The term ‘embedded devices’ stir up images of portable products such as iPads, MP3 players and digital watches. But the majority of embedded devices made in Australia are large units that we use on a regular basis, according to Microsoft Embedded Windows manager, Tim Schroder.
He works with manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) locally and is currently promoting the new Windows Embedded CE platform.
“The Australian and New Zealand market is very different from some overseas markets in that probably 95 per cent of our embedded business here is on big devices,” Schroder said. “The rest – a very small percentage – is on small consumer type devices.”
Schroder lists kiosks, digital signage, wagering and gambling, industrial automation and point-of-service as the five key areas occupying the embedded devices space.
“They are the sorts of things people come across everyday but aren’t recognising them as embedded devices,” he said. “It could be the kiosk at the train station or betting stations at the TAB.”
The trend of creating more large scale embedded devices in Australia is unlikely to shift as the small footprint compact device market is dominated by China, Korea and Taiwan, according to Schroder.
Automated large scale devices have proliferated in recent years and changing business structures of certain industries. A good example is self service DVD rental vending machines which are placed in shopping centres. Customers can hire and return videos without the need to visit a store or interact with staff.
“You see people queueing outside banks for ATMs as oppose to going inside to see a teller,” Schroder said. “If you think why people are doing that, it’s because they like working on a device and like that kind of interaction.”
“That’s happening across all sorts of industries.”
He said embedded devices appeal to businesses because it cuts down labour costs.
“I think in a lot of industries, we are starting to see that come through and particularly in digital signage and information kiosks,” Schroder said. “We are seeing them in cafes and in news agencies.
“If you think about the number of screens around, they are everywhere these days.”
While Schroder won’t predict when Australia will become a fully automated society, he said the innovation of manufacturing and OEM partners constantly surprised him.
“They come to us every month with new ideas and places to put terminals and so on,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve come up with all the answers as to where these devices are going to go.
“Next year, they will put a device somewhere you’d think it wouldn’t be possible; maybe on a beach somewhere.”
Microsoft is currently running a public community technology preview for Windows Embedded Compact 7.