Singapore aims at embedded software market

Singapore is gunning for the US$55 billion embedded software market with plans by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to position the country as a global centre of excellence for embedded software technology.

Embedded software is software that is built into chips to give functionality that makes hardware devices intelligent. Some of the challenges in its development include hardware and software integration, memory usage, processing speed and functionality.

Speaking at the launch of Encore Technologies and its Linux-based mobile computer Simputer last week, EDB’s managing director Ko Kheng Hwa identified embedded software as a new growth engine for Singapore. The embedded systems industry is projected to expand from $55 billion this year to $67 billion in 2004.

It is also a good fit for Singapore, capitalizing on the country’s strengths in IT and electronics, and providing support for R&D and innovation across all sectors of the economy, said Ko. For example, embedded software developments will help drive innovation in areas such as 3G mobile phones, digital TV, car telematics, avionics and industrial automation.

One key thrust in building the center of excellence is partnership development. “Given the complexities of embedded systems, technology and cross-industry partnerships are vital,” said Ko.

To facilitate this, EDB last week launched the “Embedded in Singapore” platform.

This comprises various activities and an Internet portal to bring together hardware and software players as well as third party developers in companies have signed up with the portal, including research institutes such as the Laboratories for Information Technology, Institute for Communications Research and Centre for High Performance Embedded Systems.

Another key focus for EDB is enterprise development – the nurturing of foreign and local players in the embedded systems space.

One such player is Encore Technologies, a joint venture between India-based Encore Software and Singapore-based holding company Time2 Talk. Encore Technologies played a key role in productizing the Simputer based on technology developed in India. EDB helped provide seed funding for the company under its Startup Enterprise Development Scheme (Seeds). Ko said out of the 52 Seeds projects approved by EDB to date, 29 involved a foreign investor or founder.

“We can build on our existing base of more than 100 companies which develop embedded software and products in Singapore. Our Seeds program will further invest in embedded software startups,” said Ko.

A third thrust is technology development. According to Ko, A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology & Research) has embarked on an “Embedded & Hybrid Systems” initiative and has sponsored 19 research projects to date.

EDB is also looking to expand Singapore’s current pool of about 1,000 embedded system engineers.