Thoughts from ARM TechCon 2013


I spent most of last week at ARM TechCon, ARM’s annual tradeshow/conference in San Jose.  It wasn’t my first time there, but there were definitely some noticeable changes this year.

For a company that has seen massive growth in recent years thanks to their overwhelming position in mobile — 8.7 billion ARM chips shipped in 2012! — there was almost zero talk of mobile! …

All I saw at every booth and every presentation — from the keynote from ARM CEO Simon Segars, to the stands from all the silicon vendors present — was IoT and low power wireless and WSN.  It was almost strange how predominant it was, and how much emphasis ARM is putting on small, low power embedded devices and infrastructure moving forward. I suppose it make sense, though, since there is no threat to their position in mobile, and embedded and servers are their big potential growth markets moving forward.

Despite being a long time ARM user, I also expected ’embedded’ to be a smaller chunk of their global sales than it was (and mobile to be bigger). As an embedded engineer, it was refreshing to see that deeply embedded devices and systems are still a huge chunk of the pie in a world where mobile feels overwhelmingly present (and growing).  It was nice to see that there’s still a LOT of fun to be had in the deeply embedded space, and it’s only going to get better moving forward for people with both HW and SW know how.

Something that really jumped out at me in Simon Segars keynote was his assertion that one of the biggest concerns companies have today is how they will find competent engineering talent with the mandatory wireless, low power know-how to drive current and future projects in that field, even going so far as to predict ‘warfare’ over IoT engineering talent.

Normally I’d just toss that kind of language in the marketing bin and ignore it, but ARM understands their market well, and I think it was more than just a simple sound-byte.  I really came away from the show feeling like low power sensing, wireless and deeply embedded design is a pretty ideal place to be today if you want to be extremely relevant (and have any fun) moving forward, something backed up by all the interesting silicon and platforms competing for attention.

What was refreshing was to finally start to see some practical implementations of all the IoT blah-blah-blah.  The ‘Well Cow‘ sensor jumped out at me, for example, not just because of the way it gets inserted into the cow (I’ll leave it to your imagination or Google).  BTW … this platform was also built on the mbed, available right here if you’re looking to play with ARM yourself on a relatively easy to use platform.



It was interesting to see the Xively kits, also available here, called out in the keynote from ARM’s CEO, and the real push from ARM for mbed despite being a relatively small part of the company:



It was interesting to start to see some real HW around the very interesting Weightless standard for very long range, low power wireless as well:



But the best part about the annual TechCon pilgramige?  Burgers, burgers and burgers!  I already miss all that cheese-laden, heart-stopping greasy goodness.  Sorry for all you non meat-eaters out there (including my own wife), but St. John’s Bar and Grill in Sunnyvale lived up to it’s rather assuming title of  ‘the best burgers in silicon valley’, just a short drive from the Santa Clara convention center!



Did anyone else make it out to the show?  Post your thoughts about it in the comments below!

UPDATE (04/Nov/2013): The first slide at the top is marked confidential, but it’s public information from a public presentation and taken directly from ARM’s (obviously public) Annual Report for 2012, which is worth looking at if you want a better understanding of where ARM is going and what’s behind those numbers!

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !


  1. Does ’embedded’ in that graph include hard disk controllers? Perhaps not, because surely it would be much larger than the ‘mobile’ shipments.

  2. It isn’t hard to find people who are smart and good at ARM and embedded including low power and wireless (I’ve been doing it). The problem is they want to pay H1B or Bangalore wages for the skill. I’m surprised all the contracts on that don’t specify a top compensation, then when I apply for something that needs years of skill (I go back to the 8080!), multiple skills, etc. they top out less than 10% under my minimum, sometimes by large levels.

    Why can’t Trinkets be $0.50?

  3. There are some pretty big wage gaps in what companies are willing to pay, but my own experience is that most of the bigger companies know what they need to put on the table to attract and retain top talent — which clearly has nothing to do with where you were born I might add — and are willing to do it. Geography might come into play here, though. Salaries in San Jose are definately 2x what you would get anywhere in Europe, though you obviously need to look at the bigger picture there as well and you aren’t necessarily better off financially in CA. Maybe I’m just in a bubble, but if you’re willing to move I still see great prospects, both financially and in terms of work satisfaction, in the embedded and wireless field. Certainly more than 12-18 months back.

    Most of the online contracting sites are completely detached from reality in my opinion. You can find OK people, but the few times I’ve tried them out of curiosity it’s generally been a waste of both time and money, even though there are no doubt some good people on them. But the financial expectations and pressures are borderline insane, as you should definitely expect to get what you pay for. I wouldn’t even both posting my services seeing what you have to compete with on price and what the average user of these sites is looking for.

    Those are all just my personal opinions, of course.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.