Realising IoT devices with the new PSoC-4 BLE from Cypress

November 20, 2014

The new PSoC-4 BLE series of programmable system-on-chip devices from Cypress enables system designers to create low-power, sensor-based wirelessly-connected systems using integrated programmable analogue front ends, programmable digital peripherals – industry-leading CapSense touch sensor capability for user interfaces all integrated together with a Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Low Energy) radio and an ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller in a compact and cost-effective single-chip solution.

This highly-integrated one-chip Bluetooth Low Energy platform enables you to easily design low-power, wirelessly-connected solutions that are particularly well suited to real-time, low-power Internet-of-Things applications.

Bluetooth Low Energy has several potential benefits over Wi-Fi in some wireless connectivity applications, including minimal connection latency and very good energy efficiency, allowing for “always-on” smart, connected devices that run off small batteries for many months or even more than a year while seamlessly being embedded into everyday physical objects and the environment around us.

This makes the platform ideal for IoT end-node applications despite offering data rate and throughput that is lower than in Wi-Fi-based solutions. By combining the Bluetooth Low Energy radio with a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 processor in a single chip and adding flexible general-purpose analogue and digital peripherals – the PSoC 4 BLE platform aims to provide the right combination of processing horsepower and low power consumption with flexible and precise interfaces for external peripherals such as ADCs and sensors.

You can interface your Bluetooth-connected system with multiple different sensors easily by integrating custom analogue front ends and programmable digital peripherals around the high-performance 48 MHz ARM Cortex-M0 processor core, with no need for any extra chips.

The PSoC 4 BLE platform includes the Bluetooth Low Energy Protocol Stack and Profiles in an intuitive and easy-to-use GUI-based configuration tool, simplifying the design of your BLE systems. The PSoC 4 BLE chipsets reduce the complexity of RF antenna-matching network design by including an integrated balun, which also helps reduce the component count and the PCB footprint of your system.

A PSoC 4 BLE development kit has been designed by Cypress to allow for maximum flexibility in your design whilst also being as easy to use as possible and offering compatibility with standard Arduino-compatible “shields” when used in conjunction with appropriate software.

This development kit is built around easy to use PSoC 4 BLE and PRoC (Programmable Radio-on-Chip) BLE development modules which are complete, self-contained systems that include the main chip with all its I/O pins exposed for development, a tuned PCB antenna on board, power circuitry and easy access to programming pins.

You can simply hook up some sensors, LEDs and a coin-cell battery and you’re ready to go with your complete single-chip Bluetooth LE-enabled wireless sensor network device with analogue and digital acquisition on board. You can even design reliable, sophisticated and sleek user interfaces with Cypress’ CapSense capacitive touch-sensing technology, delivering superior noise immunity, water tolerance and proximity sensing in touch-sensitive applications such as user control panels.

Furthermore, these modules are FCC certified, so they can be deployed in your commercial products without requiring the certification that you may require for a bespoke RF design to meet FCC Part 15 regulatory requirements. These Cypress PSoC 4 BLE modules also meet CE and Canadian RSS-210 radio certification standards, so they’re ready to go into these markets in your commercial designs.

The Bluetooth Low Energy Pioneer Kit from Cypress enables customers to evaluate and develop BLE projects using the Cypress PSoC 4 BLE and PRoC BLE devices. The low-cost BLE Pioneer Kit includes example projects for common BLE profiles and example smartphone apps for both iOS and Android with full source code provided, allowing you to get up and running in no time with the development of Bluetooth Low Energy solutions for IoT applications.

You can design complete, sensor-based BLE systems easily with Cypress PSoC Creator, taking advantage of its vast catalogue of pre-characterised and production ready PSoC firmware “components” which enable you to concurrently design hardware and firmware with easy drag-and-drop assembly of modular software. For example, the Bluetooth Low Energy 4.1 specification has been abstracted into the new Bluetooth Smart “component” in PSoC Creator.

The Cypress PSoC 4 BLE development kit includes a Bluetooth Low Energy USB dongle that pairs with the CySmart BLE master emulation tool from Cypress, converting your Windows PC into a powerful Bluetooth LE debugging environment.

The kit design and layout allows for customers to easily develop embedded solutions that require both mixed-signal analog and digital capabilities along with wireless Bluetooth LE connectivity and highly optimised power efficiency without sacrificing microcontroller performance.

The development kit supports system-level designs using the Cypress PSoC Creator development environment, which includes numerous example projects to enable you to get started creating Bluetooth Low Energy connected, mixed-signal analogue embedded designs such as wireless sensor networks and IoT product designs as easily and as quickly as possible.

