Three Steps to a Successful Embedded Product

Developing an embedded product requires three main steps: selection of the proper hardware platform, operating system selection/setup, and User Interface (UI) development.  All three of these steps are very closely tied together and have a significant impact on time-to-market, project costs, and the overall quality of the product.  It is critical to select the proper hardware platform that also has excellent operating system support as well as the proper UI tools. This post dives into each of these steps and how it will impact the overall project.

1. Choose Your Hardware Platform

Selecting the proper hardware platform is the first step in the embedded product process and can have a substantial effect on the overall costs of the project in terms of unit cost as well as development time. Some important questions to ask in the selection process are:

  • Is there a stable supply chain/guaranteed longevity/availability? If the hardware that is selected is no longer available in 6 months, all of the development time will be wasted causing substantial delays in the project and significant cost.
  • Is it a high quality product? Many designs are not done with best practices in mind which can cause severe headaches in the future due to device failures. Having to recall products tarnishes the brand and has a very high cost associated with replacement.
  • Is there flexibility to provide easy upgrade paths that reduce development time/cost for future revisions?

A variety of integration options are available including Single Board Computers (SBC), System-on-Modules (SOM) and custom designs.

The SBC option is typically a fully completed design that requires a display and power supply. SBCs can be pre-FCC certified meaning that users do not need to worry about certification issues. Some SBC options can be cost-reduced by de-populating components that are not required in production.

Nitrogen6_MAX: High-end Embedded single board computer based on the NXP/Freescale i.MX6 Quad Processor. Kit includes 5V Power Supply, 4GB microSD card with Linux OS, and Serial Console Cable.

The System-on-Module provides flexibility for those who have specific IP or circuitry that they would like to include on their carrier board. The SOM contains the CPU, memory, flash, and power supplies. The rest of the circuitry is designed into the carrier board.

The final hardware option is to hire a specialist company to design a semi-custom board to meet the exact specifications of the project. In production, these solutions will be the lowest cost option because they are designed for exactly what the project requires.

2. Select a Trusted Operating System

Having a stable, high quality operating system reduces development time and helps to get to market quicker. A poor quality operating system can waste software resources due to time spent fixing bugs and also creates potential product reliability issues in the future. Selecting from industry leading operating system options such as Android 5.0, Yocto, Ubuntu, QNX, CE7/CE2013, and Buildroot will reduce the risk of these issues.

3. Create Your UI

The third and final piece of the puzzle is the user interface. One of the most complex and time-consuming elements of an embedded project is the UI development.  By utilizing a known, tested UI development tool, embedded products statistically get completed faster, which accelerates time-to-market and reduces development costs.

On hardware (such as that from Boundary Devices) that supports Qt for Device Creation, it is possible to download the IDE and start developing within minutes.

To sum it all up...

When embarking on a new embedded project, take care to select proven hardware platforms and operating systems and make sure that your partners have the experience and capabilities to see you through the entire project. Having a close association with Qt will almost certainly give them (and you) a head start. As a Qt Technology Partner, Boundary Devices can offer you exactly that.

You can contact me here:  pejman@boundarydevices.com

About the Guest Blogger: Pejman is a partner at Boundary Devices and has been involved in hundreds of embedded projects - from design to manufacturing to software support.


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