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Balanced designs - choosing the correct technology for a new product

posted Sep 8, 2008, 11:08 PM by Daniel Berenguer

"Balanced design" is a concept that I often use in my reports during the initial definition of architectures for embedded controllers. It's a term that I invented to describe the proportion between device functionality and platform power. Device functionality is the set of functional features provided by the device (ex: amount of control points, graphical interface, communication channels, processing speed, etc.). Platform power gives an idea about the amount of technological resources invested in the controller, most of them hardware capabilities but others related to the operational system (software) itself. Note that this term is only used by me into my projects, mainly embedded controllers and gateways but I guess that it could also be applied to any technological solution in the market. On the other hand, the concept only tries to serve as a parameter when comparing and choosing technical solutions. It should never be used as a way of evaluating the commercial aspects of a product. Unfortunately, technical excellence doesn't always translates into commercial success.

Thus, when could a device be considered technologically balanced? Rating the "balance" of an electronic product depends on the following points:

  • Functionality provided by the device
  • Speed of processing
  • Immunity to faults
  • Configuration and programming capabilities
  • User interfaces
  • Communication channels

In other words, prior to quantify the balance of a product, the product itself must comply with its specifications and provide the functionality that is supposed to have. After that, the platform power is then evaluated. The optimum balance of a device is reached when the chosen platform fits but doesn't exceed the needs in terms of computing. Thus, a product could not be well-balanced at the beginning of its life but gain in functionality and then improving the technical balance progressively with the release of new versions. On the other hand, a device with an overkilled hardware platform and an unnecessarily costly OS will always present a low technological balance.

But which is the interest of providing a good technological balance? I summarize the most interesting points of following this philosophy:

  • Avoid unnecessary power consumption
  • Simplify the maintenance of the product reducing the amount of components
  • Provide an optimum embedded solution
  • Show the appearance of a compact product
  • Avoid unnecessary noise and production of interferences
  • Reduce the overall costs of the product