A cross platform approach to embedded development – Part 1: The helpful design environment

So your task is as easy as selecting a microcontroller (MCU) and then implementing the code that meets your application´s needs. Sounds straightforward, right? Well, both inexperienced and seasoned engineers might recognize some significant challenges here. In this blog series, we´ll take a look at some cross platform tools, tools that run on major operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, that can really simplify some of the challenges when undertaking a new embedded development project.

Part 1 – The helpful design environment

Crossplatformblogpost#1-01

As we mentioned in the beginning, we have two tasks going at this stage; the MCU selection process and the actual code implementation. To further complicate the example case, it is an energy-conscious application that must meet strict power-budget requirements. This normally means that you need extensive knowledge of the actual inner workings the MCU you’re working on. In the current embedded market, learning how to use and configure an MCU can often take more time than what is allotted for a development project.

To make matters even more challenging, configuring an MCU to meet advertised data sheet specifications can be an extremely tedious and complex task. In fact, MCU vendors advertise power numbers that are often not easily reproducible since they use corner cases to optimize the presented numbers. So our initial canvas is not as white as we thought, with several factors that make embedded development more complicated than it needs to be.

Using a low-power MCU as an example, we should be able to easily configure it to achieve the lowest power operation, enabling the longest battery life for our application. With a longer lasting battery, we can reduce the size of the battery and hence the end product costs, in addition to also giving the product an edge over the competition.

The best way to accomplish such tasks is to use a comprehensive development platform, not just an integrated development environment (IDE). First, let’s define the criteria for a “comprehensive development platform” (Figure 1) as follows:

  • Complete and educational view of available products
  • Quick and easy way to order or sample a device or kit
  • Ability to configure, develop, analyze and optimize code for a target MCU
  • Technical resources for development hiccups
  • Automatic updates to provide the most up-to-date documentation, software, and examples

blogImageFigure 1. A comprehensive development system includes an IDE

Software tools that provide solutions to the criteria above can simplify the development process and reduce time to market. In part 2 we will take a look at how the first development challenge (complete and educational view of available products) fits into the comprehensive development platform.

Video: Simplify your embedded development with Simplicity Studio

Download the free Simplicity Studio software tool here.

If you have any questions, visit our community page here. Our team will be happy to help.

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