Improve Customer Satisfaction with Agile Practices

August 24, 2014

Agile project management practices, which can be applied to the management of hardware development or other engineering projects – and not just the software development projects for which these methods were mostly originally developed, have the potential to deliver increased customer satisfaction compared to traditional project management methods such as the “waterfall” technique.

These improvements in customer satisfaction that can be achieved by Agile projects come about because of a combination of many different advantages that Agile practices can offer, particularly in the ways that Agile project techniques involve and engage the customer, the customer’s feedback, ideas and expertise throughout the product development lifecycle.

These Agile project management practices can increase the satisfaction of your customers by keeping the customers involved and actively engaged through the development cycle of their new product, making the customer feel like they are a valuable, integral part of the project team – which, of course, they are.

This enables rapid and precise feedback between the customer (or customer representatives and advocates on the team such as the “Product Owner”, who often play an important role in Agile project teams) and the development team.

Furthermore this also gives the development team an intimate contextual understanding of the customer’s requirements, specifications and ideas by keeping the customer or customer champion embedded in close contact with the development team. Finally, customer satisfaction is increased thanks to your progress and with the product; these practices can help to make the product itself fundamentally better, too.

Whilst these kinds of Agile project methodologies can work at their best when an actual customer representative is available frequently for team meetings, to communicate product requirements and business needs, if a customer representative is not available then the Product Owner, a role filled by one member from the project management team, can perform this role effectively.

The “Product Owner”, who is a core part of many Agile project teams, is an expert on the customer’s needs and product requirements, and serves as an advocate for customer and business outcomes, constantly directing the team in a direction that is focused on customer results and customer centred value, rather than considerations such as what is technically easiest, or technically most elegant, which otherwise may be given greater emphasis by the engineering or development teams.

Agile project management practices can deliver improved customer satisfaction and customer-focused outcomes by keeping the product backlog updated regularly and prioritised, allowing the team to quickly and efficiently respond to urgent issues, to newly established product requirements, or other changes that need to be addressed, without wasting time with less organised project management or implementing new features or changes that are less urgent and less important to the customer and business outcomes.

Agile practices can also deliver improvements in customer satisfaction and product outcomes by demonstrating working functionality to customers in every sprint review.

This rapid iteration of new prototypes and repeated demonstration of working software or hardware technology gives the customer and/or the Product Owner a very clear understanding of the project progress that is being made, inspires new ideas for features or changes either in the product itself or in the ways that the product may be used or marketed, and allows for rapid discussion of changes, improvements or design specifications that are desired between the customer and the project team.

Another way that Agile management practices can result in a project with relatively strong satisfaction for the customer is by delivering products to market quicker and more often with every release.

Finally, another factor that can allow Agile project management techniques to deliver greater customer satisfaction from your project is by possessing the potential for better results with self-funded or crowd funded projects; allowing the scope, scale or schedule of a project to rapidly be changed even in the middle of the project development cycle.

This means, for example, that Agile projects can adapt to be most compatible with a changing or insecure funding environment, a self-funded environment with very limited access to cash flow and resources, a crowd funding project that has delivered funding less than what has been hoped, or a crowd funding project that has turned out much more successful than anticipated, with plenty of upfront funding available, but with demands for manufacturing scale and product fulfilment that are much larger than originally anticipated.

These and other Agile hardware development techniques can be harnessed by any organisation. However if this is new to you, or it seems like a complex path – then consult the experienced team here at the LX Group.

We can partner with you – finding synergy with your ideas and our experience to create final products that exceed your expectations.

To get started, 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.


Harnessing connected devices with the PubNub Data Stream Network

August 18, 2014

The PubNub Data Stream Network enables developers to rapidly build real-time apps that scale globally, without worrying about infrastructure. PubNub enables you to easily build and scale real-time apps and connected data-stream services for home automation, Internet-of-Things applications, connected devices and just about anything else with APIs and support across a large range of different platforms, operating systems and programming languages.

Using PubNub’s extensive, friendly documentation, quick-start guides, APIs and building blocks, you can easily get started building your own real-time, connected apps very quickly – building an entire simple app in minutes, without worrying about cloud connectivity or infrastructure.

The aim of the PubNub system is to provide a real-time infrastructure and framework for developers to build real-time apps as easily as building a web page. The PubNub Realtime Network provides global cloud infrastructure and key building blocks for real-time interactivity, allowing developers to spend their time and effort on what they do best, creating brilliant real-time apps, without worrying about infrastructure challenges, but also providing users with the real-time information updates, real-time connectivity, interaction, communication and collaboration experiences that they expect from today’s apps and web services.

