Making it Easier to Make the Right DecisionsBy Jeff Ittel, Avnet Embedded
Every designer in the process of bringing a product or solution to market is constantly faced with tradeoffs. Deploy quickly or augment the features? Lower the cost or enhance the functionality? These are some of the decisions that must be made as a company defines its target market space and the potential overall offering customers will value most. In the end, these decisions lead to product differentiation and help create a brand identity in the market. Once these choices are made, a new set of decisions arise around how to best implement the solution. Adding to the complexity of this set of decisions is an understanding of how the various sub-components of the application work together. For many designers, taking the time to not only select hardware, but also determine how to connect the individual components is not something they want to spend an exhaustive amount of time on. So given all of these tradeoffs and decisions, coupled with a limited window of time to make them, what is a designer to do?
When it comes to processing, the decision to build around Intel® architecture is often a given for numerous reasons, such as performance, software compatibility and longevity. The question becomes what is the best way to implement Intel® architecture in your application? For many, the solution is a small form factor (SFF) board that couples the processor and chipset with the desired combination of I/O, thermal management and power optimization. There are several industry-standard sizes to choose from, each providing flexibility without requiring complete customization. While processing is the engine that drives the system, it is the display – and in many cases the touch screen – that drives the end-user’s experience. Graphical interfaces enable human-machine interface (HMI), which most people have come to expect when engaging a kiosk, gaming system or security access point. Once again, delivering a product with the right balance between processing horsepower and user interface creates the need to make more decisions. Developers whose personal core competency is not built around harmonizing these elements often consider the process both cumbersome and a significant time-sink.
Fortunately, system designers have a solution to help them select the right overall hardware solution from a diverse set of manufacturers, as well as provide the associated firmware adjustments, device drivers and cable matching. These resources are delivered by technical distributors who invest in system engineers and technical business-development managers deployed in the local markets, along with centralized applications-engineering specialists. These teams are factory trained and certified to the same standard as the manufacturer’s own personnel, and have the added advantage of visibility and access to a wide range of hardware, software and service solutions. A great example of how all of this comes together are distributor-created development kits that provide specific solutions based on tested combinations of the SFF board and display, complemented by cables, support hardware and software, such as the Avnet Embedded Performance Matched Kits (PMK). These kits provide specific solutions based on tested combinations of the SFF board and display, complemented by cables, support hardware and software. Developers using these resources can save considerable time in component selection and integration, and have a better understanding of the various combinations of products and the associated performance tradeoffs.
Product development and deployment is a process full of tradeoffs and decisions. The right decisions made in a timely manner make the difference between a successful market launch and a missed window of opportunity. While these considerations can be complex and daunting – to say the least – there are solutions available to make implementing those decisions smooth and efficient.
Jeff Ittel is senior vice president of marketing at Avnet Embedded.