Hardware at Nimbus – Everything you need to know
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Hardware at Nimbus – Everything you need to know

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In IoT, hardware and software work together across the IoT Technology sphere. Whilst many would focus on the front end of an application it is clear to say that hardware decisions impact IoT development from everything down to the products cost, user experience, application capabilities, and more. 

At Nimbus our engineers are responsible for researching, proposing, and executing on hardware choices for the client and their product. We provide system and electronics design services from simple to very complex designs and will be able to support the client all the way from concept through to production. Applications are wide in variety and include sensor data acquisition, Industry 4.0, Space, energy and environmental Internet of Things solutions.

Consulting

We analyse and recommend each and every aspect of the project regarding hardware and firmware providing advice on the latest technologies and their implementation in the best manners. We guide our customers throughout process, ensuring that the requirements are met thoroughly both business and technical needs.

 Designing

 

  1. Hardware design according the latest IPC (Association Connecting Electronics Industries) standards
  2. Assembly option for prototypes using our Pick-and-Place machine (this may be possible in the near future)
  3. Testing prototypes in terms of consumption, technology, behaviour and so on.
  4. Firmware design on the most important technologies and architectures such as 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit microcontrollers using the most sophisticated integrated development environment (IDE) as well as debugging techniques.
  5. Firmware in terms of drivers for communicating with external devices.
  6. Firmware transition and upgrade.

 

Implementation

 

  1. Deployment that requires pre-built existing systems or customized systems for the customer as per their requirement and actual need.
  2. We provide comprehensive Support and Reporting services to our clients.
  3. Optimization of the client’s network and technical capabilities, improving performance as the client’s business continues to evolve.

Hardware Design

 

With hundreds of successful project completions, Nimbus is uniquely suited to engineer your concept into reality. Our Hardware design team will work with your idea, perform detailed electronic design, construct prototype units and refine the prototype design. All work is carried out with a spirit of creativity and innovation, tempered by the practical concerns of manufacturability, cost consciousness, testability and on-time delivery.

  • Systems under tests: The equipment at Nimbus allows us to run certain tests for our clients who have systems that need to be tested and cannot due to clients not having the right equipment.
  • We can advise on the quality of the Firmware (in terms of portability).

 

 

Embedded Hardware

 

Design for manufacturability (DFM): specifications and full production documentation including Gerber files and Bill of materials(BOM). Circuit boards design services. PCB schematic and layout design according to IPC standards. CAD simulations Assembly, testing and verification. Proof-of-concept prototypes (POCs) and preproduction prototypes manufacturing/assembling

 

Firmware Development

 

Our Firmware Development has a specific process:

  1. Designing of the architecture
  2. Identifying the blocking parts
  3. Implementation of the idea (which has several phases according to the IBM software release life cycle)
  4. Test and validation.

 

We do end-to-end Firmware from register (low level drivers) to external drivers. Certain companies don’t always have the capabilities to develop firmware in low level. They would need to use drivers from others. We are capable of coding low level drivers and can work with the registers directly.

We do this through: Communication protocols development. Interface modules (SPI, UART, I2C, Smart GPIO…) and integrations. Internet of things. Remote monitoring and telemetry solutions. Smart city projects. Proximity projects based on GPS, BLE and Wi-Fi. Modular Our Firmware is compatible with different platforms. It can be reused on different platforms instead of starting from scratch.

 

System Integration

 

Interfacing the hardware and software components System testing strategy Validation of system-level functions throughout the integration process Collaboration with Nimbus Software and Mechanical-design groups. Wearable technologies.

 

Product Design

 

Our work methodology adapts to Agile model or Waterfall model depending on the project. We make use of repositories in order to optimise our workflow. With Product Design we do: overall system Architecture, mechanical enclosure designs and small form factor designs.

 

The Nimbus Process: Understanding Technology Readiness Levels

TRL 1 –            basic principles observed

TRL 2 –            technology concept formulated

TRL 3 –            experimental proof of concept

TRL 4 –            technology validated in lab

TRL 5 –            technology validated in relevant environment
            (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)

TRL 6 –            technology demonstrated in relevant environment
            (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)

TRL 7 –            system prototype demonstration in operational environment

TRL 8 –            system complete and qualified

TRL 9 –            actual system proven in operational environment
            (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)

Sample of Recent Projects:

 

  • Custom Design of Sensor Fusion Solution for Monitoring Dairy Processes
    • Milking Parlour: Quality / Early Disease Detection
    • Pasteurization / Fat separation
  • Design and Implementation of an Intelligent Cattle Food Supplement Dispenser
  • Design, Implementation and Validation of Gas Sensing Platform
  • Design and Implementation of a custom FOG Sensing probe
  • Device review and IoT implementation of a Safety device for PSU/Battery
  • Design and Implementation of a Novel Vein Finding Device
  • Design and Implementation of an IBC/BCC device for seamless Authentication/Access Control
  • Characterization and Modelling activities of Quality Control Processes
    • Fertilizer production and extension of product shelf life
    • Coating of Engine Parts during manufacture and reconditioning process
    • Custom Design of Sensor Fusion Solution for Monitoring Food Processes
  • Design and implementation enhanced materials based on contactless sensing principles
    • Touch Sensing Surfaces embedded onto everyday objects
  • In depth background research and state of the art review towards the implementation of an activity monitoring and tracking system for staff and goods in distribution centres and warehouses: the New Industry 4.0 Smart Tag Approach

About IoT Sensing platforms and their dependency on truthful and meaningful data: the importance of experimental validation.

(source ECS-SRA 2018)

 

Effective design technologies and (smart) systems integration, supported by efficient and effective architectures, are the ways in which ideas and requirements are predictively transformed into innovative, high-quality and testable products, at whatever level of the value chain.

