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Challenges In Managing Embedded Product Development


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Delivered at an event organized by the Project Management Institute (PMI) Pune Chapter at a Manangement Institute in Pune.

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Challenges In Managing Embedded Product Development

  1. 1. Enabling Products…. … Building Business
  2. 2. Challenges in Managing Embedded Product Development 12 October 2008 Atul Nene Email: CoreObjects We build products that help build new businesses
  3. 3. Agenda • Case Study – Remote Keyless Entry • What is so special about Embedded Systems ? • Challenges • External Impacts • Mechanical Design • Hardware • Firmware • Software • Manufacturing • People
  4. 4. Case Study – Remote Keyless Entry • Remote keyless entry system (RKE) • Additionally, remote keyless ignition system (RKI) • Broadcasting radio waves on a particular frequency • Electronic key encrypted during transmission for security Advanced Feature Considerations • Larger Range of operation • Additional Feature Control (Trunk/Boot Release, Light Activation) • Proximity versus Button Press Design Considerations • System on Chip, Secure Communication • Usability, Durability of Enclosure, Battery Life • Cost of Production, Target Vehicles
  5. 5. What is SO Special about Embedded Products ? • Examples • Tyre Pressure Monitor (Automotive Electronics) • Blood Pressure Monitor (Medical Devices) • Home Security Appliance (Safe Living Systems) • Personal Digital Assistants (Personal Productivity Systems) • Mobile Phones – SmartPhones (Mobile Telephony) • Audio Video Players ( Infotainment) • Toys ! (Edutainment) • Video Games and Game Consoles (Gaming) • Remote Controls (Entertainment !) • Robots (Robotics) – Remember the Aibo ? • Disk Drives (Computer peripherals) – ‘mice’ too! (or should that be ‘Mouses’ ?) • Industrial Control Panels (Human Machine Interface) • Any more that the audience can identify ?
  6. 6. Components of Embedded Products • Analog , Digital • Mechanical • Microcontroller Enclosure • High-power , • User Interaction low-power • Documentation • High volume • Packaging • Mission critical, Consumer End User Electronics Interface (Hardware) Software Firmware • Desktop • Assembly •C • Server • C++ • Network • Tools
  7. 7. The Development Path Complexity Mfg. Testing Design & Development Research/ Prototype Concept/ Product Time Definition
  8. 8. Product Considerations Gadgets, Appliances, Equipment End (Concept ) to End (Manufacturing) Scope Business Model considerations (There is fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, will the buyer of the product get micro- finance ?) Packaging & Distribution of end product User Education and Marketing collateral • Many more …
  9. 9. The Managers Mandate Program Management Mechanical Design Electronics Firmware Launch!
  10. 10. Challenges : External Impacts • Impact of component pricing on design and customer expectations - temporal, quantities, accessibility and relationships with vendors, geographical considerations • Regulations and Compliance • Dependency on Pre-stabilized research • Combining Customer Perspective + User Perspective + In-house expertise – resolving conflicts • False Precision Of Estimates : There are tolerances and buffers built into estimates at all levels but what is most ironic is that no one, and especially not 'management', will take a range of numbers for an answer ! Ever tried your boss with 'About 17 to 71 days' ? :) • A Hidden Rule of Project Management from the book “Why Does Software Cost So Much?: And Other Puzzles of the Information Age” by Tom DeMarco
  11. 11. Challenges : Representative Quote 1 Product failure and development failure are not the same thing, but they are indeed both management failures. • Guy Macon, Electronics Engineer & Project Manager
  12. 12. Challenges : Representative Quote 2 “It all had to integrate seamlessly. There are three different development teams there, and they all have to be in sync with revisions of both hardware and software. For us, it was about delivering a set of functionality on the agreed- upon schedule. For example, Microsoft wanted different elements of the design operational at certain times.” • Paul Wilson, a product-line manager for audio products at Wolfson, part of the team that built the Microsoft Zune, Source: An article on
  13. 13. Challenges : Representative Quote 3 Knowing how to solder doesn’t make someone an electronics engineer. Knowing how to code doesn’t make someone a firmware engineer. Simply knowing how to solder + code doesn’t make you an embedded system engineer – there is a lot more to it! • Philip Koopman
  14. 14. Challenges : Mechanical Design • Defining the Usage • Defining the User Interaction Flow • High costs of Physical Prototypes • Who understands the user better - Designer or Customer ? • Working with ‘Artists’ to deliver on time
  15. 15. Challenges : The Importance of User Perspective My video camera has 53 buttons. It sure does a lot of stuff dubbing titles, editing and more but is so hard to use it hasn't been powered on in years. Yet my parents had an 8 mm camera that had two controls: a roller-skate-like key to wind up the drive spring, and a quot;take filmquot; button. Its simplicity meant they recorded every significant (and otherwise) event in the lives of their 5 kids. • Jack Ganssle, an authority in Embedded Systems. Source: An article in
