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BASIL Networks Blog BN'B | June 2018

27 Jun, 2018

Internet of Things (IoT) Security, Privacy, Safety -Platform Development Project Part-11

Part 11: IoT Core Platform Development - Product Development Management
The IoT Embedded Core Platform -Design Documentation Processes

"There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words." - Thomas Reid (1710-1796)


Quick review to set the atmosphere for Part 10
From the previous Internet of Things Part-1 through Part- 10:

What we want to cover in Part 11:

OK, we have covered interesting technical stuff for the overview of what our IoT core Platform should be.  At this time we will cover the basics of documentation, records we should create to insure our design policies and guide lines are covered properly to insure a successful project development.

Yes, I know the temptation, the excitement and anticipation of just jumping right in and designing the hardware and software on the fly and documenting it later, did that many years ago several times and found that way was not very productive during the testing and troubleshooting stages of the development, ended up almost redesigning the device.

Since this is an educational project, lets set some healthy design practices to follow that we may use for many innovative designs to come.  We will discuss the basic requirements of an Interactive Product Development (IPD) System that uses relational databases for our development guide and make this system available at the end of the series.

Lets Get Started:
A Brief summary - Documenting Design Processes:
OK, This part of the series is about product development documentation discipline, I know engineers and experimenters just want to dive in and start connecting parts together on the bench and see what comes out of it.  That is OK, I still feel like that after all these years and at times just do that for a one time only design.  Go for it, you can always refer back here and learn the documentation discipline when you are ready for it.  

During my career one of my mentors stated that if you want to be a product development engineer you have to be responsible for problems that arise in manufacturing, hence, design the product for manufacturing because you will be directly involved in the testing and troubleshooting AND - problems do arise when going from Proof of Design (PoD) development to (PoM) Proof of Manufacturing.  Also just because the PoM worked, there will always be some issues when ramping up to quantity in manufacturing.   When a computer and software are part of the product it is a challenge to anticipate the full variations for a FMA (Failure Mode Analysis) matrix.

The advantage of writing a blog on product development is that we have the opportunity of writing about experiences in order to help the young engineer enter into the world of product design.  To maintain a positive point of view always even when addressing difficult problems that appear negative.

OK, lets address an on going issues of how a project schedule and budget gets out of hand, not something new, it has been an issue of the 38 years I have worked in the industry and it is independent of the field be it building facilities, homes, or computers or whatever.  The concept of going into business to sell product is to make a profit.  If you go over budget including time, the results are less profit and in some cases end of product and possibly company, so in order for this series to be both effective and efficient we should present an approach that addresses both. Oh, did I mention documentation processes, TBD (To Be Determined) and of course SWAG's (Silly Wild A$$ Guess) ?   "SWAGs and TBD will get you in difficulty every time, it is the way many larger contracts are compiled in order to compete and win the contract, only to pay the price later.  The more accurate the documentation is up front the better chances of a successful product development.

Traceability Documents
Experiments and development to maintain traceability in a document form has been an on-going challenge for over 100 years of the industrial revolution.  From Taylorism to the McNamara's WizKids and the implementation of Game Theory that is in all aspects of our lives.  What is interesting is you would think that after all these years the product development processes would have thinned out and stabilized.  As we stated in the previous part, scientific management systems work great after the product is fine tuned in manufacturing, it is still not very effective or efficient during the development process. Wow, sounds too negative, lets look at it a more positive way that is applied to startups and the geniuses that have a dream as with every startup.

Rational organization documents during the product development stages are considered by many designers as an "out-of -the-box-mind set" and should not be confined to a fixed scientific process mainly due to the fact that the innovative mind incorporates way too many variables as well as rapid change of direction to attempt creating a scientific formula to represent it at least during the innovation processes, after the initial design testing is another issue.  There are many documents that may be applied during product development and is usually refined at different stages of development, however it is not a totally spastic process, there are processes for parts of the innovation process, they are just better performed if allowed to be rearranged at times during the development.  They all should be completed by the end of the development cycle prior to being moved into a manufacturing environment, again which is a completely separate process for compliancy and unique validation.

There are many relational databases available but only a few real product development type relational databases that allow the storage of product development facts and data to allow Requirements Traceability and a Rational Cross Referencing Matrix, too many words for an acronym, however the short form is (RTM) Requirements Traceability Matrix, sound familiar?

