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Alpha Project- Phase 1

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by nlol, Apr 11, 2016.

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  1. nlol

    nlol

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    Apr 9, 2016
    • The goal of this project is to develop a multi-unit system, operating on its own hub-centric network. All application logic will be contained in the hub. The remote units will be of two types - A & B.

      A type: These devices will wirelessly communicate with the hub and contain both graphic display and data input capability. These will be 'dumb' devices - no data processing or data storage other than that necessary to receive data from the hub, transmit data to the hub, and display data received from the hub is necessary. A dedicated tablet like device is envisioned with perhaps a 7 - 10" display. The display needs to be easily readable in anything from darkness to bright light. The display must be non-glare; high resolution is not necessary. Data input is envisioned as done by having an operator for each type A device, with the simple touching of one of several 'buttons' displayed on the tablet screen - two or three buttons are sufficient - (the value of these systems is in the operator knowing when to press a button). In addition to the dedicated device, an app might be developed so that a smart phone or general purpose tablet or portable computer can be substituted for a dedicated device. The dedicated device is to be somewhat rugged - certainly more rugged than common user grade tablets and portable computers. Relocation of systems from jobsite to jobsite will be frequent. These devices will be powered by enclosed rechargeable batteries with optional connectivity to 120/220 utility power.

      B type: These devices will have no display beyond indicator lights showing the device is powered on and verifying network connection -(although a miniature display of video data may be later determined to be desireable). These devices receive audio and visual data from the hub and provide appropriate connections for video display devices (such as large flat screen TV/computer display or projector systems) and amplified speakers. These devices will be powered from 120/220 ac utility power.

      The hub will interface with all type A and type B devices simultaneously - supporting at least 12 of each. This capacity could be provided in either a 'full' hub - or in a lesser capacity hub that could be expanded with one or more modules. The hub's processing speed, memory, and data storage reguirements are modest. The hub requires some data/option setup before each run. Setup data is alpha-numeric suitable for graphic keyboard entry. In operation, the hub will process operator input as well as input from type A devices. The hub should be battery powered as well as with 120/220 utility adaptor.

      Note: Some systems may operate close to other systems (even overlapping) each other's wireless operating areas. They must operate independently and without interference - and with fcc approval.

      There needs to be a means to distribute and install software updates to the hub and its devices. Software update installation and version checking needs to be easy for the system operator. System operators and setup personnel are not expected to be required to have as much as even average end user tablet/computer application user skills.

    • Security: Monitoring of transmitted data is of no concern . However, unauthorized access to data in the hub as well as insertion of data to all devices must be prevented.

    • That brings us to my technical questions, and likely you'll suggest some more questions I should be asking.

    • 1) My hope is that it is eminently practical to convert the prototype to production. For example, (and ONLY as example, I don't want to bias either the discussion of the merits of this approach, or the chosen technology) TI, ARM, and Atmel Arts appear to supply hardware and software to facilitate translation of an arduino based prototype to production. Given the end product goals, what are the leading prototyping and production tools?

      2) What is the best wireless communications technology for the application - wifi, bluetooth, rf, etc? The required communication range is a minimum 200 feet, but a capability to reliably operate at 600 yards or extend the range to that is desireable.

      3) What are the the top 2-3 choices for (easily) making circuit diagrams?

      4) Lastly, but the first question to answer is, 'Which website/forum is best for discussion of these and future questions?'

      Thanks

    • PS, I have no idea what caused the 'dots' at the beginning of some lines in this post, nor how to remove them.
     
  2. Anon_LG

    Anon_LG

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    Jun 24, 2014
    How much money do you have?
     
  3. nlol

    nlol

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    Apr 9, 2016
    Money: Let's assume the cost of everything needed for prototyping and migration of the prototype to finished product will have no future value or use. Thus, nothing need be more capable than this project requires. However, the finished product is to be, in every way, professional, commercial, and have a world wide distribution and support system. The manufacturing cost of the finished product should not be wasteful, but it need not have the lowest possible cost.
     
  4. Anon_LG

    Anon_LG

    453
    117
    Jun 24, 2014
    OK, so an unlimited budget. Is this a first project? This is a rather large project, and will likely cost £100's, depending on the amount of units produced. Is this a commercial product? Does it have to meet any regulations? Are you building this by yourself?

    In terms of unit A, a Raspberry Pi 3 with a 7 inch official display springs to mind. This is by far you best option if you are developing the product due to the expandability combined with the masses of information surrounding the Pi to be found on the internet. Utilising the peripherals of consumer devices to produce signal outputs is a little more tricky. They are largely proprietary based devices, with firmware data locked down. You can manipulate audio with relative ease, and read of the waveforms from the audio jack. Simpler problems can be handled by microcontrollers, eg the keypad, wireless connection (assuming low baud rate) and power management.

