Embedded Design and Technology Trends in the Military

A presidential election... the continuance or end of deploying troops in Iraq...Phoenix spacecraft landing on Mars...2008 could be an exciting year, so let’s take a moment to look at a few trends that could affect the military embedded Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) market.

Trend 1: Miniaturization in the Military

The mobile handset industry has set the standard for “smaller is better.” In 2008, we will see more demand for small footprint designs in the military embedded community. This is driven by the increasing tactical needs for battlefield equipment. Intelligence used to be collected in the field and sent back to a central office for analysis and processing, but with the increasing amount of data being collected, front-end processing in a tactical battlefield environment becomes more crucial. It is necessary in order to reduce the amount of data that is stored for back-end processing to lower the amount of time required to process stored data, as well as to enable some real-time decisions to be made based upon the acquired intelligence. Expect to see emerging needs for smaller COTS form factors such as MicroTCA, PC/104+ and COM Express.

Since the MicroTCA concept was introduced in 2005, this next generation smaller embedded form factor has been projected for use in military applications. Recently, enclosure vendor Hybricon Corporation announced an Air Transport Rack (ATR) version of a MicroTCA chassis for use in airborne applications. We anticipate that MicroTCA will become more popular as a platform for in-house proof of concept military project designs throughout 2008. However, since the availability of conduction cooled signal processing and other military communication board-level solutions are nonexistent as of today, wide COTS adoption in the military community will not take place until at least the next decade.