Yesterday I went to the Embedded World Trade Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. As a single hacker, you often drop a little more out of place when you buy chips in a single unit quantity and the people you are talking to are accustomed to a minimum order amount of one million. But the fun thing is, once you ask an interesting question, even some suit-wearing type flips into full-on kids who like to explain fun technology. I started a conversation with a few VPs of Global Chip Behemoth and they were great.
But my heart is still with the little players and the hackers. That’s the novelty. I met Chip Whisperer’s Colin O’Flyn of fame – his company sells fancy chip-glitching tools, but he had a refined version of the open source, fast and dirty zipper circuit from his Remotecon Talk last year. A small local company was making virtual buttons that were basically paper ghost illusions floating in mid-air and the button tip was detected by reflective IR. Great technology, but I forgot the name of the company – sorry!
Dracula Technologies, a French company that makes inkjet-printable organic solar cells, was less forgettable. Although they can’t go into deeper details about the actual chemistry of what they’re doing, I can say that they had trouble not letting me know when I asked. However, it is a great low-energy solar technology that would be great if expanded. I think they are just one of many companies in this area; Keep your eyes on organic solar.
While talking about their business with a small German FPGA manufacturer, Cologne Chips, I finally inquired about the synthesis flow and was pleasantly surprised to hear that they were fully dedicated to the open source Yosys toolchain. As far as I know, they are the only firms who have voluntarily submitted their chips space in an effort. Very cold! (And a sign of things to come? You can always hope.)
I’ve only stumbled upon random encounters with a few hacked readers, which shows that the hacker spirit lives on in large and small organizations. All companies need to make demos to get our attention, but from talking to the people who make them, they’ll make as much fun as you or I make them.
And in the end, I ran into Hacked regular Chris Gamel and my old boss and good friend Mike Sigis who was representing the IoT startup Goliath there, and tried to fool me using an RTOS in the microcontroller. (Never say no.) We had a great walkaround and a great dinner.
If you ever get a chance to go to a trade show like this, even if you think you can get out of your league, I encourage you to attend anyway. You’d be surprised how many cool geeks are probably hiding in less space.
[Banner image: Embedded World]