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Hardware developer Erik: The challenges and importance of developing everything from the bottom up

The importance behind producing our own hardware and how it gives us clear advantages in an otherwise global market.

Written by Brage Thobroe

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The most important responsibility a Product Owner has is to maintain open and transparent communication between multifunctional teams with diverse industrial duties.

Each team strives to reach a common goal, but to find a compromise that works for each side, including the consumers' demand, is a comprehensive role that becomes critical to the final result.

"What happens within the unit itself needs to go to 'the cloud', which distributes information to an app, which again needs to be presented to the consumer.", says Erik.

To piece these things together, many people need clear, specific guidelines, and that's where the responsibility of a Product Owner lays.

"The process of developing a product that doesn't already exist on the market has been both challenging and fun," Erik says. The product itself is small in size, but it is compact and filled to the brim with hardware, so no room can go to waste.

Miniscule details have significant effects on the whole production line.

We have had almost endless discussions regarding minor hardware adjustments, where changes of 0.1mm inside the unit have spiked frustration between all teams. It will affect everyone working on it in one way or another.

"In such a tiny product, where minuscule details have significant effects on the whole production line, the teamwork between the teams working on antennas, circuit boards, and encapsulation needs to be immaculate." - Erik

Another aspect we have emphasized is the battery life in our unit. We have previous experience with WiFi positioning. However, this is not a solution made for preserving energy, so we had to scrap this concept and develop a new way of gathering positioning data where GPS isn't available. It was a dramatic move to obliterate the WiFi positioning; however, we now have the best battery life among our competitors.

Nordic Semiconductor provides local processing- and communication hardware.

We chose to cooperate with Nordic Semiconductor because they have the expertise we need within microcontroller development. They have engineers here in Trondheim, which works exceptionally well for us because all our factory assembling already happens in this region of Norway. This means we only have one outside firm to affiliate with, and we consider our local common ground advantageous for both our local community and us. We currently use Nordic Semiconductor's solutions for essential parts of our processing and communication hardware, such as LTE-M, NB-IoT, GPS, and Bluetooth.

Developing a truly wearable device.

We have had an enormous focus on conserving energy in our product in order to develop a true wearable product.

"Nobody likes charging their units every day. Nor does anyone want a big and heavy device dangling around your cat's neck. That is why we have highly prioritised the optimization of energy usage on our unit, and we will continue with the development in the future." - Erik

What you only need to charge every month or so now, you will only need to charge yearly in the near future, and that is where we are going next. At the moment, there are no such products in the commercial market, which is why we have to develop this hardware ourselves.

It has been one colossal trial to get the unit to function as more than just a GPS tracker. We have managed to develop optimized sensor components with clear communication and exceptional cooperation between the teams working on both hardware and software.

These components make it possible for our product to learn a dogs' living pattern and behaviour through sensor data and machine learning.

In the long run, our unit grants cat- and dog owners the opportunity to communicate with their pets in a whole new way through 'fresh out of the oven' technology. And that we are proud to present.