Andy Board, Engineering Manager, AndersDX
The user experience is often the dominant metric by which markets judge products like smart appliances, data loggers, electronic security equipment or medical technology. Some are even born from a great idea to make the device faster, more efficient or easier to use than competing products. Interaction is often through an LCD, which may also be touch enabled.
For the product-development team, the complexity of bringing up the display before they can properly begin honing the user experience, can draw valuable energy and resources from the project; not to mention time.
Developing a display is complicated, and calls for a variety of hardware, software and mechanical engineering skills. Specialised know-how may be needed to ensure the display will behave correctly in the target environment, which may involve extremes of temperature, humidity, moisture, or threat of vandalism. Readability may need to be assured in a range of ambient-lighting conditions, and users will always expect immediate response to their every touch or key press.
Product teams need effective ways to streamline, accelerate and de-risk display development. AndersDX is skilled in all aspects of display design, with its team of electronic hardware engineers, PCB designers, mechanical engineers, enclosure designers, and software specialists. Working together, they can blend their skills to create efficient solutions to the challenges that any project can throw into the path of its creators.
Flexible Ways to Engage
Display development kits (Figure 1) have become a popular way for OEM teams to begin their projects. They may already have ideas about the kind of display that is required, and if a kit can be identified that closely matches the vision, the engineers can quickly start developing the application to run on the chosen display. AndersDX provides extra flexibility for OEMs taking this route, with its developer kits that allow users to mix and match from a choice of several boards and displays. All the combinations are fully tested, and come integrated with Qt software libraries.
This is a great way to focus resources on developing the application software, and can help refine the final specification for the display subsystem. While this is ongoing, AndersDX can leverage its skills to design a custom display, incorporating any most-wanted features from the display kit and adding custom features and enhancements as needed, to create a hardware platform for the application that exactly meets the needs of the end product.
On the other hand, if a full custom display design is not needed, an effective alternative is to develop the application using a core module or display that will be used in the finished product. Valuable time-to-market savings can still be achieved by connecting AndersDX to solve specific challenges such as improving optical performance, integrating special features, or making adaptations for special use cases or operating environments.
Experience Removes Risk
For example, AndersDX engineers (Figure 2) can add value to customers’ projects by helping to establish an achievable specification from the outset, and ensuring the project follows a proven, efficient design flow. This helps drive out risk and enable normal best-practice project management to ensure on-time delivery, meeting the specification, and within the target cost limit. Moreover, years of experience designing displays for all sorts of uses has shown that numerous factors can interfere with correct operation of the screen. Without experience, these can be difficult to anticipate, and can take time to identify and solve. We have seen spurious touchscreen responses, for example, caused by a mechanical mount that placed excessive stresses on the display. We also recently helped an OEM redesign a product for mobile use, which had previously been used only in benign indoor environments, by upgrading various aspects for greater ruggedness and increasing energy efficiency to extend battery life.
Another OEM customer, developing the second generation of an existing product, was working with a hardware platform comprising a large carrier board and a 4.3-inch TFT display. AndersDX helped to re-optimise the schematic to allow the PCB layout to be redesigned within the same outer dimensions as the display. This enabled the customer to produce the enclosure using the same tooling as used for the previous product generation and so complete the project more quickly and cost effectively. Redesigning a board for an objective such as achieving a smaller outline can be a demanding task for a small design team.
Many companies base their software development strategy on the Qt open application framework. One of the great things about Qt is that it is deigned to be cross-platform and can run on a wide variety of different hardware/software platforms with minimal modification. Anders has applied its Qt know-how to create optimised libraries that are ready to run on any of the developer kits. These optimised libraries also have a small memory footprint, which relieves pressure on storage and allows the application to load more quickly to ensure fast and efficient launch. Being able to take these libraries and use them directly is a tremendous advantage for any teams that may be unsure how to do the necessary optimisation for their chosen platform.
Although the user interface is often a key differentiating feature when designing a new product, the underlying hardware and software challenges can introduce risk to a project. OEM engineering teams may feel a responsibility to take on as much of the design work as possible.
Partnering with an experienced technical specialist to help with the display design reduces development risks by helping avoid design errors, solving integration challenges quickly and efficiently, and avoiding unexpected complications. A custom or application-optimised display can be achieved cost-effectively and delivered on time, enabling the OEM team to focus on ensuring the result achieves the most important goal: delivering that stand-out user experience that defines the market’s must-have product.
For further information please visit www.andersdx.com