UX FOR EMBEDDED SYSTEMS
A CODE-FREE MCU EVAL BOARD
Designing an evaluation method for engineers, by engineers, to highlight the following in a flagship microcontroller product:
- Low power operation
- Highlight multiple additional functions the programmable system on chip (PSoC) was great at
- Make the demo run 'out of the box', by:
- Remove the need for installing any software on a PC and syncing the devices
- Remove the need for a lab/ test bench setup - remove cables and connectors.
A standalone, out of the box (DVD case sized) that did all of the above - that sales and field application engineers could carry and demo super easily.
Microcontrollers are small and very, very powerful (and as a result, very complicated) devices, used and programmed by the finest of engineers in the industry. Knowing how much power one consumes can help us answer real world questions like 'how long will this blood glucose monitor's coin cell last using your solution versus a competitors?'
I was tasked with the design and development of an evaluation board, which would allow out of the box operation and interactivity in order to evaluate the chip's power consumption under different performance constraints.
For an engineer at the other end of the table, this typically requires connecting an eval board to a computer,downloading and installing vendor-specific software to program and test the device under different cases. Furthermore,evaluating power consumption requires connecting a voltmeter or ammeter in order to see how much current is being drawn by the the system. We wanted to make this process as quick and painless as possible, without compromising the integrity of the evaluation.
Hardware engineering teams are also human; so even if the engineers work in labs and electronics they will always benefit a quicker (though more thorough) way to evaluate a complex problem.
I did the original design, and then managed three different teams during product realization; one was the Analog Engineering team in Seattle, one the Hardware Integration team in Boise, and of course ours - PSoC3/5 Marketing in San Jose.
The result was a board that allowed users a stand-alone evaluation solution, testing applications like temperature sensing and/or a stopwatch at different chip operating speeds and power modes with no programming required, right out of the box (a double DVD case in fact).
For further performance testing, I laser-cut out templates in transparent and opaque plastic to test how the capacitive sensing buttons would perform under overlays of differing thickness at the original TechShop in Menlo Park, CA.