Key “building blocks” are provided to implement basic functions such as analytics, mobile support, security, storage, presence detection and push notifications in your app, allowing you to rapidly “plug together” cloud-connected application prototypes.

The system provides support and SDKs for over 50 languages and development platforms, including iOS, Android, JavaScript, .NET, Java, Ruby, Python, PHP, and many others, and supports a vast array of platforms and frameworks with easy-to-use APIs for mobile, browser, desktop, server, or embedded Internet-of-Things applications.

Furthermore, PubNub Presence allows real-time monitoring of devices and their presence in Internet-of-Things applications, and PubNub offers many other features that are particularly valuable in IoT applications. However, the capability that PubNub provides, allowing you to add real-time communications to your apps without worrying about infrastructure, and to stream, store, sync, secure and manage your data on all devices, everywhere, is valuable for applications in all kinds of mobile, desktop or browser-based environments – not only in Internet-of-Things applications.

As well as support for these languages and operating systems, PubNub provides support, documentation and SDKs to enable connectivity with many popular hardware platforms for embedded and IoT applications, such as Electric Imp, mBed and Raspberry Pi. This allows for low-cost prototype and final product development thanks to PubNub working with these open-source hardware platforms.

You can try PubNub free of charge, using a free sandbox account for demonstration, hacking or experimentation. A sandbox-level account allows you to build PubNub-based applications with up to 20 daily active devices, which should be more than enough to get you up and running. If you need support, the free sandbox-tier account also provides access to the PubNub community forums, and a “best effort” service-level agreement.

Of course there are also a broad range of paid account tiers available, allowing you to support the number of devices and amount of bandwidth that your application requires at an economic rate that can scale up and grow with your business.

Message payloads up to 32 kilobytes in size can be sent through PubNub, with a small fee per message applicable to paid accounts, charged on a varying scale depending on the message payload size you send and whether or not SSL encryption is required for your message traffic.

The PubNub Developer Portal gives you easy access to all of your usage metrics, and these metrics are updated at least once per day, allowing you to always get an up-to-date snapshot of your historical message traffic and usage charges.

PubNub’s global cloud infrastructure allows you to build and deploy real-time apps with a very robust level of scalability, reliability, performance and service guarantees. PubNub streams more than three million messages a second to 150 million devices per month, connecting every PubNub-enabled device and platform in the world with a latency of less than 250 milliseconds.

With replication across 14 data centres around the world, PubNub provides a very high level of service reliability, and building and deploying your real-time apps via PubNub’s global infrastructure provides your applications and services with that same level of reliability even when you’re scaling up to hundreds of thousands of concurrently connected clients.

Data streamed through the PubNub real-time network is instantly replicated to PubNub’s data centres around the globe to minimise latency for the end user, and multiple levels of redundancy and failover ensure that your PubNub-based real-time app solutions always work essentially anywhere with very low latency, even with millions of users.

PubNub allows you to send messages between mobile devices instantly, and allows you to send and listen to events within your app by using simple publish and subscribe API calls. You can subscribe to a channel with a simple API call, and once subscribed to a channel, simply use the Publish API, specify the channel name and the message you’d like to send in order to publish a message to a channel.

The fact that PubNub is built around a Publish/Subscribe model for real-time messaging and signalling makes PubNub ideally suited to collecting, collating and distributing information from Internet-of-Things networks, an application area where protocols such as MQTT that are also based around a publish/subscribe messaging model are increasingly popular.

Once again, all of this means there exists another option, another choice, another system to get your Internet-of-Things ideas from your notebook to reality. And doing just that with any system may seem like an impossible task.

However with our team here at the LX group, it’s simple to get prototypes of your devices based on the Arrayent platform up and running – or right through to the final product. We can partner with you – finding synergy with your ideas and our experience to create final products that exceed your expectations.

To get started, 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 Design House – an ABA100 Winner for Enterprise in The Australian Business Awards 2014

August 12, 2014

LX DESIGN HOUSE IN MOTION

LX Design House has been recognised as an ABA100 Winner for Enterprise in The Australian Business Awards 2014 for their outstanding commitment to the creation and development of well-managed initiatives.

Since being established, LX’s in-house manufacturing facility has massively reduced the turnaround time for certain kinds of product development.