If this platform is of interest to your organisation – and you need an experienced partner to progress with – join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


The importance of staying Agile when using Agile

November 12, 2014

When an organisation or team decides to adopt Agile methodology for their projects, not “staying agile” can potentially lead to problems. Although Agile itself is very broadly defined in the general principles of the Agile Manifesto, and there are many different ways to implement agile principles, “staying agile when using agile” is important and straying too far from the underlying principles of agile can potentially lead to pitfalls.

So, how can we keep Agile development agile and avoid common pitfalls when adopting Agile project management techniques?

One of the important things to know about Agile methods is that if they are limited to one development team churning out code, the outcome won’t be truly Agile. It takes a whole organisation to truly be agile, with agile methods supported by management and other staff within your organisation – not just one team without any support for agile in the organisation.

There are several other key success strategies for organisations when adopting Agile methods, such as looking beyond the application “construction” stage and considering the life-cycle context of the application. If organisations only change the way they construct software, without downstream or upstream business changes, this is unlikely to lead to the most effective outcomes with Agile.

It’s important to not be “Agile zombies”, with the inaccurate assumption that just attending a class or seminar about Agile methods and implementing some of the points learned leads to “being agile”. Every organisation is different and is constantly evolving. Continuous learning and improvement is at the core of Agile, and Agile isn’t a strictly defined “one size fits all” recipe.

Agile isn’t a prescribed process or set of practices; it’s a philosophy that can be supported by practices, and no two agile approaches are exactly the same. No one single methodology exists that meets the needs of everyone.

It’s also important for organisations to decide if and where agile adoption is most beneficial for their business, to plan carefully for agile adoption, and to not adopt “Agile just because it’s Agile”. Organisations should ask questions such as why they want to be agile, what benefits agile will provide, and how agility will be achieved and measured. Organisations should ask what cultural or other barriers exist to their adoption of Agile techniques and how they can be overcome.

Without a plan that clearly shapes the initiative, addresses and resolves constraints to agility (for example, removing waterfall process checkpoints or getting support from other required entities), it is more difficult to shape the Agile initiative, staff it, fund it, manage blockers and maintain support from executives.

It’s valuable to ensure that the entire organisation is included in Agile project management – including areas of the organisation that may be overlooked such as marketing or accounting staff. It’s faster and less painless, of course, just to launch an Agile initiative with one team, but this is not most effective.

A single team may gain some benefit from agile, but to be most successful you need to look at the whole process around solution delivery and the numerous people involved. Agile, ideally, should be a change in culture for the entire organisation.

It’s important to find supporters for Agile adoption not only among developers and IT teams, but across all parts of the business unit. In particular it is desirable to try and get somebody from senior management directly involved in Agile adoption, with as much support as you can find from executive management.

Effective agile adoption requires executive sponsorship at the highest level, because these are the people who control resources and can move them as needed to deliver results most efficiently.

Successful adoption of Agile means a shift in the way business views technology, and for most effective results we should recognise that developers don’t like change and many people like working in their own world. As with any cultural shift like this, coaching can be valuable.

Business users will need to learn to work differently with development teams as well. That’s why a coach – either a professional or a designated employee with strong communication and motivation skills – can be an effective part of a new agile team, to help everyone learn to work together most effectively.

Training is also important for success with Agile. Some organisations tend to skimp on training, but Agile is one area where it can be particularly valuable. Managers may only send a few key people to training, in the hopes that they can train the rest of the organisation to implement the new approach for free.

This is unlikely to yield the best results, since Agile is a game-changing initiative, and everyone across the organisation needs to understand it for best results. Continuous improvement is a key principle of Agile development, including continuous development of the team and their skills.

Once again we enjoy illustrating that Agile methodologies can be used effectively with embedded (and other) hardware development if all members of the team embrace the methodology. And that includes the engineering team here at the LX Group – who can bring your ideas to life.

Getting started is easy – join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


LX Group ranked 78 in the BRW Fast 100 List for 2014

October 29, 2014

Once again the LX Group has been awarded top honours as one of Australia’s fastest growing businesses in the 2014 BRW Fast 100 list. LX is positioned at number 78 in this year’s esteemed awards thanks to their continuous efforts and success over the last 12 months.

LX Group is a multi-award-winning Australian electronics design house traditionally specialising in wireless and low-power electronics designs. LX Group is at the forefront of IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) technology – the convergence of hardware devices, the cloud and apps.

