semiconductor is a leader in network and communication processors (Power Architecture), ZigBee RF sensor devices, i.MX multimedia application processors, and MCUs for automobile, transportation, and industrial applications. Freescale’s Power Architecture networking processors offer efficient and scalable performance with secure trusted architecture. PowerPC processors are also used in the automobile engine management and industrial automation markets.
ECD: What is your assessment of the demand for ubiquitous connectivity, and how does it affect your product development plans?
WU: Converged network standards allow more devices to be connected seamlessly. Our product development must be on an open, scalable platform that can adapt to evolving connectivity standards. Our smart converged gateways need to handle multiple wireless technologies (3G, Wi-Fi, ZigBee wireless sensor) all in one gateway.
ECD: How will embedded computing advance in the next 5-10 years?
WU: The “network is the computer” concept promises to deliver cloud-based services through the “network as a service” model. Open-source smart software will provide embedded distributed intelligence that enables smartphones/tablets, smart appliances, smart TVs, smart utility meters, and IP-based programmable communicating thermostats. These smart devices will offer on-demand Internet access through smart AP gateways and smart managed switches and routers, driven by open-source software-defined networks and platforms such as the Freescale smart gateways that won two international networking and communication awards. The key approach is to use an open-source, scalable, portable software platform for networking and communication, such as a software-defined network consisting of OpenFlow, OpenStack, and Open vSwitch.
Furthermore, smart gateways within a campus will be connected by a mesh network to form smart, resilient networks for local clouds. Smart software added to smart sensors and gateways with real-time location and context-aware decision-making will be more pervasive. These gateways will ultimately create safer, greener, more secure, and smarter connected communities (homes, cars, offices, factories) and a rich, personalized connected experience.