Pros & Cons of Relational Databases and Spreadsheets:
Databases and more databases and spreadsheets to store and document information into a "data warehouse" of data.  There are many database software packages on the market today and many of them are able to be integrated into MS Windows® Visual Studio and Linux type operating systems to organize information.  The issue is an application that addresses an Interactive Product Development (IPD) environment.  Many database servers like MySql, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, SQLserver, NoSQL and the list goes on for the creation of the database interactively, however data input and retrieval are based on the actual application to retrieve the data in the proper form that makes an application useful.  Storing warehouses of data is relatively easy, retrieving and organizing the data to have proper meaning toward an application is another issue altogether, that is where a good Interactive Product Development system becomes priceless when traceability for components, modules, compliance and requirements need to be reviewed and validated to name a few of the advantages.

Relational Databases:
Relational Databases are a group of digital database tables that are based on a configured indexing model which allows all databases to be aligned to the related indexes for data retrieval and insertion based on the configured model. The relationships are related to a top level index such as the project ID and secondary indexes that allow sub-sections of the project to be retrieved synchronously to generate reports.  There are more advantages to using relational database tables for Interactive Product Development processes than there are disadvantages as many designers have debated.  BASIL Networks has developed a series of small data gathering formats and file that allowed us to interface with various clients document formats and as many SMB manufacturers do not have a full integrated system as some of the larger manufactures that have the financial resources to either develop or purchase.

Spreadsheets Pros and Cons:
Spreadsheets have many great applications for business, however when they are used for technical computations or as a pseudo database we get into difficulty.  Spreadsheets are and X/Y, Row/Column cell format and using them to do complex math and system design causes cell identification issues for understanding a computational process.  The way that the cells perform complex math like averaging multiple cells may be different when performing max/min error analysis on several connected modules.  A true max/min ripple analysis requires an iterative process for each connective modules max/min output to be used as the next modules input variable until all the max/min combinations of the modules are tested,  for 3 modules connected in series that would be 26 =  64 iterations for the 23 for max and 23 for the min data sets.

Many designers use a spreadsheet for the Requirements Traceability Matrix with test cases in a Row/Column format that may also get complex and difficult to read if there are many test cases to handle. Database tables on the other hand are easier to generate a report of any complex relationship and test cases as well as performance results for clarity.

Database Structures, Relationships, Reliability Traceability Documents:
So, for our core IoT Platform we will use the rational organization approach and integrate some relational database methodology that will incorporate MDM (Modular Design Methodology) that may be useful for many years to come. Since this is a core platform that may be applied to many of these critical industrial areas we will document the development and all components used for reliability and traceability to insure the maximum integrity of the core platform.  

Large projects are generally broken own into smaller sub-assembly modules that are categorized for "reuse" in other projects.  A relational database referencing these modules is a required tool for the systems developer, however reuse has issues as we will cover in the MDM section following.

There are many document types presented during a product development process since many different functions of a corporation are involved and require different document formats for each of these functions, of course all requiring access to the documentation system.  This is where the IPD systems becomes the key asset in the success of completing a project.   The IPD system should be considered a living system for tracking the development of a product from financial, marketing, engineering, testing, validation, certification,manufacturing and sales.  That is a lot of different information formats and types to handle.  Attempting to handle all this data independently without relational database structures flexible formats would make managing a complex project vulnerable to missing data for accurate status, hence the relational database system retrieves up to date status information for many departments working on the project.

These database tables will allow complete traceability during the development process and a index database table that keeps track of how each of these database tables are to be indexed for data retrieval.  The largest of these tables is the component databases, it is obvious that we do not want to be a parts distributor, however we would like a complete set of information on each part that a project uses including multiple sources and timelines for the part.  Many printed circuit board design packages do allow for integrated component selection, however they are limited to the electronic design of a board.

The Interactive Product Development relational databases have several common corporate wide databases that are used to manage the development, the main set of databases that are independently maintained usually by supply chain management are the components databases.  Components or parts databases are a unique set of databases that categorize all the raw parts used as a resource for the product development.  There are many categories for components and are broken down into several databases with the links to add other component categories as needed for growth.  The remaining databases are relational to the projects of which data may be retrieved for each of the several functions for reports and real time information about product development processes.

Many small and especially startup companies are slack in the documents and focus on getting the product to market first only to find later the cost of poor development documentation is very costly.  Implementing an Interactive Product Development system initially saves time and money as the product matures and the company grows.  Reports may be generated easily during the development process to manage the development process effectively, yes it does require discipline to enter the data as required during the development, including design notes that the designer encountered especially during test cases.  Entering data is where many designers negligent for many reasons and we all have our reasons, regardless, developing good engineering practices in the beginning pays off at the end.

The typical  Interactive Product Development system set of relational databases are outlined in Figure 11.0 below.  As we see the relational database with multiple index relationship functionality is a definite requirement to interconnect all the different information for project development tracking and analysis.  We will cover more on the IPD system prior to making it as a download for our readers at the end of this series.

