How to Save Money and Reduce Risk Developing a New Electronic Hardware Product

Bringing a new electronic product to market is generally difficult, risky, and expensive. To succeed, and make it to eventual profitability, you need to focus your early efforts on minimizing risk and cost.
This article gives tips if you plan to go to hardware business. 

Here is another related article worth to read:

Let’s be honest, here’s why you suck at IoT

From the outside, it seems like building an IoT product should be easy. But that probably hasn’t been your experience. 

Let’s be honest — you suck at IoT. You suck at it because you underestimated the complexity of the problems you need to solve, because the “IoT experts” you hired have actually never done this before, because you outsourced all of your engineering capabilities in the ‘90s when all you cared about was cost reduction, and because you’re unwilling to pursue business models that are dramatically different from your current business.

But don’t worry; these are solvable problems. 


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Prototyping Hardware Powered by Alexa

    The $100 million Alexa Fund was set up Amazon a couple of years ago to support companies working with the Alexa Voice Service and the Alexa Skills Kit. It has driven adoption of Amazon voice technology by third-party manufacturers, although it’s not always been plain sailing for partners

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    General principles of PCBs design

    How to design PCBs correctly, to reach boards which are cost-effective to produce and to populate? Which are the most important PCB design principles? What about production technology of PCB? We have prepared for you a series of articles about the PCB´s design.

    PCBs are integral part of all electronic devices. Their basic function is to create a conductive connection between the pins of the individual components. PCBs first appeared in late ’60s, when there were the first rules for their design and production drawn up – IPC standards. The standard IPC-2221 “Generic Standards on Printed Design”.

    1. Soldering by solder wave

    If we want to solder components on bottom of PCB by solder wave, we must ensure that during the soldering process components will not fall off. SMT components on the upper side will be populated into a solder paste, then soldered in a reflow open. SMT components on the bottom of the PCB will be bonded by a glue and then TH components will get into holes in a PCB. SMT components in a glue and TH components will be soldered by a solder wave.

    2. Soldering by solder paste

    This is the most common way of soldering today. In this case, conductive connection is created by components placing into solder paste, which is applied before components populating. The joint is thus created also under components. When using a solder paste for soldering, we´ll avoid problems with components twisting. This method of soldering increases integration of components on a PCB. There´s no need to take in mind height relations of particular SMT components (tantallum capacitors, power MELF resistors, power transistors) and this method is also the only suitable for soldering of SMT components with a heatsink pad on a bottom side of a package and also for soldering of SMT components without leads.

    The layout of components is an important step that aims is to minimize interfering voltages, radiation and overall immunity.

    The basic principle is to place highly logic closer to the connector and a slower logic away from the connector. Sometimes meet all the recommendations is not possible, but always seek for a compromise and meet at least one rule, respectively as much as possible, if possible.

    To basic principles of components placing belongs above all:

    Placing components from higher to lower bandwidths.
    Mutual physical separation of particular functional blocks (analog, digital, I/O, power line).
    Minimising of distances with aim to eliminate current loops.

    Grounding is very important. There are two types of grounding given components leads to a common potential (GND):

    Single point – A
    Single point parallel – B
    Multi-point – C

    Multipoint grounding is suitable for high frequency thus also digital applications. A multi-layer board is supposed to be used. Order and thickness of particular PCB layers is determined by overall PCB impedance (usually Z = 50 Ω). It supposes existence of a continuous conductive layer- GND at least in one separate layer of PCB.

    Filtering of power supply in electronic circuits belong together with grounding k to the most important rules, which should be taken in mind at PCB design. Necessity of decoupling capacitors usage results from a assumption, that “every power supply is far from a load”.