“We specialise in high speed prototyping, so producing boards in-house massively reduces the turn around time caused by shipping to manufacturers overseas. It means less time in transit and more time with our engineers!” -Simon Blyth

The Australian Business Awards are a national, all-encompassing awards program honouring Australia’s business, innovation and technology leaders through the recognition of their ground-breaking vision, innovative products and exemplary execution of projects, technologies, service, programs, systems and other initiatives. The program engages with leading corporate, government and non-government organisations providing regional recognition with a global significance through an established set of business and product award categories.

Ms Tara Johnston, Program Director, says, “With a modernised economy we are experiencing notable change in business with new market and social needs expanding rapidly. The ABA100 Winners are reflective of a nation-wide commitment to innovation and improvement, with the award honouring their evident traction within their respective industries.

“As markets become more informed, organisations are required to be responsive and dynamic in order to create functional, sustainable processes and future-proof products. The program places value on a proactive approach to instigating long-term solutions and generating positive outcomes to ensure a bright economic future for Australians, through the recognition of demonstrated commitment to putting bold ideas into motion and creating products that matter,” Ms Johnston adds.

Conducted annually, The Australian Business Awards are now in their ninth year with one hundred winners (“The ABA100”) announced in a variety of established categories across all industries. Working continuously to develop a robust and dynamic framework of assessment, organisations are able to review their business and product performance, identify their strengths in a growing knowledge economy and ultimately provide a platform for reputation enhancement and brand exposure by publicly acknowledging organisations for their valuable contributions and innovative products. The business award categories are open to the corporate, government and non-government sectors. The product awards open to tangible or intangible products ranging from manufactured goods, devices, equipment, services, programs, projects, activities, information, knowledge, software, platforms and systems.

For more information on The Australian Business Awards (ABA100) go to www.businessawards.com.au.

– 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


Frameworks for Agile Hardware Development

August 11, 2014

There are many different agile development methods and process frameworks, with Extreme Programming, Scrum, Kanban, and Dynamic Systems Development Method being some of the best known. Although there are many different agile process frameworks and methods, most are fundamentally similar in that they promote teamwork, collaboration and process adaptability throughout the whole life cycle of a development project.

The various agile methodologies share much of the same underlying philosophy as well as many of the same characteristics and practices. From an implementation standpoint, however, each has its own combination of practices and terminology. Most agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning, without directly involving long-term planning.

At the end of teach iteration in the agile process, a working product is demonstrated to stakeholders. This minimises overall risk and allows the project to adapt to changes quickly. Iterations might not add enough functionality to warrant a market release, but the goal is to have an available release (with minimal bugs) at the end of each iteration.

Multiple iterations might be required to release a product or new features. No matter what development disciplines are required, each agile team contains a customer representative, for example the “Product Owner” in the Scrum method. This person is appointed by stakeholders to act on their behalf and makes a commitment to be available for developers to answer mid-iteration questions.

At the end of each iteration, stakeholders and the customer representative review the project’s progress and re-evaluate project priorities with a view to optimising the project’s return on investment and ensuring alignment with customer needs and business goals.

Extreme Programming, which has emerged as one of the most popular but sometimes controversial agile methodologies, is a disciplined approach to delivering high-quality software quickly and continuously. It promotes high customer involvement, rapid feedback loops, continuous testing, continuous planning, and close teamwork to deliver working software at very frequent intervals, typically every one to three weeks.

The original model of Extreme Programming (XP) is based on four simple values of simplicity, communication, feedback and courage, backed up by various supporting practices such as pair programming, test-driven development, continuous integration and collective code ownership.

In an XP project, the customer or customer advocate works very closely with the development team to define and prioritise granular units of functionality referred to as “user stories”. The development team estimates, plans, and delivers the highest priority user stories in the form of working, tested software on an iteration-by-iteration basis.

Scrum is another popular agile project management framework; a lightweight framework with broad applicability for managing and controlling iterative and incremental projects of all kinds. Scrum has achieved increasing popularity in the agile software development community due to its simplicity, proven productivity, and ability to act as a wrapper for various engineering practices promoted by other agile methodologies.

Using the Scrum methodology, the product owner works closely with the team to identify and prioritise system functionality in form of a “product backlog”. The product backlog consists of features, bug fixes, non-functional requirements and anything else that needs to be done in order to successfully deliver a working software system.