As the author of this series I have thought of combining all the separate modules to create an IPD system for the Entrepreneur and have decided to give this an attempt using the document creations for this series.  The requirements are simple it has to interface with current day desktop and web applications easily, that is MS Windows, Linux, and Web Servers.  The use of  MySQL® table format is probably the simplest choice for all the IPD database applications since it is widely used, compatible with many operating systems and open source.  If you want to be part of this, click here to send me a note.

Since this is an educational series, BASIL Networks will be developing a full IPD system for those entrepreneurs that want to develop and manufacturer their own product lines from the processes we create during this series and will be available for downloading along with the Interactive BUS Protocol Development (IBPD) system at the end of the series.  

Figure 11.0 Interactive Product Development (IPD) System Relational Databases

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MDM - Modular Design Methodology, The "Reuse" Module Dilemma:
Modular Design Methodology has been around for many decades in order to have manageability over large system developments such as the Internet, Automobile manufacturing and more that incorporate many sub-assemblies all connected together to form a product.  Well all this sounds great and is one of the main motivating leverages that drives the industry to the "REUSE" dilemma that modules can be reused for other projects, "however", not all modules are fit for reuse without extensive rework which puts the module outside of the plug and play requirements of the reuse category.

The reuse issue is a touchy subject matter for large corporations since the communications pipeline seems to get distorted as it travels throughout the engineering and management levels.  For larger corporations, hence automotive, aircraft, military weapon systems, power grid systems, cell tower base systems that all require full traceability down to the smallest component level, reuse would be great if it really existed to its full capability, however reality proves it does not, which sounds a bit oxymornic with today's data warehouses of information one would think that it would be easier to maintain more accurate records.

The Reality of Reuse:
In larger corporations the percentage of reuse modules "AS-IS" without rework is very small, over my 38 years in the industry the "AS-IS" module reuse appears to fall in the less than 5% region.  For modules that require 20% or more which is at the redesign point depending on the specific rework or specification change, average to around 30% over multiple product lines and require other system integration changes to incorporate them.  Beyond the 25% change region it should NOT be considered a reuse item and would or should be assigned a unique part number requiring full PoD, PoM, Validation and Certification.

Larger corporations still strive to develop modules for reuse within their organization and expect their in house technical expertise to perform these tasks over and above their normal assigned duties.  Do not get upset folks, this has been an active process for over 50 years that I am aware of, a little bit of positive stress bring out the achievers in all of us and is healthy for growth.  Some companies take the outsource approach expecting that "FFF" (Form-Fit-Function) identified the module as reuse even if from different manufacturers also has it pitfalls, this is the "Solutions Business Approach".  Many of these reuse endeavors end up costing more time, money and resources than it would be to manufacture a new item.  When we look at the evolution of the computer from the 1950's to present day we see many reuse examples of standardization that actually worked for the growth of the industry, hence: the Hard Disk Controller originally would require the reformatting of the drive if the controller had to be replaced. Today with SATA, controllers and drives are interchangeable. The standard graphics controller followed the standard 640x480 and 800x600 format regardless of any higher unique designs that required a custom driver. The USB and firewire, the keyboard and mouse controllers, these devices became the plug and play and followed the true reuse criteria of the industry.  The main reason is due to the fact that they became "Industrial Standards", however this is not true for many larger present day corporations as the Military Industrial Complex manufacturers that are constantly innovating and prototyping new technology and systems as well as the automotive industry that function much in the same innovative mode.  As with all technology and industries as the technology becomes widely used, standards are developed and the industry thins out to a few commodity players that have a large library of reuse modules such as the cell phones and CDMA modules, Bluetooth, WiFi, touch screen and camera modules.  

It appears that until a technology is understood and integrated into our everyday lives and becomes a standard the scientific manufacturing process such as Taylorism easily makes it a commodity for the masses.  In summary, technology changes fast, parts become discontinued, performance demands change continually and today's reuse module maybe absolute before its next application.  OK, enough for the industrial revolution history lesson, back to the IoT Core Platform development.

Document File Types and Data File Links:
There will exist many different document types during a product development cycle and keeping track of the different file types becomes a challenge.  Naming conventions for files and directories will help organize the development an information retrieval.  The directory naming convention used in the IPD system follows the same naming file and directory conventions as shown in the IBPD system shown in this site which has evolved over the years at BASIL Networks.  As for the document application software take your pick, however it is advised that the file formats should be compatible software to be able to communicate with other organizations outside your immediate development environment.

