- Easy to use or die
- Using off-the-shelf components/boards is mighty hard
- Ease of use needs to be matched to a user’s desire for flexibility
- Ease of use can be provided for by a system based on best proven, popular software frameworks
Unless a sensor device is easy to configure and use, it will have a very limited traction in practice. The reason is simple – embedded engineers are too expensive to hire by many System Integrators or by most companies that just want to implement IoT applications in their business. At best, they may hire technicians and provide some on-the-job training for them. But, in many cases, the job will be done by non-technical personnel who understands their business process jobs, but not the details of technology. A good analogy is how personal computers are used at companies these days.
Frankly, today’s IoT devices, which encompass a wide range of technologies within a single system from sensors, through power management, through microcontrollers, through wireless/wired communications, to cloud data interfaces and devices life-cycle management, are intimidating even for seasoned embedded computer and communication experts. Defining and putting together such a complex system from individual, off-the-shelf components requires deep and specialized knowledge and skill. Furthermore, writing embedded firmware that logically connects all these components and makes the system perform its tasks in an optimal way is even harder and requires somewhat different skillset. Once the devices are prototyped and considered suitable for real-life deployment, the next step is to productize them. This development stage may dwarf the the other ones in terms of involved cost and the need for uniquely specialized knowledge: design-for-manufacturing, design-for-test, production sourcing and supplier management, logistics – to name just a few considerations. The more stringent the application requirements, such as harsh operating environment in an industrial settings, the more challenging the this stage is.
What’s needed is an industrial grade, configurable hardware platform that progressively balances the ease of use with customization capabilities to match the varying skillsets of different types of users.
With the ready-to-use, hardened hardware modules, pre-integrated firmware framework and the widely popular script programming environment that even schoolchildren and artists can use, the challenge of configuration and programming of a sensor devices is greatly simplified while still providing much flexibility and freedom that is needed. Additionally, a very quick and painless transition can be made from an application prototype to real-life deployment.