No company can excel at every aspect of new product development and trying to do everything can dilute an organization’s focus on the tasks that are essential to its success. For example, most companies have long ago outsourced the PCB design and fabrication steps of new product development. This same need to focus on the essential is true of software development too. It is difficult for a software company to excel at every type of software development because of the ever expanding universe of software languages, operating systems, and architectures. A cloud based SAAS or PC based application is very different from embedded software running C on a 16-bit processor, and it takes very different software development skills to develop that kind of embedded application.
Unlike cloud based or PC based applications, embedded software is optimized to run on a specific custom hardware platform with limited processing power and memory. It often runs on a real time operating system or no operating systems at all, and the interface of an embedded device may consist of only a small display, or just a few buttons and LEDs.
The unique challenges working with embedded systems is why many software companies outsource their embedded software projects to experts like PNC. Here are three reasons why they do.
The embedded system is not the organization’s primary product line.
Many products on the market require options or accessories that are important to the customer, but not are not similar technically to the primary product. A cable set top box remote is a good example. Customers expect a cable set-top box to have a remote, but the low power microcontroller embedded in the remote is likely to be completely different from the high power processor and OS driving the set-top box functions. Similarly, Industrial or commercial equipment may have optional modules to provide additional functionality like a cellular modem. These optional modules have independent processors and embedded software which is unrelated to the primary product software.
In these cases, software companies will choose to focus their development resources on the primary product, recognizing that it is more cost effective to outsource the software development for the ancillary embedded products to a company that is familiar with embedded microcontrollers and the constraints that come with low power operation. If that company can design the hardware and perform SMT assembly too, it becomes an even better value.
The software is deeply embedded and invisible to the user
Successful software companies are highly focused on the customer experience with their product. They are constantly refining the look and feel of the industrial design and user interface to make the product more attractive, and easier to use. But what if the product doesn’t have a user interface? What if it is a router or a motor controller? Products like these need a simple interface for initial configuration, but they typically operate in the background, invisible to the customer. In this case the goal is to optimize for cost and performance rather than user experience. Deeply embedded applications without a sophisticated customer facing interface are ideal to outsource to a company like PNC because the product requirements are centered on the embedded functionality – there is no need to maintain the same look and feel as the company’s customer facing products.
The application requires specialized expertise
Sometimes a software company needs embedded expertise that it just doesn’t have in-house. For example, they may need a Zigbee or Bluetooth RF stack, or expertise with digital signal processing on low power Digital Signal Processors DSP. In some challenging embedded applications, a company may need a partner with the expertise to iterate the design of both the hardware and software simultaneously to arrive at an optimized embedded solution. In that case you need a full service provider like PNC.
PNC offers the full solution to developing embedded products
When it comes to product development, PNC is not just a PCB manufacturer. The engineers at PNC can work with you to design and manufacture the product hardware, and then develop the embedded software to run on that hardware. If you have a challenging embedded software or hardware project, contact PNC today and find out how they can help.