Design of connected products and system-on-module strategy

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Illustration: © IoT for all

Over the past two years, supply chain challenges have caused continuous headaches for design engineers. Shortages have made widely used components difficult or impossible to find. And in some cases, critical parts used in product design have suddenly ceased production. Chip and component makers are grappling with extended delays for materials, resulting in long wait times for fulfillment of customer orders. These challenges threw a series of upheavals in the plans of product engineers, leading to significant delays in their development timelines. But system-on-module (SOM) design with integrated wireless offers a way to circumvent many of these challenges and speed up development projects in the process.

Benefits of the SOM design strategy

A system-on-module design strategy can allow engineers to circumvent many of the shortages and delays that would otherwise slow or halt development timelines. Companies are slashing project timelines by 12 to 18 months by using a SOM that already includes wireless to simplify their connected designs in a way that reduces engineering time while avoiding current chip and component shortages.

Using a SOM strategy can be particularly useful for engineering teams working on products that are not manufactured in very high volumes as consumer products typically are. Some of the product types that SOM is often ideal for include medical devices for use in healthcare and home facilities, industrial systems with visual displays, voice-activated handsets for commercial and industrial use cases, systems scanners and more healthcare, commercial and industrial use cases. Let’s take a look at several other advantages of system-on-module design:

#1: Eliminate Complex Tasks

The single-board design eliminates the complex engineering tasks that are required in chip design to integrate the two key elements of a wireless-enabled device onto a single board: the central processing unit with its associated memories and the power management that supports the app and the wireless module that enables connectivity. This creates a single integrated circuit board that includes the wireless module, the device’s main processor, high-speed RAM, reliable flash memory, and power management. This allows design teams to take a leap forward in the product development process. This approach also involves far fewer components, reducing the risk of projects being stalled by shortages and supply chain delays.

The integrated solution eliminates a significant amount of design work while delivering features that would be complex to achieve with in-house engineering resources, including enhanced security, rich multimedia, enhanced connectivity, machine learning, and more. Security is something I should emphasize because many of the use cases I talked about above – including medical devices and industrial sensors – have to meet strict regulations or standards. enterprise security, such as FIPS and Secure Boot. Building these security features can take months for a lean design approach due to the amount of time-consuming work done from scratch. It’s slow, expensive and risky. System-on-module design using pre-engineered hardware and software solutions can deliver these security features out of the box, saving months of development time in the process.

#2: Resource Partitioning

Resource partitioning is another important tool to use in SOM design. Partitioning resources on the board gives designers the ability to create layers of protection and isolation within the overall design. The first form of this is the ability to run a Linux operating system and an RTOS simultaneously on different parts of a multi-core heterogeneous application processor. This allows the most critical device functions to run in real time on the microcontroller without being hindered by user interruptible processing priorities, such as touch screens.

#3: Virtualization

Virtualization is generally a design concept in the world of servers and data centers where computing resources within and between servers are used in a very flexible way to launch, support and upgrade applications. Virtualization in a server and data center allows organizations to direct computing resources exactly where they are needed, and the same is true in a wireless device. Virtualization within the device’s multi-core microprocessor allows different features to be fully supported by their own dedicated versions of Linux which are firewalled from each other.

For example, connectivity can be isolated to its own Linux instance while display and user input are isolated to another Linux instance. This ensures that critical features do not have to compete with each other and take priority with their dedicated version of the embedded Linux operating system. Another benefit of virtualization in a system-on-module is enhanced security, allowing engineering teams to build strong walls between the wireless radio and the wired network that communicates with the outside and the rest of the device. This ensures that network-based attacks cannot access other critical features and data.

Speed ​​and SOM

The examples above are compelling benefits of a system-on-module design strategy, especially for applications where safety is a priority. But the main advantage is undoubtedly speed. Supply chain issues make this approach to wireless product design a practical necessity, and SOM design will continue to be a strategy for accelerating design projects even after supply chain challenges disappear. .

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