With priorities driven by the product owner – cross-functional teams estimate and sign-up to deliver “potentially shippable increments” of software during successive “sprints” typically lasting 30 days. Once the product backlog for any given sprint is committed, no additional functionality can be added to the sprint except by the development team.

Kanban is another agile method used by organisations to manage the creation of products with an emphasis on continual delivery while not overburdening the development team. Like Scrum, Kanban is a process designed to help teams work together more effectively.

It is based on the three basic principles of visualisation of the work to be done on a given day using large noticeboards, walls or “information radiators”, since seeing all the items in the context of each other can be very informative, limiting of the amount of work in progress at any given time, which helps to balance the flow-based approach so that teams don’t start too much work or commit too much work at once, and the enhancement of efficient workflow, where the next highest-priority task from the backlog is underway quickly once a previous task is completed.

The Dynamic Systems Delivery Method, or DSDM, is another important agile method, which grew out of the need to provide an industry standard project delivery framework for what used to be referred to as Rapid Application Development or RAD.

While RAD was very popular in the early 1990s, the RAD approach to software delivery evolved in a fairly unstructured manner. As a result, the DSDM Consortium was created and convened with the goal of devising and promoting a common industry framework for rapid software delivery, and since then the DSDM methodology has evolved and matured to provide a comprehensive foundation for planning, managing, executing, and scaling agile process and iterative software development projects.

DSDM specifically calls out “fitness for business purpose” as the primary criteria for delivery and acceptance of a system, focussing on the useful 80% of the system that can be deployed in 20% of the time. Requirements are baselined at a high level early in the project. Rework is built into the process, and all development changes must be reversible. Requirements are planned and delivered in short, fixed-length time-boxes, also referred to as iterations, and requirements for DSDM projects are prioritised into “must have”, “should have”, “could have” and “won’t have” categories.

All critical work must be completed in a DSDM project, but it is also important that not every requirement in a project or time-box is considered critical. Within each time-box, less critical items are included so that, if necessary, they can be removed to keep from impacting higher priority requirements on the schedule. The DSDM project framework is independent of, and can be implemented in conjunction with, other iterative agile methodologies such as Extreme Programming.

Agile hardware development may seem complex, or quite foreign – however the methods used can decrease the period of time from idea to final product launch – with the right partners. Here at the LX Group we can partner with you – finding synergy with your ideas and our experience to create final products that exceed your expectations. To get started, 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.

EnOcean – the new low-power Wireless Standard

August 2, 2014

The success or failure of new Internet-of-Things products is predicated on many factors, one of those being autonomy for portable devices – that is, how long the battery will last between charges. The less power your devices uses, the more attractive it will be to the end user and customer. And to help with this goal in mind, a new standard has emerged.

The International Electrotechnical Commission has recently ratified the new ISO/IEC 14543-3-10 standard, specifying a Wireless Short-Packet (WSP) protocol optimised for ultra-low-power and energy-harvesting nodes in wireless sensor networks.

It is the first and only existing standard for wireless applications that is also optimised for energy harvesting solutions, aimed at energy-harvesting wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks with ultra-low power consumption.

Devices in low-power wireless sensor networks and Internet-of-Things applications that utilise energy harvesting technology can draw energy from their surroundings – for example from vibration, light or heat sources. Energy harvesting enables the use of electronic control and automation systems that work independently of an external power supply, without maintenance and without ongoing energy costs for the nodes in the sensor network.

In some environments where harvesting of small amounts of energy from ambient sources is practical, this technology offers energy savings and fast and easy installation, without the need for power cables for example, along with reductions in ongoing maintenance requirements for battery-powered devices.

International standardisation will accelerate the development and implementation of energy-optimised wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks, with the potential to also open up new markets and areas of application for wireless sensor and IoT solutions. In addition to the existing established markets for home and building automation and energy efficiency technology, further application sectors such as the “smart home”, “smart grid” and solutions in industry, logistics and transport are likely to continue to emerge into the future, with a strong foundation of interoperability, standardisation and openness provided by this novel but field-proven standard.

However, this new IEC standard specifies the architecture and lower layer protocols – the physical layer, data link and networking layer. The higher layers in the OSI network model are not specified in this standard and other standards, either open standards or vendor-specific proprietary protocols, will be used to implement the higher layers of the network.

EnOcean, which develops energy harvesting wireless technology, is a pioneer in this field, and the company has been producing and marketing maintenance-free wireless sensor solutions for use in building and industrial automation for more than ten years, with EnOcean-based products currently installed in over 250,000 buildings around the world.

