What Are the Key Characteristics of Requirements Based Electronic Product Development


Can you imagine how many electronic products are developed every year? Behind every successful electronic design there are just as many, possibly even life-changing, innovations that don’t ever go far. The father of the electric light bulb, Thomas Edison, had more than 1,000 patented inventions that didn’t make it to fruition as a useful device. Granted, just because something is a unique idea, doesn’t mean its destiny is development, but there is a secret regarding the success of those ideas that do become successful. The causes for both the nonstarters and the succeeders are wide-ranging but can often be traced to whether or not the original requirements were effectively defined. The originator may have a pretty good concept of what that electronic, supersonic, space-age; whatsamagigit is supposed to do, but the hows and heretofores of what needs to happen in order to make it do that is entirely dependant upon proper development of the requirements. Examining every aspect of the electronic product and developing structured definition is important to be done even before a plan for development is formulated. The requirements stage is absolutely crucial to product success.


Focusing on requirements at the front end of the electronic product development process provides a foundation and winnows out potential flaws. By improving the likelihood of success the cost of an electronic product development is ultimately kept lower and it can be completed sooner. The requirements level of electronic product development has categorically been shown to cause the biggest cause of design defects. This stage relates the customer’s product vision to the technology being applied by the engineering firm, and ensures that an appropriate development plan is carried out. Requirement inadequacies will be detected later into the project and result in delays and do-overs, so they become more and more expensive as the product development process advances. As the Changes to requirements of the expected product performance, interfaces and agency testing (UL, CE, FCC, CSA etc.) become exponentially, increasingly complex and expensive. The costs rise quickly.


Many Advantage clients come from engineering and have no trouble understanding engineer-speak but others must have requirements broken down into Basic English. In order to develop products according to what the customer tells us they want, we have to be able to translate and help define the information correlating it to specifications relating to the standards for the product’s industry.

Below are some of the questions we begin with to define significant facets for development of the specifications necessary for well planned requirements-driven electronic products:

  1. What are the product’s unique look, size, function, and presentation? This will often change during the design process. What is your corporate ID (identity) for the product?
  2. What agency approvals will be required? FCC, UL, CE, and specific subdivisions suh as medical 60601-2?
  3. What performance characteristics will it have? i.e. How long does it have to last on a single battery charge? How long do you expect the product to function before it should be replaced?
  4. What are the functional requirements? i.e. Must it store data? What kind and for how long?
  5. What are the power requirements?
  6. What are some of the constraints of the product? Such as production costs.
  7. Can the product be built using commercial off-the-shelf or by leveraging other available parts? Or, will it require custom development all of the way around?
  8. Does it have unusual requirements with regard to the environment in which it will be used or stored?
  9. What kind of life span does it require?
  10. Who is the end user of the product and how are they expected to interface with it?
  11. How much will you charge for the product and how many do you expect to sell? What cost to manufacture and at what volume?
  12. How will it be packaged?
  13. Is the production time-sensitive?
  14. Are there product safety issues?
  15. What kind of user interface or other system interface is required?
  16. What will the volumes be and how and where will it be manufactured? How should it be set up to keep manufacturing costs as low as possible?
  17. How and where will it be distributed?


Whether it’s a “green”, low-cost, low-power product, faster or larger instruments, medical, aerospace (ground or flight) or a high-speed, complex embedded processor systems Advantage adopts an experienced methodical, top down approach to the development of electronic products, relying on the core belief that formal and complete identification of what is required is the most crucial factor of electronic product development.


Why Engineers Should Never Write Recipes


Chocolate Chip Cookies


  1. 532.35 cm3 gluten
  2. 4.9 cm3 NaHCO3
  3. 4.9 cm3 refined halite
  4. 236.6 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride
  5. 177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11
  6. 177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11
  7. 4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde
  8. Two calcium carbonate-encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein
  9. 473.2 cm3 theobroma cacao
  10. 236.6 cm3 de-encapsulated legume meats (sieve size #10)


To a 2 litre jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/&degF-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two and three with constant agitation. In a second 2 litre reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogenous.


To reactor #2, add ingredient eight, followed by three equal volumes of the homogenous mixture in reactor #1. Additionally, add ingredient nine and ten slowly, with constant agitation. Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction.


Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place the mixture piece-meal on a 316SS sheet (300 x 600 mm). Heat in a 460&degK oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank & Johnston’s first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21, 55), or until golden brown. Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 25°C heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to equilibrium.

– Anon


Ensuring Success through Requirements Development


The major issue and the most critical task with electronic product development is to know where to begin and where to go. This is determined in the requirements development stage of product development. Strong, complete requirements allows all parties to avoid unnecessary pitfalls and mistakes, thus helping to ensure a smoother, more successful project on down the road, as it moves through its many phases to completion.


Detailed requirements also help to organize workflow and maximize resource utilization which helps to keep costs down and schedules in line. When what is needed is clearly defined individual productivity increases. At the same time a team’s productivity increases due to coordination this brings to their activities. The adoption of formal requirements at the initiation of a project mitigates the risk of failures by helping engineers to weed out faults early on, before they cause a malfunction or a cascade of faults in later development phases.


One of the most spectacular instances of this is a project that crash-landed (literally) was the crash of the spacecraft, Mars Climate Orbiter, on Mars. This was a famous disaster attributed to a simple yet catastrophic failure to follow through with development of details of the requirements. The craft was a collaborative effort between two JPL groups.


Mars Climate Orbiter Team Finds Likely Cause of Loss


A failure to recognize and correct an error in a transfer of information between the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft team in Colorado and the mission navigation team in California led to the loss of the spacecraft last week, preliminary findings by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory internal peer review indicate.

“People sometimes make errors,” said Dr. Edward Weiler, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Science. “The problem here was not the error, it was the failure of NASA’s systems engineering, and the checks and balances in our processes to detect the error. That’s why we lost the spacecraft.”

The peer review preliminary findings indicate that one team used English units (e.g., inches, feet and pounds) while the other used metric units for a key spacecraft operation. This information was critical to the maneuvers required to place the spacecraft in the proper Mars orbit. …

– Excerpted from Press Release on the Mars Orbiter crash


Fortunately, the spacecraft was unmanned but NASA and JPL certainly faced some embarrassment. The cost of the failed mission was astronomical. If you can read between the lines, you will see that the error occurred all of the way back at the requirements stage. The type of measurement for a key operation was not agreed upon between the two teams. A crash landing on Mars is an extreme time to discover that something that could have easily been remedied in the requirement development phase was missed and created such havoc.


You might be thinking your projects are not the Mars Orbiter, but these practices are adaptable to projects of all sizes, across all industries to address equivalent issues. In order to offer our customers the best, most efficient development process, Advantage emphasizes the importance of requirements development and management. Beginning with the notes on the back of the napkin, to requirements development and throughout the development cycle we use a very precise formal process to ensure the quality of the development process and the electronic product itself.


You Can Rely on Advantage for your Electronic Product Development Needs

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