LX’s motto, “we take your concept and make it a reality”, reflects their passion for innovative electronic product development.

Examples of this include their recent work with Project Caramello – which includes the award-winning Koala tracking system, the development of which resulted in winning a Sydney Engineering Excellence Award this year. Furthermore, their client base comes from a growing range of industrial, government and scientific sources – all of whom can trust the LX Group with their requirements.

The BRW Fast 100 list ranks Australia’s fastest growing, public and private, small and medium business from all of Australia’s major vertical industries that present solid business practices required to deliver exceptional growth. The BRW Fast 100 list is considered to be the premier guide to Australia’s fastest growing small and medium businesses.

For more information on the BRW Fast 100 list for 2014, go to http://www.brw.com.au/lists/fast-100/2014/
– ENDS –

Media contact:
Elwin Cross
t: +61 2 9209 4133
f: +61 2 9310 7232
elwin.c@lx-group.com.au
www.lx-group.com.au


ARM’s new mbed-based IoT Device Platform

October 27, 2014

The ARM group has recently announced the new ARM mbed IoT Device Platform and an accompanying free operating system, aiming to build on top of the existing mbed embedded development ecosystem to simplify and accelerate the development and deployment of your new Internet-of-Things connected products.

For the uninitiated, mbed is “a platform for developing smart devices that are based on 32-bit ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers. It is designed to provide a highly productive solution for rapid prototyping and product development, with a focus on connected Internet of Things devices.

It is a project developed by ARM, its technology partners and a community of core developers, and it is used by tens of thousands of professional developers to create intelligent products that take advantage of the power of modern microcontrollers and connectivity” (from Wikipedia).

The new mbed platform has been built around open standards and aims to bring Internet protocols, security, standards-based manageability and interoperability together into one integrated solution optimised for the development of cost-constrained and energy-constrained connected devices with the power of ARM’s popular 32-bit processor technology.

The ARM mbed IoT Device Platform is supported by the established and growing mbed hardware and software ecosystem that will provide common building blocks for IoT devices and services. This new platform aims to accelerate the growth of the Internet-of-Things market by enabling innovators to focus on value-add features and differentiation in their product, spending less time on the core processor and connectivity requirements.

The platform is built around the free mbed operating system for ARM processors and devices based around them, and the mbed Device Server, which is analogous to a Web server that accepts connections from Web browsers, but instead it handles the connections from embedded Internet-of-Things devices. The new mbed OS aims to consolidate the fundamental building blocks of the IoT into one integrated set of software components.

The mbed IoT operating system is a modern full-stack operating system that is designed specifically for the popular ARM Cortex-M based 32-bit microcontrollers. Optimised for energy efficiency, connectivity, security and reusable software functionality, as well as being available at no cost, the OS aims to become a foundation that enables widespread innovation in the IoT space.

The mbed OS contains security, communication and device management features to enable the development of production-grade, energy-efficient IoT products.

The mbed Device Server, which is available now, aims to be a key enabler for cloud service providers, operators and enterprises to access the growing IoT market with production deployments, bringing end node devices into the world of web services.

The scalable, industrial-strength mbed Device Server supports the protocols, behaviours and security requirements of IoT devices, making them accessible through APIs to enterprise software, web applications and cloud stacks.

mbed Device Server brings web services to the most demanding enterprise applications in the Internet of Things, utilising open-source protocols such as CoAP/HTTP, MQTT, TLS/TCP, and DTLS/UDP for data communication and device management.

Device Server is a software product that provides the required server-side technologies to connect and manage devices in a secure way, and also provides a bridge between protocols such as MQTT or CoAP that are suited for use in IoT devices and the APIs that are used by web developers.

This simplifies the integration of IoT devices that provide “little data” into cloud frameworks that deploy “big data” analytics on the aggregated data, with the scalability to handle the connections and management of millions of devices.

The mbed IoT Device Platform also incorporates the mbed.org Web community, a central website and a community of more than 70,000 developers working with the mbed platform, providing a comprehensive database of hardware development kits, a repository for reusable software components, reference applications, documentation and Web-based development tools.

The mbed developer website hosts all the development tools you need within a Cloud-based Web IDE to give you quick access wherever you are; it is already configured, requires no installation, and will stay up-to-date whenever you decide to use it.

Software development has come a long way in a short time, driven by the innovation around the productive programming frameworks, tools and workflows of the Web era, and mbed is bringing these modern tools and design patterns into the world of embedded development with up-to-date, modern workflows and tools inspired by the Web development community.