For Document creation many developers use MS Office, the startups and smaller entrepreneurs' find that open source LibreOffice is just as effective and efficient and allows easy read/write file exchange with other office documentation software.  At BASIL Networks, we use MS Office as well as LibreOffice in order to handle many different document types in the industry.  BASIL Networks IBPD system incorporates a general purpose Rich Text Format (*.rtf) editor we will also incorporate it into the IPD project since rich text formats are easily created via most word processors.  The RTF editor incorporated in the IBPD system is used for all abstracts of the different documentation file types that are linked via the relational database system, in some cases it may be used to outline the actual test setup.

Security, Intellectual Property
It is always a good idea to at least mention security and Intellectual Property since we are presenting product development processes.  It has been my experiences that ideas are a dime a dozen and many will forget they have been spoken, that is until someone applies that idea to fruition.  When there exists product it is at that point that the inclusive Intellectual Property (IP) becomes of interest to the hackers.  We all use computers to design, develop and create products with even being on-line during the process, which today is not a good practice to employ since many of the new processors have active management system internal to the processor chip.  It is recommended to uses an off-line (not accessible to the Internet (incoming or outgoing) when developing product that contain IP or trade secrets that you do not want to be hacked and sold to the highest bidder or worse.  Keeping a development server off line is not a difficult task, it is just a stand alone server that is connected to workstations, we have a few here and yes, we have desktops that are not connected to the Internet.  Encrypting all the development files is time consuming and at time a "Pain where the sun don't shine" however if you feel that the product you are developing is worth a large amount of money, then data protection has to be performed is some way.   We will cover real time encryption/decryption when we get into the software development stages for the series.  We are not concerned with encryption of this series since is a public education series.

With today's information hacking we do recommend a local off-line (air-gap, not wireless) server to save development files including the relational databases to insure some type of security from hackers.  Keep in mind that what ever you publish on-line should be consider open source for everyone and anyone to make copies regardless of any conditions you put with the publication.

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Development documentation is and always will be a critical part of product development.  This is even more critical when it come to software coding.  There are thousands of lines of code free on the Internet, however when you try to read how it works there are little or no comments.   During the computer revolutions early days at Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) the programmers were trained and required to keep all library routines at a complexity level of 5 on a scale of 10 and easily understood code comments explaining the library function use requirements.  Somewhere during the new wave of software development this rudimental format got lost.   Documentation discipline is not covered is technical school or colleges in design engineering and is left to the individual companies to introduce their method of development documentation.

The challenge is to maximize module reuse and minimize the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of devices and equipment from a technical aspect as this series is based on.   The IoT Platform being presented here addresses the latest approach in product development to fine tune the technology and handle the changing business models and companies grow.

When we get to the physical hardware design we will be incorporating design software from Cadence for the schematic capture and PCB layout and Autocad for the mechanical packaging.  We will also present other formats for education purposes allowing the readers to follow with other design software.

When we get to the software development portion of the IoT Platform all routines will be flowcharted along with the appropriate code for the routine.  

As the author of this series I have thought of combining all the separate modules to create an IPD system for the Entrepreneur and have decided to give this an attempt using the document creations for this series.  The requirements are simple it has to interface with current day desktop and web applications easily, that is MS Windows, Linux, and Web Servers.  The use of  MySQL® table format is probably the simplest choice for all its database applications since it is widely used, compatible with many operating systems and open source.  If you want to be part of this, click here to send me a note.

Since this is an educational series, BASIL Networks will be developing a full IPD system for those entrepreneurs that want to develop and manufacturer their own product lines from the processes we create during this series and will be available for downloading along with the Interactive BUS Protocol Development (IBPD) system at the end of the series.  

Part 12  "Preliminary Outline" Embedded Processor Systems Hardware: -Continued

More to come in the series

Reference Links for Part 11:

Requirements Traceability Matrix  (RTM)
Project Management
Mezzanine Board

The majority of Internet scheme and protocol information are from a few open public information sources on the net, IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) RFC's that explain details on the application of the protocols used for both IPv4 and IPv6 as well as experimental protocols for the next generation Internet  and the Network Sorcery web site.  The remaining of this series on the IoT platform will be from BASIL Networks MDM (Modular Design Methodology) applied with the Socratic teaching method.  Thank You - expand your horizon- Sal Tuzzo

Network Sorcery:
The Internet Engineering task Force: IETF - RFC references

Memory Segmentation
The Memory Management Unit (MMU)
Virtual Address Space
Virtual Addresses and Page Tables
Extended Memory

Part 10 IoT Core Platform - SoC Core Processor of Embedded Systems-Product Development Management (May 5, 2018)

Part 12 IoT Core Platform - IoT Core Platform - Product Design -Creating Conceptual Design Documentation (July 29, 2018)


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