EnOcean’s wireless technology is already a firmly established technology for smart buildings, energy efficiency and automation applications. The EnOcean Alliance, a cooperative industry alliance established by EnOcean, sees the ratification of this new IEC standard as one of the key prerequisites for expanding the already highly successful, fast-growing ecosystem of EnOcean-enabled products and RF communication modules from EnOcean and other vendors.

Members of the EnOcean Alliance have already introduced more than 1200 interoperable EnOcean-based products, all of which comply with the new standard. Developers and manufacturers can therefore benefit from the EnOcean Alliance’s extensive practical experience, huge product range and installed base of products deployed by customers in the field along with many years of user education and familiarisation.

The EnOcean Alliance draws up the specifications of standardised applications and device profiles based on the IEC standard, with these “EnOcean Equipment Profiles” ensuring the interoperability of products from different vendors. These standardised profiles are optimised for ultra-low energy consumption, making them a useful, tried and tested complement to the new IEC wireless sensor networking standard and allowing smart, energy-efficient automation solutions to easily be realised that are non-proprietary and industry-neutral.

EnOcean’s technology pushes wireless sensor network technology and energy efficiency to the limits, with EnOcean’s range of self-powered wireless switches, sensors, controls and other modules combining small-scale energy-harvesting power supplies with ultra-low-power electronics and reliable wireless communications.

This enables developers to create self-powered wireless sensor solutions that are valuable for efficiently managing building, smart energy management and industrial applications. Together with the EnOcean Equipment Profiles drawn up by the EnOcean Alliance, this international standard lays the foundation for fully interoperable, open, self-powered wireless technology with a level of industry-wide standardisation comparable to today’s widely accepted protocols such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

EnOcean’s technology allows fast development and marketing of new wireless solutions in building services, industry and other sectors, and standardised sensor profiles provide for interoperability of the resulting products. Devices from different manufacturers can then communicate and cooperate with other devices on the network.

Interoperability of different end-products based on EnOcean technology is an important success factor for the establishment of self-powered IoT and WSN technology in the market, and this is the reason the EnOcean Alliance pursues standardisation of communication profiles, ensuring that sensors from one manufacturer can communicate with receiver gateways of another, for example.

Software provided by the EnOcean Alliance also allows modular and versatile, user-friendly integration of these systems into end-user applications. End users thus have the entire product portfolio enabled by EnOcean and EnOcean’s self-powered energy-harvesting wireless sensor network technology at their disposal.

This allows vendors to focus on their product branding, services, support and installation, along with providing Internet services, mobile apps and other software products whilst using existing hardware and core technology – along with developing and offering hardware products to support their own specialised market niche, going beyond the existing portfolio of EnOcean-enabled products if this is desired.

And as a leading developer of IoT-enabled products, our team at the LX Group is ready to work together as your design partner to help reduce the power consumption of your new or existing product with the EnOcean standard or other options we can introduce.

To get started, 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.


Challenges of Agile Product Development

July 26, 2014

In the adoption of Agile project management practices to the development of hardware or combined hardware-software engineering projects, and the adaptations to common Agile techniques that may be applied for best results with hardware projects, let’s consider some of the challenges that may be faced and how you might address them.

For example, do you develop software and firmware only after you’ve developed and assembled an iteration of physical prototype hardware? Or do you develop an iteration of your software and firmware concurrently with the development and assembly of the corresponding hardware and use other methods such as simulation to stand in for the hardware until an iteration of the physical hardware is ready?

When using Agile project management techniques, it is desirable to be able to rapidly produce and demonstrate a working prototype of your technology and to rapidly iterate and refine and build on each prototype without necessarily having a perfectly engineered product ready to go at the first iteration.

When you’re working with hardware, however, you need to deal with the lead time required to source components, to fabricate printed circuit boards, to have prototype layouts assembled by an external pick-and-place assembly contractor or to have custom plastics injection-moulded and so on.

What if the lead-time required for these processes is longer than the time allocated to a particular iteration or sprint? These types of external supply and manufacturing dependencies are unique to hardware, and aren’t present in software development – so they present a unique challenge when trying to apply agile methods to the management of hardware projects.

