It can sometimes be hard for us to peg where we sit in the product development tree.
At our day jobs, many of us will sit in fairly tightly defined roles — part of a (hopefully) well oiled machine of product development — each playing our part in the well defined process of pulling together and pushing a product to production.
Outside of work, some of us even carry that torch into the night - and often the early hours of morning — fulfilling orders from our own workshops, to be flung about the world to keen recipients around the world.
Wherever you sit in that scale, there's a good chance that by now, you've had some taste of what it takes to get a product to market. Depending on what industry you are sat in, that will have left some likely lasting lessons of the sometimes long winded labor of love.
Whatever experience we have in this industry, we all know how long it can take to go from the back of a napkin, to the bank — hopefully collecting buckets of cash along the way!
What if there was a different way to approach the IoT product development lifecycle? One that could transform your time to market?
Well, Arm has a feeling that their latest offering might shed a new light on how to lay out your roadmap to market...
The product development lifecycle for IoT has traditionally been something of a linear looking affair — with its sequential flow of prototyping the greatest system based on the latest silicon, before moving on to hardware MVP — finally allowing for code development to slip in to what limited time remains. before the product is (hopefully tested...) and launched!.
This gated flow can be cumbersome and long winded — with each part of the process requiring the previous stage to be completed and signed off before the next can take place.
Think about it, there isn't much code to be written until the hardware is fixed and debugged of potential errata, and there isn't much to test until that code is running happily on the target hardware.
Designing the latest technologies into a product can take five years or more
Even with a tightly oiled development cycle, producing bespoke code for bespoke devices - the lack of scale in such development can also — on occasion — be a colossal waste of time.
Even with our own gated ecosystem of maker-friendly, supposedly hardware agnostic frameworks and libraries, and "verified" maker boards, spanning only a small subset of the silicon out there on the market, it's rare to see anything but the simplest Arduino sketches porting across the various processors within the family without even a small adjustment here and there.
Having to rewrite and adjust code every time your hardware target changes can feel like climbing a waterfall.
Well, Arm has a few tricks uptheir sleeve...
I sat down with Mohamed Awad, VP of all things IoT and Embedded at Arm, to talk about Arm Total Solutions for IoT — and to not only see what it is they are bringing to the table, but just how these offerings look set to transform the way we embedded designers go about IoT product design.
The first stage of the plan is to break the linear flow of product design - where each stage builds upon the successful output of the stage before.
Prototype gives way to MVP, MVP can then act as a development target for code, etc.
Arm suggests that instead of the previously discussed linear flow, this work, and the stages within it, can be completed in parallel, leading to huge time savings, and down time as engineers sit wating for the previous team to sign off.
While the hardware team are getting busy, the firmware team can leverage a modern approach to the key aspects of software development and testing — DevOps, MLOps, and Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) can be implemented across scalable cloud-based development and testing services.
We touched on the fun of porting even simple 'duino sketches across the various processor cores supported by the Arduino framework.
With a more defined target platform, well defined APIs and standards, Consistency in packaging, deployment, and security — software reuse is projected to save developers time and efforts in re-inventing the wheel.
All of this can be quickly summarized at a glance in the handy timeline diagram below — with Arm Total Solutions for IoT cutting down on that 5 year estimate, to somewhere in the three year ballpark.
That is a significant reduction in time to market — 40% ! — , and thus, reduction in time to profit! Hoorah!
With a high-level overview out of the way — let's dig into the lower level and see what magic is going to make this happen!
First up, let's take a look at corestone — the hardware target Arm hopes will be the cornerstone of your design flow!
Corestone is a virtualized hardware platform — providing a known good hardware configuration for the firmware and software teams to target. With a range of configurations targeting different levels of performance — it's easy to pick the corestone config that suits your projects requirements!
With your corestone chosen, the firmware team can get straight to work, months before the physical hardware turns up! How?
With Arm virtual hardware targets!
Hosted in the cloud, Arm's virtual hardware targets provide a digital doppelgänger, a virtual corestone device that can be used to safely and confidently develop and test your new application — all without ever seeing a PCB!
With stacks of prebuilt IP available for use on the various corestone platform configurations, designers can immediately pull together everything required to realize their next product, all from just a few mouse clicks.
New Virtual Hardware Targets will reduce product design cycles by up to two years — and with additional corestone configurations coming thick and fast over the next few years — there's a target slated to meet nearly every IoT application we can think of, and then some!
The last tools in the box are Project Centauri (for the Cortex-M corestone targets) and Project Cassini, targeting the Cortex-A targets.
These projects represent a set of Foundational standards, security frameworks and reference implementations that can be used to create software leverage — by reducing the amount of time and effort that would normally be spent in this part of the cycle.
If there's one thing we know, it is how long a project can spiral on for during this stage — with quirky bugs and implementation errors often throwing our project flow charts into foul waters.
A clean set of software development tools and practices, all built upon on top of the corestone hardware targets mean that the chances of getting waylaid here are far reduced — ideally, to zero!
This all sounds a bit too good to be true. The offer of pre-validated hardware targets, software offerings and CI/CD tooling — all at your fingertips — is certainly a wild claim!
So now, we look to you makers to dig in and see how this innovative new ecosystem is poised to make waves in the design of the next generation of IoT product.
Check out all the wonderful details here — straight from Arm themselves — and see what it is that your development cycle could be missing out on!