With just 556 days to go to the Millennium, a UK company has developed a probe that attaches to embedded systems to analyze their date dependency, providing a way to get at previously hidden embedded software. Embedded Science Ltd has, in less than six months, developed the Delta-T Probe, a hardware device that clips on […]
With just 556 days to go to the Millennium, a UK company has developed a probe that attaches to embedded systems to analyze their date dependency, providing a way to get at previously hidden embedded software. Embedded Science Ltd has, in less than six months, developed the Delta-T Probe, a hardware device that clips on to any embedded chips, and monitors and records the code being fetched by the embedded system processor from the ROM that stores the program. This data is then sent to a laptop computer, where it is analyzed for date dependency, and reports on which embedded systems need fixing or replacing. The product package will include the clips which attach to the integrated circuit packages, signal conditioning pods which prevent the system being interrupted by the Probe, the Probe itself, which has three Intel Corp processor boards to enable real-time analysis, and a laptop computer with analysis software. The Delta-T’s designer is Patrick Bossert, who as well as having worked in embedded systems design for many years, first found fame at the age of 13 for having cracked the puzzle of the popular Rubik’s Cube, and became a best-selling author with his 1981 book, You Can Do The Cube. Bossert said he came up with the Delta-T idea almost by accident, but once he began talking to potential backers, and applying for an international patent, he quickly realized there was nothing else yet on the market. Bossert says the focus for Year 2000 bugs is rapidly turning to embedded systems, which are ubiquitous in security systems, fire alarms, elevators, life support systems and many more. Only last week, a UK member of parliament raised the issue of the potential problem with embedded systems, and said some seven billion embedded systems were manufactured last year alone. Bossert took his idea to UK electronics engineering consultancy WSP Group Plc, which already carries out Year 2000 analysis and fixing for a number of blue chip customers, and which will use the Delta-T Probe to help identify problems with embedded systems. Bossert stresses the Probe will only analyze where the problems are, not fix them, but he says it does it very quickly, in around 30 minutes for each system. It is especially aimed at systems where manufacturers cannot be traced or are failing to provide adequate compliance information. The Probe is being manufactured by Embedded Science, which is managed by WSP Group and part-owned by embedded systems integration specialist Central Data Control Ltd. Bossert says the company has thus far geared up to manufacture 250 Probes a week. However, he is aware that as time is running out, demand could be considerable on a worldwide basis, and the company is interested in talking to any manufacturers that employ modern electronic engineering processes, with a view to licensing the manufacturing of the Probe. The company is hoping to sell the Probe both to companies with in-house engineering teams, and consultancies. The first field prototype will be available next month, with general production scheduled for late August. The unit price is $12,000, and Bossert says interested parties should put their orders, in singles or multiples of ten, in as soon as possible.