While these constraints may seem like a daunting challenge to adoption of Agile in the hardware engineering industry, techniques and tools such as in-house rapid prototyping, 3D printing, CNC milling of simple PCBs and the like present part of a potential solution, allowing for rapid, agile iteration of hardware prototypes.A prototype iteration of a hardware system doesn’t have to physically involve hardware, either. Simulation and visualisation tools can play a valuable role of validating the design and performance of all the components that come together into a new product, even before a prototype is actually physically constructed. FPGAs and logic synthesis may also be valuable tools here, allowing for validation of soft cores before physical hardware is constructed.

One of the challenges for combined software and hardware development is that software can normally be developed fairly rapidly and the development broken down into smaller iterative chunks. Hardware, on the other hand, may require months to show a working component or feature, which has been implemented starting from scratch.

If the software development must wait for the hardware to be created before final testing, this can create significant testing delays. Hardware must also often follow strictly defined process models, meet compliance standards, and it can be difficult to make late changes to hardware. This means that feature creep can be difficult and expensive in hardware engineering, although Agile methods are traditionally more accepting of “feature creep” compared to traditional “waterfall” management methods.

Traditionally, the priority for embedded software, for example, would be to write the hardware drivers first, to allow evaluation of the new device and to allow testing. Testing is more complex when software must fit within a small, cheap microcontroller with limited resources in an embedded system, with timing well controlled to prevent race conditions and other timing issues. This means that at some point testing on the actual hardware is generally important.

A problem often seen when businesses who create hardware and the software that runs it face when trying to “go Agile” is that they attempt to take methods and practices developed for software (such as Scrum, an Agile project management framework), and try to use it for everything, including hardware development.

Scrum is based upon “sprints” of relatively short lengths (two weeks to 30 days), with highly defined tasks that must be completed during the sprint. The nature of software development makes this an excellent framework for rapid progress; but scrum isn’t necessarily the best framework for hardware development. If the products are in a highly regulated industry, such as medical or aviation hardware, then the documentation must follow industry requirements for specification and design, as well as normal testing and functional requirements documentation.

This makes it extremely difficult to use scrum by itself, since the processes for hardware are frequently much more rigid, defined, and design-oriented than those normally defined by scrum.

On the software side, because software must interface, communicate with, and control hardware, development issues using Agile are more complex for combined software/hardware projects, and the stories (definition of the functions for a specific feature) that the developers define for each sprint are accordingly more complex. Large projects with large amounts of hardware and software dependencies can be even more challenging.

One method of dealing with hardware that isn’t ready to test is to decouple software and hardware development, via an abstraction layer, to allow software development to continue more rapidly. Can the interfaces to the hardware module be specified, and the specifics abstracted away to allow other parts of the hardware and software development to continue around the hardware component that is behind schedule?

The challenge is to find a method that allows the rapid development of software with concurrent development of the hardware, that can best meet the requirements of each process. A good approach can be the use of different Agile techniques for hardware projects than those used in software projects. Agile techniques are not abandoned – simply implemented a little differently, with different specific Agile techniques chosen for the most effective results.

With Commitment-Based Project Management (CBPM), which has been described as an “agile without using Agile” technique with broad applicability outside the software engineering sector, the emphasis is on the delivery of at least a component or piece of the hardware that works, in the case of an embedded computing or other combined hardware-software project, in order to allow the development or testing of the software that will work on that hardware component.

This is very different from the traditional “waterfall” project management approach, where the entire hardware system needs to be built first. While the “scrum” method for software projects is based on sprints with small portions of the software completed at a time, hardware development can benefit from a different approach.

With Agile, both hardware and software features are broken down into smaller chunks – only the Agile methodology can be a bit different for each. Once software is working, it can be deployed either on any available hardware modules that are ready, or in a test or simulation environment.

This allows the early identification and fixing of race issues and bugs that arise, and reduces the amount of “fixing” and lengthy hours reworking that must occur during late integration and testing when the hardware is ready.

And that’s the goal of successful agile development – to reduce the total time required, decreasing errors, mistakes and the chances of unforseen events, which will increase the time to market for your new or revised product.

Here at the LX Group you can leverage our product development expertise and experience for your total benefit. Our consultants, engineers and experts in many fields can guide you to your goal of product success.

To get started, 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.


Easily extend your products to the IoT with Arrayent

July 19, 2014

The Arrayent Connect Platform is an Internet-of-Things platform that enables you to connect your products to smartphone and Web applications, providing the value-add of cloud services and IoT connectivity with low cost and simplicity, particularly aimed at existing manufacturers of appliances and consumer electronics who want to add the value of Internet-of-Things connectivity into their existing products.

