So, you have your new idea, something that might just change the world we live in. Where do you start?
A new project can be scary. This is where you might need a helping hand from an external company, but what will you receive in return? The delivery might be exactly as you specified, but what about the schematics, the source code, and other files related to the project? If your helping hand doesn’t teach you how to use what they deliver, they aren’t really a helping hand.
At TinyROM, we are here to ensure that this remains your project and that you have the training and tools to keep your project up to date. We can help refine your project idea, choose the components required that match your idea and budget, help you set up your project, and train your staff to be able to keep your idea up to date. Once your project is complete, we will always be there if you need us, but our objective is to let you keep on working on your project with confidence. This is your project, after all, not someone else’s.
We can help you with specific parts of your project or completely handle your project for you, but we aim to give you the confidence and technical know-how to be the sole owner of your project.
Proof of concept
The very first step of your project is to create a proof of concept, POC for short. This will be a system that lets you have a closer look at your idea, to see if you like it, and to see if anything needs to be refined. This is also the device that you will take to show investors, and to prove that your idea is a good one!
This is generally done with evaluation boards and creates a system that is far larger and far more complicated than what your final design will look like, but it has the advantage of being easily customizable. At this stage, it is extremely easy to change a component if you find that the previous one wasn’t working the way you wanted.
This is a phase of constant change, but these changes are easily made. This is the best time to say anything you want on performance, sensors, communications, or general usage. A POC can be reworked as many times as you need, and component changes to a final design can be complicated, and expensive.
This is a critical part of your project. Now that the idea has been validated, you have a better idea of what components your project will use. Now it is time to refine that choice.
The heart of your product is the microcontroller. There are literally thousands of devices to choose from, where do you start? You need to find the ideal component, one that balances price, performance, size, and future-proofing your design.
- Price – Microcontrollers can cost anywhere between pennies and tens of Euros, and making the right choice increases your revenue on each product sold.
- Performance – You need to have a perfect balance. Too fast, and your design will drain batteries or create heat. Too slow, and it will directly affect product reliability and the client’s impression.
- Size – Microcontrollers come in all sizes, from the tiniest 8-pin devices (and even smaller!) to 448-pin behemoths. The bigger, the more expensive, but also the more complicated the circuit board it will be used on.
- Future-proof – You know what your design will do today, but how about tomorrow? Will your version 2 incorporate new components, more advanced connectivity? If you choose to select a microcontroller with a little bit more connectivity than absolutely required, it can save time later on in the development phase. This is something we will discuss to make sure the right choice is made.
Tools and workflow
You are almost ready to start working directly on your embedded program, but there are still a few hurdles to overcome. You will need a few tools, both hardware, and software. Prices range from free to thousands of Euros, so which one is better for you? We will go through that together, choosing the solution that’s right for you.
- IDE – Short for Integrated Development Environment, this is the program that you will use to write and test your software. There are dozens available, and choosing the right one can be difficult. Once the choice is made, it can be even more complicated to switch over. We’ll take into account everything to help you make the right choice. Company policy, level of training, budget and even personal preference, there’s a development environment that suits you.
- Flashers and debuggers – Once your program is written, you need a way to send it to the microcontroller, and then to peek inside to see that everything is running as it should be. Again, there are dozens of solutions, and we’ll help you choose.
- Lab tools – Power supplies, oscilloscopes, frequency generators, protocol analyzers… Each project will need something specific, but you need to keep costs low. We’ll help you choose what you need, and when you need it.
Schematics and routing
This is a critical step for your design, getting it from the prototype stage to the final design. The art of making your own electronics board, based on a schematic of your design. We maintain some free Eagle libraries with components that we often use, to help you get started. We even have base schematics for several microcontrollers, saving you time with new designs.