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Getting Beyond “It Depends” for Certification

More and more electronics are going into places where they could cause real damage if they don’t work right. Things like airplanes and weapons and, in particular, the systems that control them. That goes for hardware and software.

So there are elaborate standards controlling how things have to be done in order to pass muster for such systems. DO-178, DO-278, and DO-254 are only the most visible of these. The problem is that the standards don’t actually tell you what has to be done. They outline a broad process for certification, but exactly what is supposed to happen relies on a key individual: the “designated engineering representative,” or DER.

If you ask, in general, how you get a system certified, the answer is, “It depends.” And one of the things it depends on is the DER. You work with the DER to decide what you need to do for your system to be certified. And just because you did a particular set of things with one DER for one system doesn’t mean you can simply replicate that process with a different DER on another system. If the other DER has different ideas about how things should be done, then you have to go in that direction for the new project.

I (thankfully) don’t live in that particular world, but that’s got to be completely frustrating.

LDRA has offered up a Compliance Management System to help with this. It’s a certification process based on a particular individual, Todd White’s, 30 years of experience as a DER. It incorporates a system of checklists, matrices, and document templates intended to speed the certification process.

It works hand in hand with their certification consulting services, which are probably helpful to ensuring that this works most seamlessly. Using a different DER would, presumably, run the risk of that DER wanting something different. You would think, if these are truly proven elements for certification, that any reasonable DER would be happy to include them into a certification plan – unless they have their own system and insist on doing it their way.

So there’s still the possibility of some “it depends” in the mix, but the goal appears to be to remove some of it.

You can find out more in their recent release.

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