Arrayent’s IoT platform has been optimised to maximise your product’s value by keeping extra hardware costs at a minimum, keeping devices simple, and pushing the majority of the IoT complexity to the cloud where possible.

By ensuring that product installation “just works” and is friendly for end users. Arrayent’s plug-and-play installation process is designed to maximise customer satisfaction and reduce the costs of customer support for installation.

Arrayent also aim to support strong scalability to as many as millions of devices. Therefore with the Arrayent IoT platform you can reliably and securely connect your products to the Internet for the same service cost, whether you’re connecting ten thousand devices or ten million.

There are four key components that make up the Arrayent Connect IoT platform – the Arrayent Connect Cloud, the Arrayent Connect Agent, the Arrayent mobile framework, and the Arrayent data analytics service.

The Arrayent Connect Cloud is essentially a cloud-based Internet-of-Things operating system, and it is the heart of the Arrayent IoT platform. The Connect Cloud hosts your virtual device, the digital copy of your physical device to which your mobile apps connect. In this fashion, complex application code can reside in the cloud, enabling reduced overall product cost and maximising product extensibility.

Arrayent Connect Cloud supports a growing list of services that are common across all Internet of Things applications. These services make it easy to functionality to your connected products, which adds value to the lives of your connected customers.

The growing lists of features that add value to and extend the functionality of your products include alerts, over-the-air firmware updates, time series storage for data analysis, data services, user account management and more.

The Arrayent Connect Agent helps embedded developers to bring reliable connected products to market, functioning as a firmware module that manages your device’s session with the Arrayent Cloud and abstracts these responsibilities away from your embedded development team – enabling you to focus your resources on delivering a great product experience to your customers, with the emphasis being on developing a great product, not spending all your resources just on the IoT and cloud connectivity infrastructure.

The Arrayent Connect Agent currently supports Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave local- and personal-area networks and computing platforms from major silicon vendors such as Broadcom, Texas Instruments and Marvell, running operating systems such as Linux or FreeRTOS. And because of the cross-platform design of the Connect Agent, Arrayent can quickly spin up support for other platforms if a customer need exists.

The mobile framework for Arrayent’s Internet-of-Things platform helps mobile app developers to rapidly bring intuitive, reliable mobile apps to market for IoT connectivity with devices. The framework abstracts away the complexities involved with using the lower-level web service API and interfaces of Arrayent’s machine-to-machine Internet-of-Things platform into a more friendly presentation layer so that mobile developers can focus on building unique, branded user interfaces for your products.

The Arrayent Data Analytics service delivers business intelligence reports common to all your products, such as device locations, interaction between devices and apps, peak usage trends, and more. Arrayent’s “Data Mart” services aggregate, normalise and filter your device data for connectivity with your existing analytics solutions.

However, careful communication with consumers and market research is likely to be important here, as consumers are likely to be unhappy with any trend towards Internet-of-Things home automation and consumer electronic appliances “spying” on the consumer – even through behaviour such as turning lights on or opening garage doors at certain times – and transmitting that information back to the vendor for the purpose of business intelligence analytics without any obvious value, safeguards and control returned to the consumer.

The Arrayent platform supports over-the-air downloads for firmware updates to devices and network gateways, allowing embedded devices to always maintain the latest updates for optimal functionality and security into the future.

Furthermore, with the Arrayent firmware download management application you can control the safe delivery and phased release of new firmware to the network, even in large-scale networks with hundreds of thousands of connected devices.

Arrayent’s IoT cloud platform typically achieves end-to-end response times of about 200 to 400 milliseconds out to the Internet and back again, providing low latency for your connected devices. The platform is hosted across redundant servers mirrored across geographically separated data centres.

If a hardware or network failure takes down one server, the data is still available at other locations, providing confidence that the Internet-of-Things connectivity cloud for your products is reliable. The platform supports alerts via email, SMS, iOS and Android push notifications and more, in response to programmable triggers from virtually any input data stream. Alerts can also trigger response actions in the product that generated the alert, or in other connected devices on the network.

All of this means there exists another option, another choice, another system to get your Internet-of-Things ideas from your notebook to reality. And doing just that with any system may seem like an impossible task.

However with our team here at the LX group, it’s simple to get prototypes of your devices based on the Arrayent platform up and running – or right through to the final product. We can partner with you – finding synergy with your ideas and our experience to create final products that exceed your expectations.

To get started, 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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