Three 🔥 trends in hardware development
During our recent Q&A event with Kaethe Henning from Alloy Product Development, we had the opportunity to discuss the hot trends in hardware development we're most excited about. These trends — both good and bad — showcase a shift in the field of hardware development. We're interested to see how HW designers will adapt to the changes.
Here are three 🔥 trends in hardware development.
1 - Digitization of component information
As engineers, so much of the information we need is stuck in a PDF somewhere and hard to find. Now, with the digitization of component information, the data we need is more accessible and easier to integrate into our designs.
A few areas where digitization is making a splash in HW include:
Interactive spec sheets (design documentation that is connected to and from the design data) → many manufacturers are starting to use interactive spec sheets to digitize their component and datasheet information, thus making both more publicly available
Ex. Kemet, a capacitor manufacturer, allows you to actually download and manipulate that component information.
Code-template generators → manufacturers for microcontrollers and chips are starting to build more code-template generators to digitize chip information
Ex. Our co-founder, Kyle, loves MX Cube Studio — a fantastic tool for simply getting from zero to one on a production design.
In a similar vein, we can see improved integration around the contract manufacturer and designer interface. More and more CMs are now accepting information in different formats, like raw design files.
The "holy grail" will be when all these systems integrate a little better and communicate in a standard language.
Kyle's trend tip 💡→ If you have the IP considerations that allow it, raw design files are a great way to communicate more information to CMs to make sure they're building the right product and understand the changes being made.
2 - The global electronic component shortage
Although we don't want to be pessimistic as we talk about exciting trends, we think it's also important to discuss the trending topics that are keeping our clients up at night.
The ongoing global chip shortage is not only a component shortage but also a supply chain disruption, and it's impacting companies both large and small. However, for small companies and startups, the impact/challenge is greater.
When it comes to purchasing components — like capacitors, for example — the needs of startups are being pushed to the bottom of the pile. Why? Because the buying power is not there.
When you look at how many capacitors a startup needs versus how many a large company like Apple needs, you can understand why a distributor would choose to give Apple the components over the startup.
Not only would Apple purchase more from the distributor, but they also already have an established relationship with the provider that the startup simply does not.
So, what can companies (especially startups) do to navigate the challenges caused by the component shortage?
Be very aware on a per-component basis what the lead times are for everything that goes into your product and packaging
Identify your highest risk components or cost-driving components on a 1-5 scale
Consider whether you need to dual source your critical components
Conduct supply checks early on in your design process
Maintain an agile review and release process so that you can adapt quickly to externalities
Keep a conversation going with your CMs
Kaethe's trend tip 💡→ Make a plan B...and then make a plan B.1, C, D, and so on.
3 - Blurred lines between hardware and software products
Previously, software and hardware were considered to be two different development practices, each with its own methodologies and schedules. Now, as SW practices are being adopted by HW teams (and vice versa), the lines between what a "hardware product" is and what a "software product" is are blurring.
Where is this interconnection between hardware and software coming from?
Hardware companies are now also becoming software companies (and vice versa)
As both HW and SW become more complex, products call for a higher level of integration → requiring HW and SW developers to work together and adopt the same type of schedule
Ex. A lot of hardware companies are running on two-week design sprints.
Hardware and software are sharing more tools and practices
Ex. Many HW teams are adopting SW practices such as using git, kanban boards, and ticketing systems and tracking.
There's pressure for HW products to meet customer demands by having the same turnaround time as SW products
Ex. To stay relevant, hardware companies must now accelerate their schedules or risk their product (and the technology) becoming obsolete before even launching. Taking two to five years to release a new product is no longer an option.
Valentina's trend tip 💡→ In the future, the successful hardware companies will be the ones that have well-integrated products where the software and the hardware run side-by-side and operate well together.
📕 Read more from Valentina about keeping up with the global chip shortage.
Do you have any specific questions you'd like covered in our future live Q&A sessions? Vote for your favorite topics below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ally Corlett is a marketing intern at AllSpice and a public relations graduate student at Boston University. Prior to BU, Ally received her bachelor’s degrees in communication and psychology from Florida State University. It was there that she ignited her passion for writing and storytelling.