Taken For a Ride in Paris


On the road to Embedded World, a naïve American discovers an auto industry dark horse.

On my way to Embedded World in Germany, I stopped off in France to visit a key automotive customer. Although it was not always the case, I’ve learned to love Paris. More importantly, I’ve developed a healthy respect for Parisians. They suffer millions of uncouth and naïve visitors who bulldoze through their beloved city like Kanye West at a Taylor Swift fan club meeting. I have to admit, I’m sympathetic and impressed that the Paris locals maintain their sense of dignity, style and high standards for cuisine, fashion and service. (Yes, I said service. I know, conventional reputation dictates otherwise, but they really do take care of tourists.)

This Week: embedded world 2011

The Nuremberg Messe - Home of embedded world 2011

Check our blog throughout the week for news and updates from the show. We’ll have posts from our CEO, President, Director of Marketing, Senior Applications Engineer…and many others.

One of the biggest and best shows in our industry is embedded world. Companies from all over the world flock to Nuremberg Messe to show off the latest technology and trends in embedded systems. Altia is proud to participate in this year’s exhibition with our German distributor, SalesParkOne. We look forward to meeting with many of our customers and partners at this exciting event!

Overview video from embeddedworld’s website: click here.

Our Booth: Hall 11 #11-236. Drop your business card off for a chance to win an iPod Touch.

Our speakers: Altia’s Senior Applications Engineer, Markus Friedel will be speaking Wednesday morning. Altia’s President Peter Abowd will be speaking Wednesday afternoon. Click here for presentation times.

Want to set up a specific meeting time? Email info@altia.com.

More info on Nuremberg, Germany:

Historic old town Nuremberg
Historic old town Nuremberg

Icons Part 2: “Hello, User! It’s nice to meet you!”

handshakeWhen you’re developing a new user interface for your product, what do you want it to say to the user?

In my last post, I talked about icons bringing universality and style to your UI.  This gets your user’s attention, which is very important – especially on a crowded car lot, showroom floor or store shelf.

Great icons also draw those users in for that first meeting – like a handshake – with your product. This is your chance to win them over, so it’s up to you to make that first impression a good one!

Icons: You Say it Best When You Say Nothing at All

icons1I recently read an article that my colleague, Jason Williamson, wrote for Appliance Design magazine.  In “Ten Golden Rules for HMI Design,” Jason talks about the importance of spending time getting your icons just right for a next generation product.  I really liked his comment:  “A picture can speak a thousand words—or the same word in a thousand different languages.”

How true!  Jason’s sentiment brings to mind that old country tune – “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

embedded world 2011, here we come!

Embedded World 2011 display
Embedded World 2011 display

In a couple of weeks, members of our team are off to Nuremburg for the 2011 installation of embedded world. EW is considered to be  *the*event in the embedded systems space, so we’re sending our “A team” from our offices in the UK, France, Germany, and the US. We’ll also be joined by representatives from our German distributors, SalesParkOne.

With the latest release of our product barely out the door, our team will be available to discuss the latest updates, and show some of the latest demos. Visitors to our booth (Hall 11, #11-236) will be invited to drop off their business card to enter a drawing for a free iPod touch.

We also have two team members presenting at the event:

  • Markus Friedel, Altia’s Senior Applications Engineer, will be presenting at the embedded world Exhibitors’ Forum.  His talk, entitled “Secrets to Getting High Impact HMIs into Production Embedded Devices,” will be on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 11:30 AM.
  • Peter Abowd, President of Altia, will be speaking at electronic displays Conference 2011, which runs in parallel with embedded world 2011 Exhibition.  His presentation, entitled “High Impact HMIs at the Lowest Cost:  Vector or Raster?” will take place during the “FPGAs for Displays” session of the conference on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 3:20 PM.

Planning on being there? Please stop by to say hello! Or – even better – email us to schedule an appointment: info@altia.com

Also make sure to check back with our blog for updates from embedded world 2011!

Altia Illustrates GUI with Hardware Acceleration Trouncing Frame Buffer Alone at LINUX Event

On February 8-9, 2011, Ronald Zehmeister (from SalesParkOne) and I were invited to attend a LINUX Symposium, hosted by Toshiba Electronics Europe at their offices in Düsseldorf.  The purpose of the event was to provide embedded systems developers with in-depth information on designing and implementing LINUX-based systems.

Altia demo running on hardware
Altia demo running on hardware

Toshiba invited us to showcase our HMI engineering tools at a small exhibition.  It was great to talk with the embedded developers who visited us at the event.  Many want to create something more exciting than a basic information display for their new products.  They want:

  • Compelling, colorful custom design.
  • Exciting animations.
  • Great performance on affordable hardware.
  • A streamlined development process.

This is right up our alley.

New Products Released today. Altia Design 9.2, PhotoProto 2.0 and FlowProto 1.5

Hear ye, hear ye. We’re excited to announce new releases of our award-winning software package. Each program has received much love (in honor of Valentine’s Day, naturally) and is now available for purchase and/or download.  Tom and the gang have added new features, Windows 7 support and – most importantly –  auto code generation for seven (count ‘em… seven) new hardware targets.

