The development kit will play an important role in changing the electronics industry – for designers, distributors and purchasing professionals alike. In the last year alone development kits were used in 45 percent of all designs, according to an element14 survey. Today’s development tools have become so sophisticated, it’s easy to forget they were once designed solely as a learning tool for microprocessors, with board components kept to a minimum in an effort to keep costs down.
These more advanced kits are enabling unique solutions to real market needs. Powerful design tools at the hands of independent innovators are democratizing the manufacturing industry. Finished products are getting to market faster than ever before as we see more ready-made, low-cost boards enable DIYers to develop solutions once produced solely by mainline designers.
Supply and Demand
An overwhelmingly positive response to single board computers has encouraged more manufacturers to develop them and more distributors to supply them. In turn, the way customers engage with more traditional electronics distributors and suppliers is evolving. Engineers today expect support through the design cycle, versus just a variety of components to choose from. Designers are finding they have more room to experiment with prototyping in the workplace, which has boosted the need for more support-based resources.
The way customers interact with more traditional component distributors and suppliers is also evolving. Setting price points aside, ease of use, convenience, support and functionality all impact engineers’ decisions to purchase new dev kits. Moreover, businesses and entrepreneurs have begun integrating dev boards directly into their product designs in an effort to cut down on development time and costs. As dev kits continue to improve the design of new prototypes and bring more of them to life, the industry demand for those kits will only continue to grow.
Segments to Watch
The present day uses of development kits are already well known. Common applications range from testing and prototyping to automation and control. Embedded dev kits are evaluation tools for components like microcontrollers or microprocessors, while analog kits are leveraged for many technologies including sensing, power management and signal conditioning. In thinking about the future of development kits, purchasing professionals must consider its larger link to the electronics design industry.
The Internet of Things, for example, will influence three distinct directions in which development kits will grow: power consumption, connectivity and human machine interfacing (HMI). We will see the proliferation of battery-powered handheld devices become the industry standard and drive the development of wireless charging. Next-generation development kits will also play a vital role in assisting engineers designing wireless interfaces into their products. The wireless sector is set to flourish as IoT introduces more uses for newer communication technologies such as RFID and NFC. Lastly, capacitive sensing and HMI will become more prominent in a wider variety of designs as well as incorporating more advanced technologies often found in smartphones– such as audio and haptics feedback. Future iterations of development kits will also be crucial for designers looking to incorporate advanced technologies like touch sensing into their prototypes at a lower cost.
Development kits have already paved new roads of design for the electronics industry. Existing solutions like BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi have democratized the manufacturing process and altered the relationship engineers and purchasing professionals have with their suppliers and distributors. As more advanced solutions hit the market, designers will look for more than just variety of choice when making their purchasing decisions. The Internet of Things presents a new set of key design challenges that will only amplify the need for those support services. When navigating the dev kit market consider how these once educational resources have become more sophisticated and responsive to the changing needs of the design engineer and the industry at large.
Cliff Ortmeyer is Global Head of Solutions Development at Newark element14, a global electronics distributor and online community of more than 250,000 design engineers and electronics hobbyists. Cliff has 20 years of industry experience and recently led the development of an element14 study into the changing development kit landscape. Visit element14.com to learn more.