These aforementioned technologies aim at increasing productivity, reducing development costs and time to market ensuring the level of targeted requirements such as new functionalities, quality, system level performance, cost, energy efficiency, safety, security and reliability.

Design Technologies include methodologies involving hardware and software components, design flows, development processes, tools, libraries, models, specification and design languages, IPs, manufacturing, and process characterisation. Mastering design technologies and extending them to cope with the new requirements imposed by modern and future Electronic Components and Systems (ECS) are highly important capabilities of European industries to ensure their leading position in ECS engineering. To ensure this leading position, the creation of efficient, modular architectures and digital platforms is needed to enable the system’s intended functionality at the required quality, and support efficient, cost-effective validation and test methods.

Physical and Functional Systems Integration (PFSI) is one of the essential capabilities that are required to maintain and to improve the competitiveness of European industry in the application domains of ECS. Although, in practice, PFSI is often geared towards specific applications, the materials, technologies, manufacturing and development processes that form part of this domain are generic. PFSI is hence an enabling technology in the area of ECS that needs to be further addressed by research, development and innovation (R&D&I), filling the value chain, the gap between technology and application, and moving innovations into products, services, and markets.

The objective of the proposed R&D&I activities is to leverage progress in Systems and Components Architecture, Design and Integration Technologies for innovations on the application level. Effective architectures, design methods, development approaches, tools and technologies are essential to transform ideas and concepts into innovative, producible and testable ECS, and products and services based on them. They aim at increasing productivity, reducing development costs and time-to-market, and ensure the level of targeted requirements such as on quality, performance, cost, energy and resource efficiency, safety, security and reliability. Design technologies enable the specification, concept engineering, architecture exploration and design, implementation and verification of ECS. In addition to design flows and related tools, design technologies also embrace libraries, IPs, process characteristics and methodologies including those to describe the system environment and use cases as well as Reference Architectures, Digital Platforms and other (semi-) standardised building blocks.

Design Technologies involve both hardware and software components, including their interaction and the interaction with the system environment, covering also integration into (cloud-based) services and ecosystems.

Moreover, the importance of software in ECS is increasing since the current trend includes the shift of features from the hardware to the software. This trend aims at standardising more the hardware (reducing the costs) and creating more advanced and customisable features in software (allowing also easier updates and improvements). This shift is required to meet the needs of the market that requires not only safety and security but also short time-to-market and development cycles. Systems architectures, design technologies and especially validation and testing processes have to follow this shift to enable European industry to meet the continuous changes of the market.

Future smart systems will feature new applications, higher levels of integration, decreased size, and decreased cost. Miniaturisation, functional integration, and high-volume manufacturing will make it possible to install sensors in even the smallest devices. Given the low cost of sensors and the large demand for process optimisation in manufacturing, very high adoption rates are possible; in fact, perhaps around 80 – 100% of all manufacturing could be using IoT-based applications by 2025.

“Setting your system to the right time through sensor’s characterization”

Efficient modelling, test and analysis for reliable, complex systems taking into account physical effects and constraints is key for success. The area of efficient modelling, test and analysis for reliable, complex systems taking into account physical effects and constraints comprises hierarchical modelling and early assessment of critical physical effects and properties from SoC down to system level, design and development of error-robust circuits and systems including adaptation strategies, intelligent redundancy concepts, adaptive algorithms.

Furthermore, it deals with production-related design techniques, consistent methods and new approaches for (multi-level) modelling, analysis, verification and formalisation of ECS’s operational reliability and service life taking into account the operating conditions and dependencies between hardware and software, detection and evaluation of complex fault failure probabilities. Additionally, the area is about a consistent design system able to model and optimise variability, operational reliability yield and system reliability taking into account dependencies and analysis techniques for new circuit concepts and special operating conditions. Last, but not least, it comprises advanced test methods, intelligent concepts for test termination, automated metrics/ tools for testability and diagnosis, extraction of diagnostic information and methods and tools for monitoring, diagnostics and error prediction for ECS.

Many of the new ECS benefit from the same transversal technologies. Advanced driver assistance systems and minimally invasive surgery devices both require the heterogeneous (3D) integration of different building blocks. Similarly, intraocular measurement devices and environmental sensors for dangerous substances both rely on wireless communication for data exchange. Also, there is the general trend for sensors and actuators to get much closer to the actual scene in order to measure data in-situ. Hence, harsh environments with high temperatures, humidity, vibration, electrical fields must often be endured for 15 to 30 years, with zero defects and error-free.

In all cases, the highest quality raw sensor signals with high reproducibility need to be provided by the next generation of extremely miniaturised innovative sensors, with lowest power consumption and at mass production levels.

In summary, while you may outsource your design to a third party manufacturer, it is unlikely that they will perform characterization and validation of the sensing platform at a hardware level. This, as mentioned above, may lead to your device not being able to provide with the accurate data required for decision making of your system. While this, in that particular moment, might be blamed on calibration and software driver issues, most likely the inaccuracy of your data is due to a badly or inexistent implementation of characterization and modelling activities.

It is a mistake commonly made to believe that sensor always tell the truth. Not the case. While the technology involved into the creation of new sensing devices and transducers able to provide with precise readings, these have to be conditioned and understood within the contextual environment where the sensors are deployed in.

To make a lay man comparison, it’s like having a swiss watch, which might be very accurate but it is rather useless until is set to the right time. It is then and only then that we can say we know what time it is.

Here in Nimbus, we can help you understand what the capabilities and limitations of currently available technologies are and how they can have an impact in solving any particular technical problem you might be trying to address. We can not only offer with Multiphysics simulation profiles to inform about HW design and optimal sensing techniques selection, but also can design and implement the posterior experimental characterization and validation of any sensing platform as well as its reliability over time through stress testing of the device under harsh environmental conditions.