Meeting an EE Legend

Between the general scarcity of “rockstar” EEs, and the infrequency of those big names visiting smaller cities, the opportunity to see Mike Engelhardt present in person was not one for us to pass up! Mike is the creator of the superlative LTspice simulation software, and last week part of the AppliedLogix team got the opportunity to attend his stop in Rochester on the LTspice World Circuit.

Since AppliedLogix is one of only three Linear Tech Design Partners, our team tends to spend a lot of quality time with LTspice! While we’ve amassed a lot of experience with it, there’s always room to learn, and Mr. Engelhardt did not disappoint. Far more than just offering tips and tricks to make us more efficient LTspice users, he presented a great deal about the numerical methods under the simulator’s hood, and how to use that knowledge for faster, more-accurate simulations.

We’re grateful to Arrow and Linear Tech for including Rochester on Mike’s “world tour” – there’s a lot of great engineering happening here, and readers of this blog certainly know how important it is to us that we’re constantly, actively learning and staying engaged with our profession. Opportunities to do that – and to learn from people like Mike Engelhardt, who are true masters of their craft – mean a lot to us!

(Pictured above, left to right: Jeff Toccaceli, Dave Rea, Mike Engelhardt and Dave Reed – I just wish Mike had put on his trademark Stetson hat for the photo!)

Welcome New Partners: Ray Glover & Bill Lear

AppliedLogix is proud to be a growing team of embedded electronics experts, and we’re happy to announce the recent addition of two new partners to the company! Ray Glover and Bill Lear have joined AppliedLogix, bringing our all-partner team to 11 members.

You can find professional biographies for Ray and Bill on the AppliedLogix Engineering Team page; we’ll focus on more personal introductions here, and explain where our new partners fit within the company.

Ray Glover

headshot_glover_smallNearly every custom electronics project at AppliedLogix involves designing or modifying a printed circuit board – and Ray adds advanced PCB layout expertise and a wealth of board design experience to our in-house design team. Ray has been designing PCBs for over 30 years, and is experienced in a wide variety of tools and techniques.

When Ray isn’t exploring technological limits at work, he’s pushing his own limits: an accomplished runner, Ray has completed running events up to 50 miles, and a triathlon, and has hiked about half of the 46 Adirondack high peaks. He enjoys traveling – especially to the many National Parks – and photography (you can check out his online portfolio).

Bill Lear

headshot_lear_smallWith his long track record of consulting and solving challenging software problems, we’re happy to have Bill join the AppliedLogix embedded software development team. Our software projects range from low-level embedded firmware, to high-performance PC device drivers, to desktop, mobile and web applications – and Bill is at-home working in any of these environments. More than just competent, his decades of experience and strong sense of design combine to produce truly great code.

Despite never having wanted to be anything but an engineer, Bill manages to find some personal pursuits outside of his working hours: he enjoys woodworking, reading paper books, and spending time with his wife Patty and two daughters, Amy and Katie.

Embedded Design Trends

I’ve written here previously on being truly engaged with our profession; one engagement opportunity is keeping an eye on trends in embedded systems development. EE Times conducts an annual survey of embedded market trends, and they recently published this year’s results:

Slideshow: 10 Embedded Design Trends

The 2014 survey marks some interesting shifts in embedded systems markets, and keeps with the AppliedLogix team’s experiences and observations over the last year:

  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Android are hot – With more and more end-users carrying smartphones and tablets, we’ve observed increased interest in leveraging these mobile devices for the rich user interfaces, remote-access and notification capabilities they can provide. Mirroring the trend EE Times observed, AppliedLogix has seen increased demand for networkable embedded devices, and mobile application development to match.
  • Rise of the 32-bit MCUs – If you get the sense that the embedded industry is rallying around 32-bit microcontrollers, you’d be right – constantly setting performance-per-dollar records, these little 32-bit powerhouses are steadily eating their 8- and 16-bit cousins’ market share (though Greg Robinson of Microchip still (rightly) sees a place for 8-bit). Driven by the ARM Cortex ecosystem’s rapid adoption by Silicon vendors, interoperability and breadth of tools, we’ve been seeing the new crop of 32-bit parts enable microcontroller-based functions previously only achievable with DSPs.
  • Multiprocessing – While multi-core micros still strike many embedded control developers as somewhat exotic, dropping multiple MCUs into a design is becoming increasingly common. We’ve seen this trend too, but it’s not without complications. Inter-processor communications, firmware updates and debugging all get more complex when an architecture includes multiple controllers – but this complexity can be worth adding when self-checking, hardware diversity or redundant communication channels are required for functional safety.

Not all the news in the EE Times Embedded Trends survey is welcome, however: the industry overall has done little to improve the rates of late and canceled projects. On-time projects have slipped from an unimpressive 4-in-10 down to 37% for 2014. Since founding AppliedLogix in 2006, we’ve incorporated various project management tools and techniques to help meet tight schedules. We’re especially proud of the on-time delivery of our most recent project, an aggressive 8-week controller development program that included custom hardware, firmware and PC software.

Keeping Current with NY-BEST

Author and columnist Jack Ganssle, a name well-known to most embedded developers, recently posed a question in his “Embedded Muse” newsletter: Are you truly engaged with your profession? He argued that staying current with industry practices and disciplines is a fundamental part of being an engineering professional, and I couldn’t agree more.

On March 12th, the NY Battery and Energy Storage Technology consortium will host its annual conference, Capture the Energy. As part of our ongoing efforts to keep current and up-to-date on the industries and domains where we work, AppliedLogix team members will be attending. This will be our third year at Capture the Energy, and we’ve always come away from the event with a new appreciation and knowledge of cutting-edge developments in the energy storage industry. From flow batteries to flywheels to fuel cells, from Lithium-ion to Sodium-salt, from personal power to grid-scale energy, this conference has been a consistent eye-opener.

Industry innovations and engineering practices advance quickly, challenging engineers to keep up-to-date, practice and use our skills, and stay in tune with what our stakeholders need. I know I speak for our whole team in saying that for us, doing so is just a matter of being professionals.

Welcome to Acumen

As 2014 gets underway, AppliedLogix is refreshing our Web presence with an all-new site and this blog, Acumen. Our goal is to share some useful information, our thoughts on engineering and product development, and our perspective on the world of technology.

Recently, a customer had some enthusiastic words for us, and we feel sharing their sentiment is a great way to kick off 2014:

“Please pass along my thanks and appreciation to the AppliedLogix folks for pulling this one out of the fire…This is going to be big – you can’t believe the response. Product is dead on for first generation.”

“This is going to be big” – that’s exactly the way we feel about designing electronics every time we sit down at our workstations, pick up our soldering irons, or slide a freshly-assembled prototype out of its static bag for the first time. It’s how we relate to every customer – because their success becomes our success.