Inspired by the highly productive programming frameworks, tools and collaborative workflows of the web, it is time to bring embedded development up-to-date. The mbed team is developing free and reliable command-line build, component management and test tools, and a Web IDE and developer web services that help bootstrap your embedded development with the accessibility and productivity one would expect in other programming or software development domains.

These new tools comprise a platform toolkit that can handle the complexity and collaboration requirements of the IoT, enabling you to build complex applications from well-tested software components and to collaboratively develop and improve those components.

The Web-based mbed IDE includes features such as workspace version control, code formatting and auto-generation of documentation for published libraries. You can publish projects directly from your private workspace to the developer website to share code openly with the community if you choose, or pull existing libraries into your workspace to get a head start on your project.

The mbed platform offers 32-bit power to your embedded hardware along with an easy point-of-entry, allowing you to work with powerful hardware and IoT product design. As another option for your existing or new IoT-enabled project, our experienced award-winning engineering team can harness mbed for your success.

Getting started is easy – join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Swarm – simple IoT for new or existing products

October 21, 2014

Bug Labs’ cloud-based Swarm platform is an Internet-of-Things development platform that lets you easily add new Internet-connected services to your existing design or product.

Whether it’s a simple sensor device or a complex industrial system, Swarm provides everything you need to get your product up and running quickly with the new value that Internet-of-Things services can add, helping you to innovate in the rapidly growing IoT market.

Swarm abstracts the raw functionalities, such as sensors, actuators or transceivers, that any hardware device is equipped with and exposes these hardware functions as web services, allowing simple drag-and-drop creation of applications that interact with a diverse range of hardware capabilities.

The system is based around “resources”, which are applications or devices that are configured to produce or consume data over Swarm. A resource may be a physical device such as a smartphone, tablet, an embedded hardware platform or a microcontroller equipped with a Wi-Fi or Ethernet chipset for network connectivity, or it could be a mobile or Web application.

Anything that can communicate through HTTP can be configured to join a swarm and begin producing and consuming data, and Swarm makes it easy to acquire data from or to control connected devices over the Internet or local network using JavaScript or plain HTTP requests.

Resources are organised into collections referred to as swarms. Once a swarm of resources has been created, users may configure it to allow their own resources to participate as well as invite another user’s resources to become members. The owner of the swarm can control what level of access (data production, consumption, or both) each resource in the swarm has.

Once multiple resources have been grouped together as members of a swarm, a resource can communicate and share data with other resources in that swarm. You can easily control the level of access that a resource has to the data within a swarm, and grant a resource permission to produce data, consume data generated by other devices in the swarm, or both.

You can invite another user’s resources into your swarms and accept invitations to place your resources in somebody else’s swarms, making it possible to share your devices and your data with others easily and securely to the extent that you choose to.

Swarm’s RESTful configuration API makes it easy to create resources and swarms and to add resources to swarms as data producers, consumers or both. Once your resources are configured, the Participation API makes it easy to get your resources interacting with the swarms they are members of, and begin producing and consuming data.

Swarm Dashboard is a “homepage” for your device, which provides a fast way to get up, and running with Internet-of-Things value added to your connected product. A dashboard provides secure, real-time, visual access to all the important features and data your device offers, creating a high level, easy-to-understand yet powerful way for your users and customers to experience your device online.

You can choose from hundreds of colourful pre-built graphs, charts, gauges, tables and text displays to design and build your dashboard, all from an easy-to-use graphical interface, which does not require advanced programming expertise to set up. All the elements of your Swarm dashboards are optimised for the best viewing experience on different customer’s devices – smartphone, tablet or PC.

A Swarm Dashboard is just the starting point for the construction of additional applications that can enhance your customers’ experience with your product, because every dashboard is powered by Swarm’s APIs that can be used to build extended dashboards and more complex applications, incorporating services such as event notifications and alerts, real-time visualisations, analytics and reporting, historical activity logs, compliance testing and integration into your existing customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning systems.

Developing applications for embedded computing hardware and other types of connected Internet-of-Things devices can be a complex effort which requires specialised tools and skills because the application code needs to run on the device itself, which is usually a constrained operating environment with limited memory and resources.

But what if you could run the application code elsewhere, in the cloud, and access the device over a network connection? Then you’d be able to write mobile and web-based applications with easier-to-use tools and languages such as JavaScript and Python, without worrying about resource constraints on the embedded device so much, and Swarm helps you to do exactly that.