Laundry running on hardware
Laundry running on hardware

Altia Design 9.2 + DeepScreen 6.0 (design and deploy HMIs)

  • More targets, including OpenGL ES 2.x, OpenVG, and Linux Framebuffer
  • Full support for  Windows 7, XP and Vista
  • Improved animation capabilities on low-end platforms
  • More capabilities for low-cost targets
  • API has been improved to allow more simultaneous connections
  • More flexible storage options for deeply embedded software

Click here to read more about Design + DeepScreen

PhotoProto 2.0 (mock up HMIs with Adobe Photoshop)

  • Simplified Export Options makes exporting assets to Altia Design easier
  • Improved integration with FlowProto allowing for maximized workflow across teams and tools
  • Compartmentalized control code makes PhotoProto output more readily deployed into complex models
  • Enhanced deck animations and greater animation accessibility from external code

Click here to read more about PhotoProto

FlowProto 1.5 (leverage Microsoft Visio for HMI structure, flow and logic)

  • Test flowcharts for accuracy and completeness
  • Convert behavior to C code and run on hardware
  • Pull logic and graphics output into the Altia tool chain for further development

Click here to read more about FlowProto

Human-Machine Interfaces and the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

I was in Detroit working with customers in late January, so I stopped by the Detroit Auto Show to take the temperature of the automobile industry in an otherwise frigid Motor City.  After the show, as my rental car crawled through the ice-encrusted traffic (in what locals un-affectionately refer to as “the mixing bowl”), I mulled what I had seen.

Smart grid and home automation pontification continued

Wednesday, we started looking at the growing world of Smart Grid. Altia clearly has an interest in seeing user interfaces built into home automation platforms. A few more discussion points related to energy savings and resource management.

  • What if you had visibility into what each circuit in your house was using?  What is the twenty year old refrigerator in the garage using, how much does it cost to run the least-efficient 90 minute dishwasher cycle or how much are we spending to run that pool pump?  Can your usage be optimized — should the fridge or pump be replaced?
  • Source: digitaltrends.com
    Source: digitaltrends.com

    To prevent excess, some electric companies have established a kWh luxury tax.   Many of the utilities have  set the thresholds at levels efficiently run households can achieve or the consumer pays a heavy luxury tax per kWh.

  • The other critical resource is water.   How many gallons were used between 7 and 8:30 today as the kids got ready for school?  If we cut usage by 10%, we also just cut our bill to heat the water.
  • Energy and water conservation will no longer be optional.

What do you think? Would you use a smart grid panel in your home? Do you currently have any ‘home automation’ installed? Leave comments below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Home Automation and the Smart Grid

Electronic Design featured a great article that hit home for our team (pun intended).  “Is It Time For Home Automation To Go Mass Market?” has spawned some great internal conversations here at Altia. In it, author Ross Sabolcik extols the beauty of tech-laden homes but notes that “home automation still seems relegated to the ranks of enthusiasts or high-end homes”.  Included in this arena are lighting and AV, security, fire and life safety (fire suppression, smoke or C02), environmental (HVAC or climate), and networking (telephony and data).  The growing focus is on energy management and savings: commonly referred to the Smart Grid.

Altia Smart grid
Altia Smart grid

And while the various components are developing separately, it is the consolidation and integration of the various systems that will see growth in coming years: a single platform for all ‘connected home’ components.

While we won’t claim to be gurus of the home automation or smart grid space, we’re no spring chickens when it comes to the user interface side of things.  We see a natural progression towards high-end touchscreen LCD panels to manage all of your ‘wired’ systems.  And of course we’re working with companies right now who are tackling this exact challenge.

On our blog this week, we’ll do a few posts dedicated to this topic. Specifically: questions and ideas that have come up related to home automation as well as this growing area of ‘Smart Grid’…using technology to manage resources. Clearly a hot topic given the state of the economy.

So here are a few questions that have come up related to the article and topic. Today: a few thoughts on Smart Grid and resource management.

  • The Smart Grid initiative is focused primarily on management of electricity.  Would you use a Smart wireless device that gave you real-time ability to manage your daily energy usage and saved money on your energy bills?
  • The stakes for the US economy are huge and increasingly a matter of national security — dependence on foreign oil, skyrocketing oil and gas costs, wealth transfer to the oil importers and effects of climate change.
  • The perpetually-soaring utility bills gives every consumer motivation to cut their usage 10%+ … just to stay even with where they were last year.   Visibility into the electric usage in most cases is an unknown until the consumer receives the bill …with no understanding of where their kWh are going.
  • Today’s homeowner is also faced with skyrocketing heating costs. Homeowners in the Northeast are facing $3.00+ oil this winter.  If a smart device knew gallons available and used from the tank, weather projections for the next 14 days, and an energy coefficient for the residence (what the oil companies do with automatic fill), it could make simple usage calculations for the next 14 days based on the homeowner’s thermostat settings.  Would the average homeowner spend 5 minutes optimizing the Smart device thermostat settings to get another 2 to 3 days out of their tank of oil and cut their oil usage by 10%?

What do you think?  Would you use a smart grid panel in your home? Do you currently have any ‘home automation’ installed? Leave comments below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.