If adding a cell modem is dealing with a drama queen of a hardware component, then choosing from among the many types of modules available turns the designer into an electronics Goldilocks. There are endless options for packaging and features all designed to make your life easier (or not!) so you-the-designer needs to have a clear understanding of the forces at work to come to a reasonable decision. How else will Widget D’lux® finally ship? You are still working on Widget D’lux®, aren’t you?
OK, quick recap from last time. Cell modems can be used to add that great feature known as The Internet to your product, which is a necessary part of the Internet of Things, and thus Good. So you’re adding a cell modem! But “adding a cell modem” can mean almost anything. Are you aiming to be Qualcomm and
sue Apple build modems from scratch? Probably not. What about sticking a Particle Electron inside to bolt something together quickly? Or talk to Telit and put a bare modem on a board? Unless you’re expecting to need extremely high volume and have a healthy appetite for certification glee, I bet you’ve chosen to get a modem with as many existing certifications as possible, which takes us to where we are today. Go read the previous post if you want a much more elaborate discussion of your modem-packaging options and some of the trade offs involved. Continue reading “Finding the Goldilocks Cell Module”
Many of us develop things for one of two purposes: to hack something cool, or to sell something cool. When hacking something cool, your target market is yourself, and you already know you’ve made the sale. If your goal is to sell the thing you are making, then a lot more thought and effort is required. You could develop the coolest product in the world, but if your target market is too small, your price is too high, your lead time is too long, or any of a dozen other factors is not quite right, you’ll be spending a lot of time and effort on what will amount to a huge disappointment. The Hackaday Prize Best Product has many great examples which let us study some of these success factors, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Will it Sell?”
That’s the best and most obtuse title you’ll ever see for a Hackaday post, but surprisingly it’s pretty accurate. [Bob] over at the Sector67 hackerspace took part in a 111-day accelerator program in Shenzhen last year to improve his manufacturing skills. He’s just about ready to release his first product, a Bluetooth device that connects to an ice fishing tip-up. The blog for the device recounts the challenges of taking a project from a circuit to a finished product, and illustrates the difference between building something with an Arduino and selling thousands of devices.
The circuit boards for BlueTipz come in panels of eight, but what’s the best way to populate and solder five thousand devices in a reasonably short amount of time? [Bob] hired a few students from the local college to help him out in assembling all these devices. The plastic enclosures were made at a local plastics manufacturer, but the molds were made in China. The manufacturer needed to modify the molds a bit, but after a few days, [Bob] had five thousand enclosures ready to stuff full of electronics.
With the devices assembled, it’s time for programming, and that means building a programmer. [Bob] put all the guts for the device into a plastic box and 3D-printed a mount for the bare BlueTipz board. Put a board on the mount, press a button, and the tech now has a functioning device in his hands.
Besides manufacturing, there’s also a whole lot of testing that went into the design of BlueTipz. Because this is a device for ice fishing—a cold and potentially windy operating environment—[Bob] built a test rig in a freezer. The test rig triggers the device’s sensor, waits two minutes (the amount of time it would take for an ice fisherman to check the tip-up) and resets. They claim the battery life is good for 600 fish, and with this testing rig they were able to verify their calculated battery life with real-world data: without actually catching six hundred fish, of course.
Not only does [Bob] have a good bit of product development under his belt, he was also kind enough to go over the stuff everyday electronic design just doesn’t cover. Developing a product is something you can only learn by doing, and we’re glad [Bob] chose to share his experiences with us.