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For a Better Product Development Experience, Find Your “Design-Centric Partner”

March 15, 2021
Smart, creative people like to do as much as possible on their own. But increasing complexity in hardware and software development can have an adverse effect on the process. Leveraging a design-centric partner helps navigate that complexity.

By Jim Beneke, Vice President of Products and Emerging Technologies, Avnet

Releasing a new product into the world is exhilarating. It’s why we do this.

The bursts of creativity, the satisfaction of problem solving and the joy of the initial “eureka!” moment evolving into sketches, architectures, proofs of concept, prototypes and, ultimately, important business solutions brought to market and manufactured at scale. What could be better?

Smart, creative people like to do as much of this as possible on their own. However, the complexity in hardware and software development, coupled with the time required to stay on top of changing technology and requirements, can have an adverse effect on the process. Going it alone—without a design-centric partner—increases the chances that your product design process will take longer, cost more or get mired in unnecessary complexity.

Adding a few weeks or months to the design cycle quickly becomes a business problem: Your company makes no money until the product is sold. By the same token, you can’t rush design; the product needs to be reliable and durable.

You need to work fast yet smart, a tough combination.

Information Overload

Working smart is now harder than ever. Compared to when I started in this industry more than 30 years ago, there is so much to know in the world of electronics-based solutions: software, hardware, what’s new, what’s bleeding-edge, what’s going obsolete, what options haven’t yet been considered. No one person or team can master all of the complexity. The best of us have our blind spots, and furious web searching is a poor substitute for broadly informed guidance from the right people just when you need it.

Consider the designer who specs a microcontroller that’s about to be end-of-lifed, or an SoC whose supply chain is being choked by the pandemic, or a community board that won’t hold up to the sustained demands of the healthcare or industrial environment it’s designed for. Consider a component that fails in a corner case, such as in an industrial freezer so cold that it shuts down a programmable module’s power source.

Or what if you selected Wi-Fi for IoT connectivity when cellular was clearly the right call? Or if you didn’t know how to match the right LCD module, touch panel, cabling and controller in an embedded display?  What if you simply missed an opportunity to reduce power consumption while your competitor did not?

How can you avoid time-consuming (and cost-busting) traps like these? Find a design-centric partner. Look beyond single-vendor salespeople, as smart and well-intentioned as they may be. Seek to partner with diverse experts who have the knowledge, experience and skills in thousands of hardware and software products, as well as the design practices that bring them together in robust systems.

Whether you are a startup, a top-level manufacturer or a Fortune 100 company, a design-centric partner can help you work smarter, faster and more cost-effectively. The right external support can make an enormous positive impact on your company’s business performance as you customize components to your unique specifications, leverage the full potential of the IoT, meet global certification requirements and integrate applications at the system level. With the support of a design-centric partner, you can devote more focus on what sets your product apart from your competitors.

How a Design-Centric Partner Can Help

Look for vendor-independent engineers who are highly skilled in complex designs, specific products and diverse component options. Consider their advice at important design milestones, including conceptualization, requirements definition, architectural design, detailed design, prototyping, testing, debugging and certification. Ideally, the engineers you consult should act as an extension of your team, enabling you to accelerate and scale your path to market while extending your product’s lifecycle.

Flexibility is always paramount. That is why details are critical for deciding what’s best for your applications, including processor architectures, industry form factors, input/output configurations and IoT connectivity (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, cellular and/or GPS).

Product and application design. A good design-centric partner can help you develop and refine your concept while confirming specifications, requirements, architecture and design of user interfaces. You need guidance on a range of potential building blocks for your design, including development kits and system on modules from top suppliers.

Hardware design. It’s crucial to have support available as you select candidate parts, create a schematic, layout the PC board, build prototypes and advance toward commercialization, ensuring that all bill of materials are sound and the product is manufacturable over the long term. A diverse design-centric partner can help with prototype design and testing, pricing, manufacturing and transition to full production.

Software design. This step should be a fluid part of the development design process, seamlessly integrated with hardware selection. But it is nearly impossible for one engineer or team to know everything. The right external partner can support your embedded software development with architecture options, design, coding, testing and validation.

IoT integration. IoT is the future, but too many projects flop in the prototype stage because they fail to trigger the actions that improve business performance. Design-centric IoT platforms can help you slash the time from concept to value with smart, pre-built applications for vertical industries. Also, look for partners that offer cloud-based data management at the ready, and pre-vetted hardware-software integration from multiple suppliers.

Security – With nearly 25 billion “things” being connected to the internet by the end of the decade, security is paramount. You’ll likely need help—or at least a sanity check—to build secure, end-to-end hardware and software capabilities for your connected solutions.

A design-centric partner can help you bridge all of these critical junctures and put your product’s success front-and-center. Remember, new products should be exhilarating, but not scary. Reduce your risk and drive up profit. What could be better?