RISC-V Shows Growing Momentum and Ecosystem at Embedded World 2018


Embedded World 2018, the international trade fair for embedded systems, took place between February 27th and March 1st in Nuremberg, Germany. This year, the event enjoyed a record number of participants and a strong presence of RISC-V.

In 2016, a visitor to Embedded World saw a set of offerings almost identical to the previous decade – the same semiconductor vendors, software development tool companies, system level offerings. The dominant architectures would have been the Arm Cortex-M family and x86. Indeed, if you asked most people back then what they thought about RISC-V, they would have probably answered: “What is RISC-V?”

In 2017, a number of founding members of the RISC-V Foundation were exhibiting, but RISC-V was not visible on the stands of mainstream software development tool, RTOS and middleware companies. For some companies, these are an important alternative to open source tools such as LLVM and GCC. Interest in RISC-V in Europe appeared to significantly lag that in North America.

This year, there was a notably higher profile for RISC-V. The RISC-V Foundation had an easy-to-see stand in Hall 3A, and a total of seventeen RISC-V Foundation members were exhibiting ranging from start-ups to giants like Western Digital.

The RISC-V Foundation booth at Embedded World 2018

On February 27th, there was an all-day RISC-V Class held in the Conference Center including a paper by Codasip’s Keith Graham, describing work done at the University of Colorado. Rick O’Connor, executive director of the RISC-V Foundation, gave a presentation on the Microsemi booth.

For me, one of the most encouraging signs was that the software development tool and RTOS players were actively talking about RISC-V. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of software companies, and the consistent message was that they were seeing a strong level of enquiries around RISC-V and that RISC-V was an essential element to their product roadmaps.

Lauterbach had a demo station for RISC-V at their stand, and SEGGER also were describing their RISC-V solution. On the Express Logic stand, I was able to speak to CEO Bill Lamie who confirmed that their core products were already ported to 32-bit RISC-V, and that a port to 64-bit RISC-V was being undertaken. On February 27th, IAR Systems announced their RISC-V plans and Anders Holmberg, Director of Corporate Development, stated: “We have customers currently looking at working with RISC-V in upcoming design projects, and they have expressed a need for high-performance commercial tools with professional technical support.” Last but not least, the German fabless semiconductor company Trinamic announced that they have chosen Codasip’s RISC-V core Bk3 for a future generation of motion control products.

Such a significant change in RISC-V visibility at a leading embedded event shows that RISC-V is now rapidly gathering steam in Europe, too, and that it has been definitely taken into account by major players.

Roddy Urquhart