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The challenges of smart phone accessory design projects

Posted: 05 Apr 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart phone accessory? smart phone design? smart phone apps?

Who ever thought we'd be connecting palm-sized projectors to our smart phones? It's clear the engineers at innovative companies like Apple and LG were thinking just that. First came the smart phone, then came apps for smart phones. Now, the next wave of innovation has begun, with the introduction of smart phone accessories that are controlled by apps. This opens up a whole new accessories market and new opportunities to enterprising hardware and software engineers.

Consider the iPhone. Last year, Apple announced a capability in the iPhone OS that enables iPhone and iPod touch apps made by third-party developers to communicate with external accessories over the devices' 30-pin connector. The ability to communicate directly with an accessory in developer-defined ways opens up infinite applications and opportunities for associated accessories.

But the challenges for the would-be designer of any smart phone accessory are many. Such a design project is a complex endeavor that requires the efforts of a cross-disciplinary team.

To ensure that the resulting product is of the highest quality and provides the best user experience, the work must be partitioned appropriately and the project planned and managed carefully. The team that develops the accessory must be able to produce compelling industrial, mechanical and hardware designs; write firmware; and develop the smart phone app. Each of these approvals is challenging on its own, but they become interrelated when you develop a smart phone accessory, resulting in an additional level of complexity.

With the proper team and program management, including adherence to the basic guidelines outlined here, an accessory product can be a game changer for your company.

The smart phone accessory comprises a housing; hardware, including a microcontroller that interfaces to the smart phone's OS; firmware that runs on the microcontroller; and whatever other hardware the accessory functionality dictates.

View the PDF document for more information.

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