Swarm lets you write applications using standard web development tools which can then run anywhere you like, whether it’s your PC, your browser, or a cloud-based application server. Swarm coordinates the communications between your application and the connected device via any IP network connection – via Wi-Fi, cellular, satellite or Ethernet networking hardware – securely and reliably in real time.

All this is made possible by intelligently converting hardware-specific I/O interfaces into a collection of easily understood and addressed RESTful Web APIs. Bug Labs’ dedicated Swarm developer portal provides more information for developers on Swarm, its architecture and its open-source code and APIs.

As another option for your existing or new IoT-enabled project, our experienced award-winning engineering team can harness Swarm for your success. Getting started is easy – join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

 


The Internet Protocol for Smart Objects Alliance

October 13, 2014

The Internet Protocol for Smart Objects (IPSO) Alliance is an organisation, which has served as a resource centre and industry leader since 2008 – whose goal is to seek the establishment of Internet Protocol as the dominant, open standard adopted by industry as the basis for the connectivity of “smart objects”, machine-to-machine and Internet-of-Things networks and applications.

The IPSO Alliance provides a foundation for industry growth by fostering awareness, providing education, generating research, promoting the industry, and creating a better understanding of IP and other open protocols and standards and the role they can play in the Internet of Things.

Through the work of the IPSO Alliance, many industries have come to realise the benefits associated with using the Internet Protocol within their Internet-of-Things and M2M products and applications. The Alliance is moving forward from explaining “Why use IP in IoT devices” to “How to use IP” down to the individual device level in connected IoT networks.

While the Alliance will continue to educate and inform on the numerous fundamental benefits of IP, it has embarked on defining the set of appropriate protocols, architecture and data definitions for IoT “Smart Objects” so that engineers and product developers working in this field will have access to the necessary tools in order “to build the IoT right” using open standards in a way that the IPSO Alliance considers to be the most valuable for everybody.

Primary goals of the IPSO Alliance are to promote the Internet Protocol as the universal, most secure and most resilient infrastructure on which to base ever more critical and ubiquitous connectivity, and to carry on their core mission of “Internet Protocol enabling the Internet of Things”. It is a goal of the IPSO Alliance to promote the use of IP as the premier solution for access and communication for smart objects as well as to invest in innovation in IP- and open-standards-based Internet-of-Things technology.

The Alliance aims to uphold open standards for IoT connectivity including but not limited to IP, supporting the Internet Engineering Task Force and other technical standards organisations in the development of standards for smart objects and Internet-of-Things connectivity, building on the technical work of these bodies with promotion, outreach and education.

The main objective of the Alliance is not to define new technologies and standards, but to document the use of IP-based technologies defined by the standards-building organisations such as IETF with focus on support by the Alliance of various use cases.

Furthermore, the IPSO aims to promote the use of the Internet Protocol by developing and publishing white papers and case studies and providing updates on open standards-building progress from associations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, with a particular focus on Internet-of-Things applications and what IPSO refers to as “Smart Objects”, which promote Web-scale interoperability between IP-connected devices and IoT applications.

The Alliance has recently broadened its standards vision to include education on the best practice for the use of IP and other open protocols to create end-to-end solutions for the Internet of Things, promoting the use of open standards, not just through awareness that these open standards exist but also through education of developers on how to actually use them most effectively in IoT products.

With an aim to understand the industries and markets where M2M and IoT devices can have an effective role in growth when connected using the Internet Protocol, and to organise interoperability tests that will allow members and interested parties to show that products and services using IP-based connectivity for “smart objects” can work together and meet industry standards for communication, the alliance is a beneficial group to further the use of IP in various products.

IPSO aims to build stronger relationships around IP and other open standards within the industry and to create a better understanding of IP and its role in connecting Smart Objects, fostering awareness that the Internet Protocol is an existing, proven networking solution based on open standards that is already deployed and demonstrated to be eminently scalable.

The availability of Internet Protocol, including IPv6 and 6LoWPAN, on constrained embedded systems and low-cost microcontrollers with very limited memory and other resources has made possible a new kind of device and a new kind of Internet, with ubiquitous interoperability between “smart objects” and connected Internet-of-Things devices.

The Internet Engineering Task Force specifies a set of standard protocols for Constrained Resource Environment (CoRE) IP-enabled networks, including the Constrained Resource Application Protocol or CoAP, applicable to low-power and low-bandwidth embedded devices.

