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The fastest way to get a proof-of-concept working

16th November 2022
Paige West

Skills shortages and supply-chain issues are challenging companies large and small engaged in new product development. Turning great ideas into real high-tech products is tougher than it has ever been. Christian Madella, Engineering Team Lead, Anders further discusses.

Even in the best of times, delivering a new product to market takes tremendous commitment and relentless application. Today’s embedded projects encompass a multitude of specialist technologies – like wireless, embedded-systems, and user-interface design – that each demand deep subject knowledge to implement properly. Not only SMEs but also quite large companies often lack the full breadth of technical skills, and the resources needed, to tackle all aspects and deliver a solution quickly; particularly when new and unfamiliar standards and technologies are involved.

Building a proof of concept is the most fundamental stage of a project. It’s often essential, to win commitment from management or investors. Getting that basic functional model up and running may sound relatively easy. However, several weeks of engineering effort may be required, the financial investment can easily run into thousands, and success is not guaranteed.

You may consider using an embedded design consultant to help the project along. Finding a suitably skilled specialist can be a challenge and many are already engaged with other projects, so securing their services at short notice can be a problem.

We conceived our rapid prototyping service to solve these challenges. It applies our in-house skills to minimise risks and quickly solve the technical challenges that can add delays and potentially even halt the project before it has properly begun. We ensure best design practice and assist with selecting critical components so that the final product can be built cost-effectively, avoiding availability issues, and meeting market expectations such as reliability.

How does rapid prototyping assist product development?

When designing embedded systems, hardware and software choices made early in the project can have a profound effect on issues such as cost, manufacturability, and future scaling and upgrades that otherwise may only be discovered later. The awareness of potential pitfalls, which comes through delivering hundreds of embedded-systems and user-interface projects, can help avoid design errors and engineering blind alleys that take time to fix and incur extra costs.

In addition, specialist knowledge and mandatory product approvals such as those that apply to medical technology and electric vehicle charging equipment, plus certification processes, can simplify demonstrating regulatory compliance. Some applications must satisfy minimum requirements on the size or readability of text, which can be met by selecting a suitable display.

Also, applying pre-acquired expertise in power-saving design can lead to products that enjoy the best possible energy rating and battery runtime. And a deep understanding of the interactions between the display and driver helps choose the display size and type, as well as a suitable embedded host that provides all the desired interfaces. An expert’s knowledge can also make light work of customising the various aspects that must be tailored to the project’s specific needs.

What help is available to integrate a display in an embedded project?

To help clients get started, we produced a set of HMI development kits that save engineers learning how to drive the display before they can do anything else, and so shorten the time to that first ‘Hello World’. These kits are based on various i.MX 8 and Intel embedded boards and combine with various displays that have HDMI and USB connections. With plug-and-play convenience that requires no additional setup, they are easy to use anywhere including a work-from-home setting. This is very important right now as many engineers are continuing to work remotely after the pandemic.

We designed these kits to cater for typical customers’ objectives. They can save much of the effort otherwise needed to get the display up and running. While USB and HDMI provide the quickest and most convenient connection for prototyping, the final product may rely on a more typical embedded interface standard such as LVDS. In this case the evaluation kit gives the project a jump-start by allowing the application and user-interface software design to begin straight away unimpeded by display-integration challenges.

Watch out for our forthcoming white paper on display interfaces providing more information about how to integrate displays and embedded boards for various applications.

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