Development Platforms – Why we need them?
Every time a silicon company launches a new processor or System on Chip (SoC), they simultaneously release a Development Platform. Development platforms are physical boards consisting of a processor/SoC, peripheral interfaces, expansion connectors, and support for debug interface. Development Platforms come equipped with Board Support Package based on popular operating systems and development frameworks, providing an ideal platform that enables engineers, students, product developers, and others to explore and have them familiarize with the new processor/SoC interfaces and features.
Accelerated Product Development
As mentioned earlier, the key purpose of development platforms is to allow users to explore and familiarize themselves with a new/existing processor/SoC interfaces and features. Besides, it works as an ideal product development platform for the customers to jump-start their product development.
The usual flow of a product development process is as follows:
By using development platforms, developers can ensure that their hardware and software development process runs in parallel, thereby accelerating their product development. They help the user to benchmark their software, prototype applications and debug the software.
In the case of using development platforms, the product development process will look as follows:
Development platforms are called with different names like software development platforms, Evaluation Modules, Software Development Kits, Industrial Development Kits, etc. depending on the applications they are intended for or on the silicon vendor releasing them. Development platforms also come in different variants and with different interfaces like w/wo Display, large all-in-one boards that run proprietary operating systems and a host of development tools; or combination of a baseboard with multiple add-on boards catering to different applications.
Let’s look at an example. Mistral has worked with several silicon manufacturers bringing our development platforms and SoM modules based on their latest silicon. One of such development platforms, the 820 Development Kit based on Snapdragon 820 from Qualcomm. This is a modular design, comprising of two boards. One is a light-weight, small footprint SOM module consisting of the SoC, Memory and the 9-axis MEMS sensor and a carrier module with all the other interfaces such as Audio, Display, Camera, USB, GigE, and a Debug UART.
The two-layer design of the product development platform ensured that the customers could use the SoM module as a product from Mistral which gets integrated into their final product design. Wherein the Final product will have a custom design carrier card having all the necessary interfaces to be brought out from the SoM module.
We were approached by a customer who had an existing Android-based Braille Notetaker – a single board solution, to realize a new version with a modular two-board solution using the 820 Nano SOM while maintaining the existing mechanical design. We were able to modify their existing product hardware to accommodate the 820 Nano SOM and its capabilities, by removing components on the existing hardware and adding connectors needed for plugging in the 820 Nano SOM. The software was developed in parallel on the 820 Development platform and ported to the custom-designed hardware. The customer worked on the user application independently. We were able to deliver the proto solution in record time and the customer was able to integrate the entire products, test it and take it to market on schedule.
Development Platforms thus allow product developers and OEMs to quickly and effectively develop software and applications, prototype their custom hardware and quickly integrate the two to create quality products with a quick time-to-market. Using Development Platforms can get product developers a head start on the competition, by creating products and solutions optimized by leveraging the capabilities of the latest processors and SoCs.