    According to the function we differentiate three types of decoupling capacitors:

    Filtering (Bypassing) – serve as a wide band filter for power supply of a whole PCB or its part. Eliminates influence of power supply leads inductance. (C1, C2, C8; C1 and C8 ≈ 10µF až 1000µF). If possible always choose the largest capacity as possible.
    Local (Decoupling) – sserve as local energy sources for components and they also reduce pulse currents, that would go through a whole PCB. These capacitors must have excellent high frequency properties. It´s necessary to place them as near as possible to a component pin (C4, C5, C6, C7 ≈ 100pF to 0,1µF)
    Group (Bulk) – serve as an energy source for a simultaneous charging of several capacitive loads. Near a microprocessor it is C3 ≈ 10µF.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Analog’s Unfair Disadvantage

    In a world that favors digital circuitry, analog has increasingly had to cope with processes that have become less favorable to them. But that may be changing

    We live in an analog world, and yet digital has become the technology of choice. Mixed-signal solutions that used to contain significant amounts of analog, with just a small amount of digital signal processing, have migrated into systems where the analog to digital conversion happens at the very first opportunity.

    There are several reasons for this, and some of them build upon themselves. Moore’s Law applies to digital circuitry and not analog. Transistors can be made smaller, and this benefits digital circuitry. But it does not have the same impact for analog transistors. For analog, the characteristics often get worse as the device is made smaller. In a world where miniaturization has been the key to technological advancement, the analog portion cannot keep up and gets left behind.

    It should come as no surprise that process technology has been optimized for digital, and this puts increasing pressure on the analog components that are left. Manufacturing process variation and parameter degradation over the product’s lifetime are a lot more challenging in the analog world. This means that a lot more analysis and skillful design is required than for the digital parts.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Risks and Rewards of Open Platform Firmware
    Can you build a product using open platform hardware? Yes, if you understand the risks.

    Open-source hardware is great for a lot of things. It gives students and educators a great learning platform, and it’s the perfect solution for all sorts of DIY projects . But can you design a commercial product around open source?

    You can if you understand the risks and take the proper security precautions, particularly when it comes to your firmware.

    Speaking at the 2017 Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Boston Brian Richardson, a technical evangelist for Intel, praised open hardware platforms for many reasons: they offer publicly available designs; they’re based on open-source concepts; and they encourage experimentation, new features, and new designs. The DIY and Maker community has already heavily embraced hobbyist boards like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino, and there are other products on the market as well such as the MinnowBoard and Intel’s own Galileo Board .

    “On an open hardware platform the firmware is made available primarily for debugging and hacking,” Richardson told the audience. “It ships with unsigned binary firmware images because as a maker if we signed binary it doesn’t do you any good. It also assumes updates are run by a developer – and hopefully not a hacker.”

    The trouble comes, Richardson said, because the platform identifiers are not unique. If a developer uses GitHub or some other open-source repository to get a GUID for a platform that means everyone else can get and use the same one as well, even people with bad intentions.

    There are also problems inherent in the way firmware itself operates. “Firmware initializes hardware, establishes root-of-trust, then hands things off to OS … which creates an opportunity for someone else,”

    So how do you deploy products based on open designs without creating a BlackHat presentation waiting to happen?

    The first step Richardson said is to build for release – that is, make a product look like it is proprietary, and keep people from knowing you used open source. “At the very least don’t advertise so someone can’t find it on GitHub,” Richardson said, also strongly suggesting that designers remove the debug features and change the default identifiers on their open source hardware.

    The other big key is in UEFI itself and providing secure field updates to firmware. “You really want to have firmware update in the field,” Richardson said. “The risk is someone can drop the wrong thing on the platform, such as hacked firmware or a slight variation that could brick a product by accident. The reward is if there’s a bug or security hole on the platform you can patch it.”

    “If I trust the firmware then we can let the firmware be the root of trust,” Richardson said. “If you can’t trust version 1 of your firmware not to be exploited you have a bigger problem than anyone can help you with.”

    Ultimately it will be up to developers to decide if using open source is the right move. With the open-source hardware space growing and companies even beginning to offer open-source SoCs , it’s likely that a lot more designers, particularly at the DIY and startup level, will be opting to leverage some sort of open source hardware and software to help bring their product to market.


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