    Q1: The next step up from an arduino is an AVR programmed in C. Arduino is somewhat similar, but you will have more responsibility in controlling the internal states of the AVR. For example, setting input and output ports involves setting the direction register, rather than specifying SetOutput(PinNumber) etc. You will find a lot of support for AVR's and PIC's over other types of uc's due to their popularity with hobbyists.

    Q2: Someone else will have to advise on this one, I have not done very much on wireless before.

    Q3: Pencil and paper
    LTspice
    EAGLE CAD
    This is largely personal preference. EP has an extensive list of EDA's here, compiled by the late Kris.

    Q4: Right here. This site has extremely experienced members, notably the staff and others with industry experience or a lifetime of electronics experience. Some of them might be along later.

    The dots were caused by the "unordered list" tool, see the bar above the text box, that or one of many phantom problems to be found with technology.
     
  5. nlol

    nlol

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    Apr 9, 2016
    Lava: This is my first commercial electronic system development project. My electronic skills are those of a very outdated but once-upon-a-time-as-good-as-they-come repair technician. 'No' - in its totality this is not a large project - I've managed MUCH larger projects and I've founded, bought, run and sold small corporations. I regard the system as simple. Only electrical and electromagnetic radiation regulations need to be satisfied - I envision this will be simple/facilitated by using commercially available modules. I intend to breadboard the prototype myself - hardware and programming. Whether I or a contractor assembles initial sample units isn't (yet?) in the workplan for this phase. Ultimately, the market easily exceeds a few tens of thousands of systems. I'll contract that production.
     
  6. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    13,894
    1,969
    Sep 5, 2009
    I think you are seriously underestimating the complexity of this project ... your stated backgrounds in this post contradict each other.
    Buying and selling companies isn't the same thing as designing and building complex electronics systems
     
    Anon_LG likes this.
  7. nlol

    nlol

    10
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    Apr 9, 2016
    Lava: ... continuing (I was interrupted). I'm aware of the various Strawberry PI's and their ilk, but have no experience with any of them. From what I've seen of specs - 'yes', I think these computers on a chip would satisfy prototype operational requirements. However, I have no knowledge of how such a prototype is translated to production. Pushing forward in the logical direction; 'Why not develop the A unit prototype using a tablet - the end form envisioned?' I'm sure there are many factors. The biggest one I see is the network technology. A little wifi hub should work, but is that best wireless choice for this system?

    As to PIC vs AVR, and IDE's, and etc - I don't have a glimmer of understanding enough to make those choices. That sort of evaluation is something I'm hopefully able to shortcut on electronicspoint. As to programming, I've done a great deal, but only in a high level language. If it turns out developing the prototype in a high level is impractical because there's no tool to translate it to the production environent and code, so be it, I'll get a programmer if necessary.
     
  8. nlol

    nlol

    10
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    Apr 9, 2016
    Davenn: I've expressed myself poorly, perhaps more so than I think, and from the very beginning. First, I took the comment I was replying to as encompassing the whole business venture. I tried to inspire some confidence in my answer - that I'm well qualified in project management and building and running businesses, and not wasteing anyone's time. I intend to not provide a resume. I intend to not disclose information that would allow someone to understand the purpose/use of the system to be developed. It's my time and money that will be spent.

    As to the complexity of the system, we perhaps see the world differently. Functionally, from the user's perspective, the system is easily understood and operated. What complexity exists behind the curtain? Well, if I was to hire a team of EE circuit/logic designers, I agree, it would be a complex (and expensive) undertaking. However, these days, most end products contain great complexity but can be assembled from readily available components. The trick is knowing/learning which components to choose. People build their own celestial telescopes, bench rest rifles, automobiles, houses, computers - many things - based on relatively modest technical skills. Additionally, many companies now produce a wide range of modules intended to be used by system integrators. Heck, we've moved past open source software projects, to open source hardware projects, and the electronics industry is deeply engaged in this approach. So, 'No', I don't see this as unduly complex. 'Yes', I'll need to learn some things along the way. What I don't want to learn, or do myself, I'll get help for.

    Right now I'm both learning and seeking help. I doubt I'll ever be able to pay back or forward to this forum the help I get here. I do that other places. I do imagine though that someone out there might have a product/business idea and see a little more clearly how they might bring it to life.
     
  9. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    13,894
    1,969
    Sep 5, 2009
    OK ... ohhhh dear and so we hear that so often :rolleyes:

    we will close the thread since it's really difficult for people to help you if you cant supply reasonable specifics

    you better get some funds together so you can employ onsite design and construction engineers
    since I doubt anyone here will help you get rich at their expense

    best of luck in your venture

    cheers
    Dave
     
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