CoAP is an application protocol for machines and connected devices, as HTTP is for the World Wide Web, but designed specifically for machine interaction and operation over networks of resource-constrained devices. IPSO’s Smart Object Guidelines provide a common design pattern, an object model that can effectively use CoAP to provide high-level interoperability between “smart objects” and connected software applications on other devices and services.

For more information on the IPSO alliance, you can visit their website from the following URL – http://www.ipso-alliance.org/. And if you’re looking for a partner to help bring your new or existing products to the Internet-of-Things, we have the experience, expertise and team to get the job done.

Getting started is easy – join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Using Scrum methodology for Hardware Development

October 6, 2014

Although the Scrum agile methodology was originally formalised for software development projects, as with other agile frameworks it can be applied well to any complex, innovative project that a team works on.

Scrum is a way for teams to work together to develop a product where product development occurs in small pieces, with each piece building upon previously created pieces. Building products one small piece at a time encourages creativity and enables teams to respond to feedback and change, to build exactly what is needed using a most efficient manner.

Furthermore it’s a simple framework for effective team collaboration on complex projects that provide a small set of rules that create just enough structure for teams to be able to focus their innovation on solving what might otherwise be an insurmountable challenge.

So let’s have a look at how scrum methodology can be applied, and its potential benefits and challenges, when applied to embedded systems and hardware projects. Building complex products for customers is an inherently difficult task, even more so for projects that have a hardware component, and Scrum provides structure to allow teams to deal with that difficulty.

However, the fundamental Scrum process is quite simple and at its core it is governed by a few core roles on the project team. Product owners determine what needs to be built during a “sprint” interval of 1 to 4 weeks and the development team does the technical work to design and build what is needed during this interval, followed by demonstration of what they have built.

Based on this demonstration, the product owner determines what to build next. The Scrum master ensures this process happens as smoothly as possible and continually helps to improve the process.

A key principle of Scrum that differentiates it from traditional project management philosophies is its recognition that during a project the customers can change their minds about what they need or want, and that unpredictable challenges cannot be easily addressed in a traditional predictive or planned manner.

As such, scrum methodology adopts an empirical approach, accepting that the project cannot be perfectly understood or defined in advance and instead the team focuses on maximising its ability to deliver small iterations of progress quickly and to respond to changing or emerging requirements as the project proceeds.

As the team proceeds through the “backlog” of tasks during a scrum project, it is accepted that changes can and will happen – the team may learn about new market opportunities to take advantage of, competitor threats that may arise, or customer feedback may change the way the product is supposed to work.

When it comes to hardware projects, the time constraints involved in fabrication of printed circuit boards, the ordering of components, hardware assembly or other external manufacturing dependencies and the commitment to a particular hardware prototype design once it has been sent for manufacturing can potentially make it much more difficult to respond to new or changing customer specifications or requirements within the fixed timeframe of a given sprint.

If these kinds of factors in ordering or manufacturing hardware devices exceed the time allocated for a sprint, these manufacturing issues can present a unique challenge when trying to apply agile methods to hardware development.

The “sprint” is the basic unit of development effort in a Scrum project, a period of typically 1 to 4 weeks in which development occurs on a set of “backlog” items that the team has committed to, restricted to a specific time duration which is fixed in advance for each sprint.

Over the course of a sprint the project team has a physical, co-located, “stand-up” meeting every day to communicate between the team and assess its work, while the scrum master keeps the team focused on its goal along the way.

For hardware projects, increasingly popular and accessible tools and technologies such as small-scale CNC milling, 3D printing, and laser cutting are becoming more important for rapid prototyping and agile hardware development, allowing components such as custom plastics or simple PCBs to be rapidly prototyped, demonstrated to the product owner and evaluated within a sprint.

A prototype iteration of a hardware system doesn’t have to physically involve hardware. Simulation and visualisation tools, such as SPICE for electronic engineering, 3D rendering of mechanical components and PCB component dimensions, and thermal modelling for predicting heat transport with a device enclosure, for example, can all play an important role in assuring the quality, interoperability, industrial design, electrical and thermal performance and the “look and feel” of all the components that come together into a new product even before a prototype is actually physically constructed.

These tools and techniques can also be valuable to demonstrate hardware design and engineering progress relatively quickly, within the finite timeframe of a sprint, if the manufacturing of physical prototype hardware will take longer.

Once again this shows that agile can be used effectively with embedded (and other) hardware development if all members of the team embrace the methodology. And that includes the engineering team here at the LX Group – who can bring your ideas to life.

Getting started is easy – join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


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