Defence systems are headed that way -- WindRiver's Chip Downing seems to say at the India Regional Developer Conference in Bangalore, April 15 ( IndiaTechOnline Photo)
Soft radios: hard-nosed options for battle field bandwidth

WindRiver India Regional Developer Conference in Bangalore highlights defence/aerospace challenges – and the tech response.
Anand Parthasarathy, a former Defence scientist himself, reports on an event that made him feel like someone  fast forwarding from the Jurassic Age of electronics into a new connected  military ‘maidan’ or battlefield 

The annual WindRiver developer conference in Bangalore, focussed as it was this year, on military and aerospace applications, almost became an Indian DRDO/ defence public sector gathering…. Separate registration desks for Bharat Electronics, Aeronautical Development Establishment and other entities in the defence R&D and manufacturing sector; the Director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, V.S. Mahalingam, as the Chief Guest and key exhibits flowing from work at HAL-Edgewood. The company engages with   two out of three Indian defence labs and defence  public sector undertakings.

WindRiver’s Director Business Development ( Aero and Defence) Chip Downing, whose two keynotes formed the hard core ( no pun intended!) of the day-long event, made a strong pitch for deploying software defined radios (SDR) to exploit bandwidth on the ( increasingly electronic) battlefield. As future military applications demand secure and simultaneous voice, data and video communication, it is essential that radio is both software selectable – and cognitive. That is, it must be switchable on the fly and have the ‘brains’ to gauge bandwidth constraints and adjust the spectrum, ‘on demand’, Downing said.
The challenge is to integrate legacy systems with new tools; mix-n-match a heterogenous masala mix of 100s of processing cores from Texas Instruments, Freescale, Intel, Infineon or where ever; even while enabling rapid security evaluation, he added.

In his opening remarks, Damian Artt, WindRiver’s Almeda ( California, US)-based Senior Vice President for Worldwide Sales and Service – on his maiden visit to India -- warned the standing-room-only audience of Indian developers: Use software to differentiate your product or you’re in for hard times in a fiercely competitive space. Design lifecycles, which used to be three to four years are now three to four months – especially in the mobile device space, where the entire supply chain is now suspect, thanks to huge disruptive interventions by players like Apple and Google.

“WindRiver provides you the ‘plumbing’ to help you move up the value chain”, Artt added, “Customers care about apps not about O.S… it’s time you shifted focus from ‘ make’ to ‘buy’: go for COTS – commercial off the shelf – where you can, then concentrate on SWaP – reducing space, weight and power ( budget) of your product”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event to IndiaTechOnline Artt assured customers that WindRiver, while ( since July 2009) , a part of Intel), would continue to operate as an independent unit, preserving its ‘hardware neutrality’. “Over 85 percent of applications run on non-Intel platforms and that will be the ‘business as usual’ way for us, as we aim to become a one billion dollar business in five years”, he added. Current business is around $ 360 million.

Indeed, the entire Bangalore had the familiar WindRiver look and feel and the Intel connection was mostly unstated, except for a stand where the chip leader displayed some of its own solutions for the mission critical embedded space.

Key sponsors and technology partners of the event were Freescale Semiconductor, Kontron Technology, RTI, PrismTech, IPL, Presagis and Intel. The event was also held in Hyderabad a day later with    DRDO's Chief Controller R&D R Sreehari Rao as Chief Guest.

Web link to the two India events:  
Wind River Systems, Inc. is a company providing embedded systems, development tools for embedded systems, middleware, and other types of software. The company was founded in Berkeley, California in 1981 by Jerry Fiddler and David Wilner. On June 4, 2009, Wind River announced that Intel had bought the company for a reported $884 million. Wind River will continue to exist as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intel.