Embedded software provides product functionality, and can be found increasingly in a variety of products from cars and washing machines to mobile phones and audio systems.
"Embedding software in new products can create the kind of functionality and flexibility that delights customers, but getting the software wrong can be an expensive disaster," says David Probert, Head of the Centre for Technology Management. "The Institute for Manufacturing has a lot of experience in this area, on strategic sourcing of products ,and whether to make or buy. We are using this expertise to tackle a new frontier: the who, how and where of software development for manufactured products."
Embedded software provides product functionality, and can be found increasingly in a variety of products from cars and washing machines to mobile phones and audio systems. While embedded software shares many similarities with PC-based application software, a number of factors such as its application environment, complexity, real-time nature, and interaction with other devices make it distinctive. These complex issues present a dilemma to anyone who has to make decisions about development paths and sourcing options. Decision considerations could range from technical matters such as architecture modularity and choice of operating systems, to more generic business matters such as supplier relationships and project management.
The tools that have been developed by the IfM to help with this sort of decision-making are now ready for trial. They are relevant to any company that sells products with embedded software, but the IfM is particularly keen to work with aerospace, automotive and consumer electronics companies. The tools are all designed to help structure the outsourcing decision and to clarify the complexity of the problems involved. They can be used in a number of different ways, for example, to decide where trade-offs can best be made by providing visibility of the interrelationships between the different variables in the decision-making process, and to capture the objectives of a project that is outsourced to ensure they are reflected in the end result.
The tools are the result of an ongoing research project run in collaboration with Philips Digital Systems Lab,Pi Research, and Technology Research and Biochrom.