  16. 16. Challenges : The Importance of User Perspective … Some intrinsically complex products all but scream ease of use – the iPod comes to mind, its interface even more compelling when compared with competing units that offer the same functionality, and yet are utterly mystifying. Most product differentiation derives from a wealth of features. Cell phones offer downloadable ring tones, built-in games, schedulers, and more, all nifty enough stuff but none of which contribute to making reliable calls. When we engineers, industrial designers, and human-interface quot;expertsquot; overly complicate these features, or make them incomprehensible, or steer the user to a manual instead of making their use naturally obvious, we're chasing customers away. • Jack Ganssle, an authority in Embedded Systems. Source: An article in
  17. 17. Challenges : Hardware • Technical decisions: internal experts vs. customer experts • Selecting the right components, expecially the processor and its variants • Identifying & Designing Subsystems (SoCs) • Sleek UIs => Color LCDs/TFTs with TouchPanel => Higher BOM costs • Getting the hardware right in minimum number of cycles • Reliability aspects affect the design and hence needs to be built in • RoHS compliance • Longevity of Components
  18. 18. Challenges : Firmware • Constrained environment – limited operating resources • Choice of OS and development tools • Writing to a Simulator to parallelize • Writing to a HAL • Stabilizing Input – ADCs • Firmware versions • Necessity to use manufacturer supplied tools – issues with tools • Using ‘Flashing LEDs’ and ‘Beeps’ to troubleshoot in an otherwise ‘blind’ environment. • Building in capacity to debug – towards post deployment diagnosis
  19. 19. Challenges : Firmware : Representative Quotes If you can't write a zero-bug toy control program, you have no business being in an industry where the minimum order is 50,000 masked-ROM parts. • Found on the Internet It is possible to write a quot;reset => branch => do something => sleepquot; program with no bugs. In fact, most programs that consist of less than 32 assembly language instructions on a very limited 4-bit uP can be made with no bugs. • Found on the Internet
  20. 20. Challenges : Software • Device to Web Considerations, via Mobile • Separate effort for ‘Software’ – different from ‘Firmware’ – and associated skill sets and tools • Risk of Costs not being considered during planning
  21. 21. Challenges : Software : Quotable Quote fix (vb.): 1. to paper over, obscure, hide from public view; 2. to work around, in a way that produces unintended consequences that are worse than the original problem. Usage: quot;Windows ME fixes many of the shortcomings of Windows 98 SEquot;. • Hutchison
  22. 22. Challenges : Manufacturing • Undependable component shipping schedules, customs delays • Design optimization disguised as ‘value engineering’ : avoiding detriment to quality • Mechanized PCB Manufacturing and Assembly • Automating quality control – Test Jig Design and Assembly • Burning firmware and allied bits on multiple processors and ROMs • Matching customer’s Launch and Distribution schedule
  23. 23. Challenges : People, Primarily Attitudes and Habits • Embedded Engineers need to have balance of firmware and hardware thinking. • Impossible to rollback or modify Requirements after the Design is complete. Mindset of doing a thorough job of Requirements is needed. • Methodical and meticulous – mistakes are not easily recoverable. • Time-To-Market is critical. Scheduling allows for minimal buffers.
  24. 24. Challenges : People … Embedded engineering can't be cast in rules, it's art. No certificate will guarantee an engineer's creativity to translate product requirements into a working, cost effective product. Embedded engineering is engineering, not art. There is some art to it - just as there is some art to architecture. However, the general disregard of quot;the rulesquot; is why everyone rolls their eyes when engineers produce time and cost estimates.
  25. 25. Challenges : People : You be the judge It's been said that if buildings were designed the way software was designed, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization. This world would not have seen the progress it has today, were it not for the engineering discipline. It has been ‘built’, literally.
  26. 26. Challenges : People: An Email Communication Bad Practice A: Because it fouls the order in which people normally read text. Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing? A: Top-posting. Q: What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?
  27. 27. Challenges : People: The Good Practice • What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail? Q: • Top-posting. A: • Why is top-posting such a bad thing? Q: • Because it fouls the order in which people normally read text. A:
  28. 28. Challenges : People: How Meetings go Hold a Meeting with Customer for Requirements Gathering Discuss Issues Make Decisions Assign Actions Hold a Follow-on Meeting Discuss More Issues Make More Decisions Assign More Actions Halfway through the project, get call from Customer with Additional Requirements Can’t lookup whether this is Can’t be sure if there opportunity Promise the avoidable violation of previous agreement to make more money Botch up Delivery Schedule slippage Put in more effort than planned Lose money
  29. 29. Challenges : People: How Meetings SHOULD go Hold A Meeting with customer for Requirements Gathering Discuss Issues Make Decisions Assign Actions DOCUMENT and CIRCULATE the Minutes Take Special cognizance of the Action Items Use Tools to Track Action Items to completion Halfway through the project, get call from Customer with Additional Requirements Lookup previous Minutes Refer the Minutes to Promise with approval of Set the right expectations as reference check customer as proof escalation Make a Better and Profitable Delivery
  30. 30. Challenges : Putting it all together • Building for tolerances, • Remembering packaging • Remembering User Documentation, • Having an acceptable the Final Per Unit Price
  31. 31. Thank You The Managers Motto - Make Detailed Plans, - Obtain Stakeholder Buy-Ins, - Execute, and - Spread the Cheer ! Q&A We build products that help build new businesses 12 October 2008 Atul Nene Email: