As hardware platforms are the backbone of embedded systems, the activities of this cluster spans all industrial sectors. A recent and accelerating trend is the move towards multicore platforms.

In the automotive domain, the increasing number of functions has led to automotive networks with a large number of distributed ECUs and increasing complexity with several busses and gateways that is difficult to handle. In next generation systems, large automotive OEMs are therefore proposing new structured hardware topologies, that focus on the application of powerful domain controllers connected over a high speed bus and several dedicated busses for the different functional domains. Multicore control units (MCUs) are perceived as a co-enabler for this technology, by allowing the integration of a large number of functions, at relatively low power and with various reliability and fail-safe options.

A similar trend can be observed in the aerospace domain, where multicore components need to be integrated into complex networks with commonly very high reliability requirements.

In the multimedia domain, the emerging trend for multimedia applications on mobile terminals, combined with a decreasing time-to-market and a multitude of standards have created the need for flexible and scalable computing platforms that are capable of providing considerable (application specific) computational performance at a low cost and a low energy budget. Platforms like TI OMAP, ST Nomadik, Philips Nexperia and IBM/Toshiba/Sonys CELL, contain multiple heterogeneous, flexible processing elements, a memory hierarchy and I/O components. All these components are linked to each other by a flexible on-chip interconnect structure. These architectures meet the performance needs of multimedia applications, while limiting the power consumption.

Also in the mechatronics domain, which traditionally was a rather sequential process, there is a trend towards multi-core platforms and the need to support the designer to make well-founded choices for an execution platform. Techniques from the multimedia domain are now being extended and adapted to deal with control-dominated high-tech applications as well.

Another clear trend is towards reconfigurable architectures, in general, and configurable processors, in particular. The generic goal is to achieve a high degree of flexibility (traditionally available only with software implementation) at an power consumption, which is much lower than achievable with a traditional software implementation using general purpose processors.

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