In this episode of the IoT For All podcast, Microchip Marketing Applications Engineer, Patrick Kennedy, joins us to talk through some of the key considerations in designing IoT products to scale.
As a marketing applications engineer in the 8-bit microcontroller business unit at Microchip Technology, Patrick spends his days working to make developers lives’ easier by creating useful tutorials, videos, and other training materials. He spends his spare time consulting with small businesses and non-profits on managing projects ranging from cloud solutions for business automation to embedded projects in sustainability initiatives.
To start the episode, Patrick gave us a little background on some of what Microchip Technology does. Microchip, Patrick said, is a massive company selling a range of hardware components from 8-bit microcontrollers and microprocessors to higher-end products used in data centers, digital power supplies, and even full-fledged atomic clocks. “We basically touch every aspect of the IoT chain,” Patrick said, “ranging from edge nodes to more sophisticated pieces of hardware like FPGAs to be used in data centers or even for machine learning at the edge.”
Patrick also shared a bit on the process he’s seen companies undertake and what they often miss in prototyping that has to be adjusted for full production. Of the design process, he said, it’s all about how “you design your system so that you can deploy 10,000 or 100,000 of these nodes,” and how “you design the products so that as you find other applications or as the technology changes, you reduce the amount of work you have to do to update the system.”
In the end, Patrick said a lot of it comes down to modularity, partitioning the functionality of your device across various chips to enable some additional agility. So if you want to change from Wifi to LoRa, you don’t have to change your design completely from the ground up. He also discussed some other important considerations including security, device failure, and even difficulty acquiring parts in the supply chain, especially where small runs are concerned.
Patrick also shared some thoughts on some of the common issues faced by companies developing their first IoT product, including navigating technical terminology, collecting real-time data while managing resources like power, and managing the supply chain.
And to round out the conversation, Patrick shared two pieces of advice for companies new to the space or currently developing a product. He recommended that companies stay as agile as possible with parts selection. “Imagine you have a prototype,” Patrick said, “and find out that the main processor that you’ve been using and you’ve written all the firmware for has a lead time of 15 weeks.” The second piece of advice Patrick had, was to work with design partners who are highly familiar with the process. Every industry will have its own sets of regulations and testing and will bleed a lot of resources if you’re unprepared. “Never discount the amount of regulatory compliance you will have to do for a product,” Patrick said.
For companies looking for more guidance, check out Microchip’s free IoT Developer Guide on Github.
Interested in connecting with Patrick? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About Microchip Technology: Microchip Technology Inc. is a leading provider of smart, connected, and secure embedded control solutions. Its easy-to-use development tools and comprehensive product portfolio enable customers to create optimal designs that reduce risk while lowering total system cost and time to market. The company’s solutions serve more than 120,000 customers across the industrial, automotive, consumer, aerospace and defense, communications, and computing markets. Headquartered in Chandler, Arizona, Microchip offers outstanding technical support along with dependable delivery and quality.
This episode of the IoT For All Podcast is brought to you by CoreKinect. Check them out at CoreKinect.com
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(02:27) Introduction to Patrick
(03:46) Introduction to Microchip
(05:38) What is your process for designing IoT products for deployment?
(10:29) How does that process change in relation to the scale or stage of an IoT product?
(17:28) What advice do you have for companies trying to navigate the technical side of IoT?
(22:51) How do you define “real-time” and how does that play into the analytics piece of IoT?
(26:26) How does data collection play into the optimization of a device for low-power consumption?
(29:43) What advice do you have for companies getting ready to start manufacturing devices and starting down the supply chain path?
(35:28) What are the AVR IoT and PIC IoT development boards and for what Applications are they good for?