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Complexities of embedded product development

Posted: 08 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded system? embedded development? open gl? software? patent?

Namiq Kunimoto

Senior Regional Director, Asia-Pacific Region, Wind River Systems

The success of embedded development today is highly dependent on the decisions that are made on an enterprise-wide, strategic executive level, and not merely on local decisions made by a product manager or an engineer working on a single project. With this in mind, I would like to stress on key internal and external factors that should be paid close attention to when looking at embedded development. First, let us look at some external driving factors.

Majority of embedded systems are connected to the outside world. The technologies used to achieve this include broadband, WiFi, Firewire, USB, and CANbus, just to name a few. Connecting devices bring additional complexities to product design, reliability, and required ongoing support once deployed. Moreover, the increasing need for additional product features has resulted to further complexity.

Major problems arise if products are not debugged or tested properly, as seen in the recent mobile phone recalls in Japan and cessation of mobile services in China.

Executives also need to appreciate the differences between free software, open source, and understand the constraints associated with Open GL licensing terms and inherent patent infringement issues associated with free and open source software. Should these not be properly addressed, the firms may be exposing themselves to huge potential liabilities.

Leading internal drivers

Executives need to carefully review the work of their engineering staff. Such questions must be asked: Are engineering resources being used efficiently to differentiate its products from that of their competitors? Or are they wasted on reinventing a product that could easily be purchased? Are most resources spent on integration?

Research shows that many companies are spending over 30 percent of their current R&D budgets on integration, as opposed to 10 percent in 1995. When this is combined with the more than 20 percent resources spent on vendor selection, we find that over 50 percent of engineering time is spent on non-differentiating work. This is an enormous waste of resources, especially in these difficult times.

Software exceeding hardware budgets: Today, we find that software usually accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the manufacturers' R&D budgets. In some instances, as much as 70 percent is allotted for software. According to an Integrated Data Base (IDB) research, software content in devices is predicted to double every two years. This is a dramatic shift from hardware to software that Asian companies will have to come to terms with, as most Asian companies do not consider software as their core competency. Furthermore, the lack of standardization on a single software platform complicates the situation even more with codes that cannot be reused, leading to very low productivity. Management may not even know, in most cases, as to how many OSs are being used within their company.

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