Electronic Proof Of Concept: How to Get One ASAP

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proof of concept based on stm32 development board

Electronic Proof Of Concept: How to Get One ASAP

A Proof of Concept (PoC) is a quick way to demo and test the most vital functions of a proposed new product.

Before committing the $50K to $300K budget for a formal electronic product development process, with a full team of mechanical, hardware and software engineers, it makes all the sense in the world to spend $2K to $10K to first test some of the key assumptions on which the success of the product hinges.

A proof of concept is different from a prototype, in that for a PoC you don’t worry about things like aesthetics, manufacturability, durability and passing certifications, that will all come later.

For a PoC you just try to get some of the basic functions to work, as quickly as possible, and as cheaply as possible.

When you’re completely convinced of your new product, it may be tempting to dive into full development straight away. During POC, you  generally do not worry about all the details of DFM yet, but instead of using an Arduino based around an Atmel MCU we recommend to use development boards around STM32 (see STM32 va PIC32). This way you likely can reuse a lot of the firmware coding for the real development.

What is the Best Way to get a POC Done ASAP?

The fastest way would be to outsource the POC to a company that has a lot of experience in electronics manufacturing. If you’re a company with a strong business case, we- TITOMA- could agree to do a POC for free for you, this of course under certain clauses.

If you’re a start up and at the moment do not have the resources to outsource POC, and you’re thinking about doing it on your own  then we recommend you to take a look at some tutorials from our friend Lup Yuen Lee

Why Should You Outsource an Electronic POC?

1- To find a PCB that will guarantee that all the work you do on the POC can be transferred onto the manufacturing stage.

2- To quickly find and put together the most appropriate off the shelf hardware

3-To save you time and money. If your company is not manufacturing focused, then you’re more prone to doing mistakes.

Why Is It Necessary To Have a Proof of Concept?

These are the reasons why you should do a Proof of Concept.

1-Use a POC To Test Key Technological Issues.

Before starting a program it is really important to define the key technological challenges, and meet these head on, before you do anything else. You don’t want to leave the hardest part for the last, when you have already invested 90% of the budget only to find out that you really cannot overcome it at a reasonable cost.

The big question here is: Can you get the technology to work? Will the device have enough range, battery life, and do the sensors pick up what you set out to measure in a meaningful way?

2- Use a POC To Forecast Unit Costs.

An electronic design project usually starts with a preliminary architecture and selection of key components. What is not always clear to everyone is the number of assumptions which are used for this.

Building a POC will give you a chance to validate some of the key component picks: can the temperature sensor indeed measure with an accuracy of +/- 0.1 C, or do we need one which is 4 times as expensive.

You’ll have a better understanding of the materials and components required to manufacture an electronic product, and the process it would require for full-fledged manufacturing. This information will be useful to calculate a budget and analyze whether this is something your company can afford or not.

Proof of concept POC for Electronic Devices

3-Use a POC To Prove The Electronic Device is Useful.

It’s not enough with just knowing that you have what it takes, from a technology point of view, to build a new electronic device. You have to ask yourself ,  will this product truly help our company’s goal? And, will people find it to be useful?

There’s no point in developing a full manufacturing plan for a product you don’t even know if it’s going to be useful at all, or even worse, manufacturing thousands of units of a product and then realize people do not find it easy to use or useful at all. This is one of the main reasons why you do a POC, by doing one you’ll save money and time.

4- Use a POC to Make the Project Tangible.

Getting a new product development project approved by top management is not easy, any innovation will meet with some resistance. Having an early version of the product on the table  gives hard evidence that the product can be done and it is useful, is way better than just showing a PPT.

5- Use a POC to Get a Head Start on Software Development.

If your electronic product will require complex software and/or firmware, then doing a POC is a good way to start developing it early.Just make sure you use a closely related processor to the one you’ll use for the final version of the product, otherwise you won’t be able to transfer your work from the POC stage to prototyping.

How to Do a Proof of Concept for Electronic Products?

Cost benefit analysis for POC electronics

1- DO A COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS

This is not as complicated as it sounds. As a first step, whether the product is for internal use in a company’s operation or to sell it in the retail market,  you have to do a cost benefit analysis to at least establish that there’s, possibly, a significant and beneficial operational or market reason to build a new electronic device.

While there is no standard way to make a cost benefit analysis, there are some basic guidelines to follow.

  • Establishing a framework to outline the parameters of the analysis
  • Identify,as much as possible, costs and benefits and categorize them by type
  • Come up with an estimate budget using as much relevant information at hand as possible
  • Make a comparison between costs and benefits using as much aggregate information as possible
  • Analyze the data and answer the next question

Is there really a significant reason to build this?

