NETsilicon Inc.Waltham, Mass.

Dec. 21, 2004
NET+ARM networking system

Cornelius "Pete" Peterson, NETsilicon's CEO, predicts that over the next five years anything to do with information, control, or measurement will be Internet/Ethernet enabled. In his thinking the Internet will become more of a network of devices and gadgets than a means of connecting people. In addition, he anticipates Internet protocol-based communications will replace proprietary networking techniques in a variety of markets. His role in that is NET+ARM, a complete network connectivity system-on-silicon designed for a host of noncomputer devices. NET+ARM is a complete embedded, integrated networking solution. It includes all of the hardware in the form of an ASIC containing an ARM 7TDMI processing core, an integral 10/100 Ethernet MAC, a 10 channel DMA controller, two serial ports, IEEE 1284 parallel port, and a bus interface along with all the software needed to function in an Ethernet or Internet environment. Already being used by companies designing printer servers, remote network access servers, and switches, NET+ARM will soon be applied to industrial automation systems, data acquisition equipment, automated ID systems, medical devices, building controls, data communications, and security and monitoring equipment. In the printer application the chip provides the network connection that can signal when human attention is required. Peterson predicts that "the next era of information technology will be dominated by these devices and networked devices will ultimately gain in popularity and significance to the extent that they will far exceed the number of networked computers and workstations." These devices, accessible and manageable through familiar web browsers, also will be equipped with the ability to send and receive e-mail messages, and to download files. Peterson says 21 of the top 25 printer companies are among the early adopters of NET+ARM, and his expectations are that the industrial automation and medical markets will be next. He believes the concept of smart devices will become pervasive, even in more prosaic applications. "Imagine vending machines that can reduce servicing requirements by communicating their status and inventory levels. Add to that the service benefits of being able to remotely configure devices as well as maintain them via on-line upgrades. By moving onto networks, devices will function with very little intervention," adds Peterson. "Our perception of networks will also change. At the moment networking implies the interconnection of PCs but that connotation won't be true in the future. In five years or less, it will be more applicable to such things as industrial automation equipment, motors, test equipment, gas pumps, vending machines, and utility meters. That network could run Sun Microsystem Inc.'s Jini or something else. Our chip doesn't care. Both Java and Windows CE will be supported in the future." Analysts are optimistic. Estimates by Dataquest, a market research firm, show that the market for embedded microprocessors, along with embedded software, will grow from approximately $15.3 billion today to approximately $27 billion by 2000. In a recent online report, Frank Gens, chief analyst at International Data Corp., says that increased demand for Internet-based services will lead to a near tripling in the annual volume of access devices shipped between 1997 and 2002. Moreover, he contends that the lion's share of the growth will result from an explosion of a new class of Internet access devices. Projections by Forrester Research Inc. indicate the market for various forms of Internet appliances, currently $6 billion, will reach $16 billion in 2002. Prior to the introduction of NET+ARM, design engineers contemplating networked devices were forced to contend with a confusing array of complex hardware and software choices (i.e. chips, software, protocols) and then had to integrate them. As an integrated solution, NET+ARM frees product designers to work within their field of expertise --applications. It significantly reduces time to market (up to six months quicker) and with considerable savings, says Peterson. He says all chip and software firms are potential competitors, but no one else yet produces the total solution. While maintaining a leading market position is cited as NETsilicon's central challenge, Peterson welcomes new participants. "I'm not worried about competitors. I'm more concerned about market development and acceptance, and competitors will help grow awareness and market opportunity." To open up industrial automation applications, which have long been dominated by proprietary control networks on the plant floor, Peterson has joined with strategic partners to form the Industrial Automation Open Networking Alliance. The group maintains that the special, high-performance, low-cost implementation and standards-based technology of Ethernet make it a natural fit for this market. For industrial automation applications Peterson says NET+ARM offers better flexibility for growth, better equipment uptime, and improvements in cost, quality, and productivity.

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