March 24, 2008
DATE 08: Musings von München
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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After that session, I spoke with
Ingrid Verbauwhede from KU Leuven, who was also in attendance. One of her students,
Junfeng Fan, presented a Thursday afternoon paper on an FPGA-based cryptography scheme, as well. Professor Verbauwhede told me that even though only a few dozen people attended this morning talk at DATE about security, if presented at CHES, the paper would have drawn hundreds. (The
Hardware and Embedded System Conference is in Washington, D.C. this year)

So, another question: What constitutes the appropriate mix of topics and presentations at DATE, or any venue for that matter?

* Following lunch, I joined hundreds of others in attending the Thursday afternoon keynote, a terrific talk given by
Hermann Kopetz from TU Vienna. His talk, “Reliable Services in an Imperfect World,” was a fast-paced presentation that barely left time for him or anyone else in the room to breath, let alone take notes.

Kopetz laid out the requirements for robustness in an embedded system, listed types of perturbations that can disrupt that robustness, and said embedded systems need to be resilient and optimized. He catalogued the things that can go wrong in this Imperfect World – bugs, Heisenbugs, Borhbugs, permanent and transient bugs – and added to the FUD in the room by noting, “To put 1 billion transistors on a chip is one thing, but to put them in the
right place on the chip is something else altogether.”

He talked about the evolution of memory, the end of Moore’s Law, the fact the embedded systems are becoming huge, and linked all of this somehow to distinctions between the
Idea World and the
Engineering World. He said, “The notion of cycle is crucial in an embedded system,” and then offered his list of what defines robustness is such a system:

1)        A highly structured design

2)        A monitor to detect and contain faults

3)        State awareness and state recovery algorithms

4)        Resilient actuators and cognitive resilience

5)        The ability to reorganize or self organize in response to permanent perturbations

Above and beyond being the most thoroughly entertaining 30 minutes at DATE – and my description here captures only the half of it – Kopetz’s keynote was also the best possible excuse to return to the Exhibit Hall for a good
bier und brezel. The crowd that left his talk, after offering a vigorous round of applause for the speaker, seemed both energized and mildly exhausted. They left Kopetz’s “ocean of time” and went to seek an “ocean of bier.”


Sire, geben Sie Gedankenfreiheit …

* As others sought out the bier, I dashed one last time upstairs for a cappuccino with Monique. Then, it was time to navigate my own Ocean of Time and sail away wistfully from the ICM, now anchored under stormy skies. Slowly, I made my way via U-bahn and S-bahn to Munich’s world famous Glypthotek, home to a collection of perpetually haunting remnants of Greece and Rome.

There I communed with Caesar Augustus and asked him to comment on the long-term affects of DATE, DAC, EDA, and technology in general. Caesar was not terribly responsive – perhaps he was busy longing for his own bier und brezel – but as I peered into his face, it was hard not to conclude that whatever the future of conferences, design automation, or electronic technology in general, we need to continue to look to our own inner compass as an industry to decide how much we wish to control the power these technologies can unleash on the world.

What would Caesar Augustus have done with embedded systems? Who would Herkules have met on Facebook? At what point would the students of Socrates have utilized Google to find the answers to his persistent questions?

It was on a foundation of science and engineering that we emerged from the fear and superstition of the past. But where we go from here, is anybody’s guess. How we utilize the tools and infrastructure we’ve created in this Brave New World is still an unanswered question.


Thanks to Wikipedia for the photo of Caesar Augustus at the Glypthotek.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.


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