Steps for POC in manufacturing

2- DEFINE QUESTIONS AND EXPECTED RESULTS

Get all the decision makers of the company involved, at least as much as possible,  and together define clear questions on what you want to find out by doing a POC and also what are the expected results by the end of the POC.

State clearly what can be considered a successful outcome once the POC stage is over, and most importantly, how to measure it, otherwise defining success or failure will be really hard.

By defining clear and measurable results for the proof of concept stage, it’ll be easier to make a case in pro of fully developing the product and getting everyone to green light it, in case the POC proves feasibility of course.

A POC generally  allows you to demonstrate how good a product is at solving a necessity to an scale of 70-80%, which is very good.

steps for product manufacturing

3-PREPARE THE SETUP FOR PROOF OF CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT

This is the part where you need to start getting into action, find out what hardware you need (the simplest possible option for a POC) and what development board comes closer to the one you’d actually need for a fully finished product. Please remember that a POC needs to be put together as fast as possible, and this is why off the shelf parts (OTS) are always used for a POC.

In this step you also have to define who is going to do what exactly, which members of your team will be in charge of design? which ones will be in charge of software or firmware?

Things will vary depending on which type of product you’re manufacturing. If you’re developing an IOT device, pay special attention to selecting the right cloud platform, it could be an internal one or a third party, also make sure you can establish a  stable connection with the cloud and connect it properly to the user interface or dashboard.

Steps for product development

4-DEFINE A TEST PERIOD AND TEST THE PRODUCT

Once you have the POC of your electronic product ready , you have to establish a testing period, this will usually vary depending on the industry, the kind of business, the complexity of the product in and of itself among other factors.

You have to make sure you’re testing the product in situations where real data can be gathered and used to assess whether the POC is a success or not.

If the product is meant to be used in offices, it should be tested in offices by people working in offices; if the product is meant to be used in restaurants, it should be tested in real restaurants, you get the idea right. This kind of  real environment test will yield the best data. Make sure you record all the data you can, keep it in a file and have it ready to analyze at the end of the testing period.

Proof of concept

5- REPORT TO THE STAKEHOLDERS

This step is pretty self explanatory right? After the testing period is over, you use all the data you gathered and analyze it. You compare the results against the expected results that were determined by the decision makers early in the process and draw a conclusion.

It’s important to keep an unbiased perspective during the whole POC stage, we’ve seen cases of people pushing really hard to have a feasible  outcome at the end of the proof of concept process, maybe because they really believed in their product idea.

What Are The Advantages of Doing a POC?

1-A POC is a good way to forecast the feasibility of a manufacturing project.

2-It helps you and your organization save time and money.

4-It’s a good way to get approval from management and/or raise funds.

4-It’s a good way to find out whether the proposed electronic product will provide any actual value to the user.

5-If your product requires complex software, then a POC will give you a head start on software development.

What Industries Use Proof of Concept?

The illustrated guide to POC

 

POC’s  are used in different industries from software to hardware as well as medicine, science, engineering and manufacturing, all of them use it as a way to test whether ideas are worth going after and eventually get them approved for more testing, investment and eventually full scale production or implementation.

Is Proof of Concept the Same as Prototype?

No, proof of concept is not the same as a prototype, at least not in manufacturing. When it comes to building a POC, off the shelf parts are the way to go, but, when we enter the prototyping stage , we actually develop a PCB for it and choose more appropriate hardware for a more refined version of the product.

The confusion arises  because whenever people  discuss POC, is almost inevitable to also mention prototyping, which makes some people ask the question of: Are they the same? Well, it only takes a Google search to realize that different people have different points of view, some of them are very confusing to be honest, here at TITOMA this is how we see things.

There are two concepts, the first one is POC and this is what most people agree on: It’s the realization of a certain method or idea in order to prove its feasibility. Notice how in the previous definition there’s no direct mention of actually building  an early version of the product or prototype, but one might argue that “realization” could encompass that.

how to do proof of concept for electronic productsPrototyping is defined as an exercise that allows a team to visualize how the product will look like and function. Even though is not a fully functional nor fully polished version of the product. It should give people a very good look at what the final product will look like and how it’ll function.

Many go on to make the following conclusion, POC is all about figuring out whether a company has what it takes to go on and develop a product idea (everything stays in paper) It also validates all the feasibility aspects, while a prototype is all about creating a very early version of the product that helps people visualize and understand the product idea.

