feature article
Subscribe Now

How to Select the Right Embedded Design Software

Regardless of your job or industry, things are moving faster than ever. With breakthroughs in technology happening on a regular basis, new competitors can disrupt and unseat established businesses that have been built over many years. This phenomenon is no different for embedded software developers. These changes are creating pressure to complete the job faster and more efficiently than ever before, while also ensuring that software is high-performance and bug-free.

In all honesty, it can be a bit overwhelming.

With demands and pressure piling up, it’s vital to have the right embedded software design tools that can make your job easier — well, at least not make it any harder by having a lot of “work-arounds” and outdated features.

To ensure that you are in the best position to compete, you need to have the best equipment. Let’s take a look at some of the most important features you should look for when considering new embedded software design tools:

Feature No. 1: Simplicity is Key  

Finding a user-friendly solution is often overlooked. When tools are too complicated, they can easily frustrate developers and lengthen development times — clearly, something designers don’t have time for. To make sure the embedded design software you’re considering is easy to use, download it first and then give it a test run before purchasing. Hint: seek out vendors that offer free 15-30 day trial periods.

Once you sign up for the trial period, use the product for the full length of time it’s available. Set up a trial project that allows your developers to get a real feel for the program — think of it as a thorough test drive. Put the program through its paces and see how easy the editor supports code development tasks and how quickly a compiler compiles code. When the trial is up, closely look over your evaluation. If you used the “canned” projects that came with the software package, that shouldn’t be considered a valid test, as those offerings are usually developed by the vendors for optimal results.

Feature No. 2: Debugging Capability and Speed

Perfect software is not designed on the first try. Let’s get that idea out there right away. When it comes to today’s complex, high-performance applications, there is usually some trial and error necessary to get things right. The reality is that developers will spend a lot of time debugging their applications, which is why debugger capability and speed have a big impact on time-to-market. When looking at software, some features to keep an eye out for include:

  • Multiple information windows that let you monitor variables, memory and the stack
  • Complex breakpoints that allow you to halt program executions based on instruction counts, cycle counts or timer counts
  • Save and restore memory that lets you easily return the system to a known condition

Feature No. 3: Device and Core Support

Obviously, you want to choose software that supports the right devices. That’s a no brainer. When you start looking at new software, make sure you have a full list of the devices you’re currently using in your products. Take this list to cross reference the devices supported by the embedded design software you’re considering.

Who knows? It may be the case that the new software won’t need to support devices used in older products. Also, it’s never too early to start thinking about the future. Consider the devices you may potentially use, and look for the design software that will not only support what you need today, but what you could be using down the road. The fact is, you won’t want to spend the extra money purchasing new tools every time you start using a new device — buy the right solution once..

Feature No. 4: Support for Common Functionality

After you’ve picked a solution that (hopefully) supports the right devices, see if it supports the different functionalities you’ll need, such as a real-time operating system (RTOS), and communications hardware and software, such as USB, TCP/IP and Bluetooth. If your designs require these functionalities, and your chosen embedded design software doesn’t offer support for them, you’ll be forced to spend ever valuable time, money and effort designing your own solutions, which is not ideal.

If support for functional safety standards is important to your work, search for a tool that provides a solution that supports both qualification methods: “increased confidence from use” and “validation of the software tool.”

Feature No. 5: Tech Support

Technical support can be a make-or-break part of the decision process. If you are going to invest the money in a product, you’d better know that the supplier is going to provide you the necessary support if (when) something goes awry. While vendors differ greatly in the type of tech support they offer, what really sets them apart is depth and speed of response.

Based on this, find a vendor that offers quality technical support. You don’t want to be stuck waiting days for an answer to a question that is needed right away. As we mentioned earlier, you want to put the new solution through its paces; this includes trying out the technical support. Send a support request and see what happens. While it doesn’t necessarily have to cost more to buy embedded design software from a vendor with good technical support, it does matter to you if you get into a deadline-driven situation where tech support is greatly needed.

In the end, choosing the right embedded software development tools from the right vendor can be a challenge. Remember, before making your decision, thoroughly test out the products you’re looking into. This is your chance to really get a feel for the software you will be using for the foreseeable future, so don’t waste it. By considering these features, you will put yourself in a position to make an informed and well-researched decision, setting you up for design success in the future.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Feb 27, 2021
New Edge Rate High Speed Connector Set Is Micro, Rugged Years ago, while hiking the Colorado River Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park with my two sons, the older one found a really nice Swiss Army Knife. By “really nice” I mean it was one of those big knives wi...
Feb 26, 2021
OMG! Three 32-bit processor cores each running at 300 MHz, each with its own floating-point unit (FPU), and each with more memory than you than throw a stick at!...
Feb 26, 2021
In the SPECTRE 20.1 base release, we released Spectre® XDP-HB as part of the new Spectre X-RF simulation technology. Spectre XDP-HB uses a highly distributed multi-machine multi-core simulation... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community si...

featured video

Designing your own Processor with ASIP Designer

Sponsored by Synopsys

Designing your own processor is time-consuming and resource intensive, and it used to be limited to a few experts. But Synopsys’ ASIP Designer tool allows you to design your own specialized processor within your deadline and budget. Watch this video to learn more.

Click here for more information

featured paper

Use Configurable Digital IO To Give Your Industrial Controller the Edge

Sponsored by Maxim Integrated

As factories get bigger, centralized industrial process control has become difficult to manage. While there have been attempts to simplify the task, it remains unwieldy. In this design solution, we briefly review the centralized approach before looking at what potential changes edge computing will bring to the factory floor. We also show a digital IO IC that allows for smaller, more adaptable programmable logic controllers (PLCs) more suited to this developing architecture.

Click here to download the whitepaper

Featured Chalk Talk

uPOL Technology

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and TDK

Power modules are a superior solution for many system designs. Their small form factor, high efficiency, ease of design-in, and solid reliability make them a great solution in a wide range of applications. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Tony Ochoa of TDK about the new uPOL family of power modules and how they can deliver the power in your next design.

Click here for more information about TDK FS1406 µPOL™ DC-DC Power Modules