But in real life, specially in manufacturing, we at TITOMA know, that when it comes to electronic products, a POC requires a very early version of the product in order to test real life hypothesis , this doesn’t mean that a POC is the same as prototype, because ,as we said earlier, a POC uses off the shelf parts mostly,  a prototype doesn’t.

Is Proof of Concept Valuable?

Yes POC is valuable and you should/have to do it. It’s common to hear the above question, specially from new hardware start ups that have a hard time sticking to standard processes to develop their new ideas.

Allow us to explain why POC is valuable.

  • The development of a proof of concept can help product owners identify technical and logistical problems that can get in the away to success.
  • It’s also a good way for  organizations to have the opportunity to conduct internal reviews of the product they’re working on while reducing unnecessary risks.
  • A proof of concept also gives interested parties the opportunity to evaluate design options at the very beginning of the development cycle.

Without a proof of concept there’s really no way to move along in the big scheme of product manufacturing, at least not in a smart way, it would be pretty much like thinking of a product and  move right into the design and manufacture phase just because you think is a good idea. Proof of concept will give you real insight to know whether it is a good idea or not.

There’s another very important reason to do a proof of concept.

FOR INVESTMENT PURPOSES

Whether is investment from within your company or a start up asking for money from investors, no one will give you money to move along in the product development process unless you’re able to prove that your product will actually solve a real problem and has a very good chance at being accepted by the market and generate a good return on investment.

And how do you prove that? Well, POC is a starting point, by running a POC and demonstrating ,with facts, that your product idea is sound and has potential to work in real life situations and generate revenue, investors will be more likely to invest in your idea.

What is The Difference Between Pilot Project and Proof of Concept?

The difference is that they are two totally different stages of the product manufacturing process. POC happens very early in the process and the pilot project happens right before full fledged manufacturing, which is the last in product development.

The right way to think about the pilot is as almost production, this means that the POC, prototyping and all that’s included in ideation, design, engineering and validation stages have been successfully completed.

Is MVP The Same as Proof of Concept?

No, they’re not the same thing. A minimum viable product must have all the minimum core features the product needs to enter the market, it should be well polished and be bug free. A POC and prototyping version of a product, usually, do not include all core features and are still full of errors.

Take for example Dipjar, when they did their early POC prototype, they didn’t even include the card reader, the core feature of the product, they used off the shelf components and put it together in a matter of days, this was certainly not an MVP.

Does TITOMA do POC and Prototyping?

Yes we do, but under specific circumstances. We don’t work JUST on POC and prototyping , we work on them as part of the full product development process from designing to manufacturing. It’s worth mentioning that , since we are very manufacturing oriented,we rather work on projects that have already been through the POC and prototyping stages, and are ready to go into design optimization, then engineering validation and finally full fledged production.

We optimize for

  1. Cost reliability
  2. Size
  3. Battery life
  4. Availability of components
  5. Housing
  6. Ease of assembly

Regarding costs, please keep in mind that POC is not optimized for manufacturing, therefore the cost of a fully functional unit won’t be the same. But don’t worry, it’s our job to make your numbers work.

If you’re ready for manufacturing please get in touch with us and let’s discuss your product idea.

If you’re a start up and looking for someone to help you with your POC and prototyping don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll refer you to one of our partners.

Industrial Design for China Manufacturing

What is POC in Manufacturing?

A Proof of Concept (PoC) is a fast method to demo and test the vital functions of a possible new product.

Some people define it as: It’s the realization of a certain method or idea in order to prove its feasibility, once a POC is done, you should have a clear answer for the following question: Should we go ahead and manufacture this?

When it comes to electronics manufacturing there is no other way to assess the feasibility of a project than by creating a very early version of the product. In the words of Bruce Carsten.

“Proof-of-Concept Prototype is a term that (I believe) I coined in 1984. It was used to designate a circuit constructed along lines similar to an engineering prototype, but one in which the intent was only to demonstrate the feasibility of a new circuit and/or a fabrication technique, and was not intended to be an early version of a production design”

Need Help to Get Your Electronic Product to Market?

Titoma provides B2B companies with the complete design and manufacturing of custom electronic products in China and Taiwan.

We engineer our products in Taiwan and have a proven network of reliable Chinese component suppliers who we involve from the start of the design.  We make sure everybody is aligned and by avoiding surprises we avoid delays, assuring the fastest possible time to market (hence our name Titoma).

Talk with one of our design experts by hitting the button below, and learn how we can enable your business with a custom device, without the worries.

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Eulises Quintero

Currently working as the content manager for TITOMA. With an extensive background in content marketing and a real interest in electronic products I'm able to produce some of the pieces of content you'll find here, all with the help of the TITOMA team of course. On my free time I like to travel, explore and work out.

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