Develop boards remotely, in real time with new hardware-as-a-service

Article By : Nitin Dahad

New service from MIKROE claims to be embedded industry’s first hardware-as-a-service offer that enables remote embedded hardware design from $4 a day.

MikroElektronika (MIKROE) has launched a new remote embedded hardware-as-a-service platform called Planet Debug, which enables designers to develop and debug embedded systems remotely without investing in hardware, starting from $4 per day depending on the system configuration.

Designers can reserve time on a remote Planet Debug station configured to their requirements in advance, and develop and debug their own applications code remotely through MIKROE’s NECTO Studio IDE (integrated development environment) without having to source the hardware, wait for it to arrive and plug it all together.

Neb Matic_MIKROE
Neb Matic

When explaining the concept and why he thinks it will change the embedded industry, MIKROE CEO Neb Matic certainly makes it all sound like common sense. In many other sectors we have a strong prevalence of the circular economy, where users share or rent things rather than purchase outright. So why not also for the embedded industry? Why do you have to buy a board, wait for it to be delivered, and then if you find it’s not right just abanadon it for a new one and have it sit on your shelf?

Matic explained in an interview with embedded.com, “It’s my opinion that this will change the industry a lot. Right now, a silicon vendor has to give you a board so you could try the chip you want to use. Just imagine if the board is inside the Planet Debug concept so one [same] board could be used by hundreds of engineers in the world. Even if you are on a different time zone, you don’t need to wait.”

MIKROE debug-planet-diagram
The MIKROE Planet Debug concept (Source: MIKROE)

He added, “You could actually for example have a specialized set up in Planet Debug that says Microchip, new Wi-Fi module and then module name. So you search that, find that board which have that module and you could test: is it working good for you or not? Or maybe you could test something else? So it speeds up [the whole process] a lot. Then if you for example like that product, you will buy that product. Our shelves are so full of the boards we are not using. We, like all of us, like to save the planet. So, let’s do what we could do. We can do something which could help effort we are all putting in saving our planet.”

Matic also said, “For designers who are sure they want to commit to a certain hardware route and stick with it for a long period, then it may be better to buy the appropriate Fusion development boards, SiBRAIN MCU cards and Click peripheral boards costing maybe $400 – they will still benefit from huge design flexibility and fast time to market. But for those still evaluating many different hardware approaches, or if they require, perhaps 10 days development time, they can reserve time on one of over 74 development boards on Planet Debug stations for just $4 a day. We’ll configure it for them with the MCU/peripheral/display combination they want to try and they can begin developing the very next day. The beauty of it is that, through NECTO, you are seeing real images of real boards in real time – this is not a simulation.”

The Planet Debug hardware-as-a-service is enabled by MIKROE’s CODEGRIP, which the company said is the world’s first device which allows programming and debugging to be performed over Wi-Fi.

MIKROE planet-debug-desktop closeup
With Planet Debug, users get to ‘try before buying’, and can change peripherals, displays or even the MCU without needing to buy any hardware, learn any new software, or write any new code. Planet Debug is useful for both students and professionals. (Source: MIKROE)

By using Planet Debug, users get to ‘try before buying’, and can change peripherals, displays or even the MCU without needing to buy any hardware, learn any new software, or write any new code. Planet Debug is useful for both students and professionals. In the education environment, resources can be shared and there is no configuration required to bring up a system. For the working designer, Planet Debug makes it easy to get up and running very quickly, and to respond to changing needs from product marketing. Also, chip shortages will not affect development time.

Currently, there are Planet Debug facilities at MIKROE, in the University of NoviSad, in the U.S. (Minnesota) and in Mexico. Matic expects an Asian installation in the near future, but all facilities can be reserved by anyone from anywhere in the world. He said, “Hardware-as-a-service is the future of design.  It’s hard for people to grasp right now because there are so many pieces to the puzzle: the Click peripheral boards and SiBRAIN MCU cards based on standard sockets; the Fusion development boards, CODEGRIP and NECTO. But the logical end-game for us was always to combine them in the Planet Debug platform. It will revolutionize embedded design.”

MIKROE inside Planet debug
Inside a Planet Debug setup, which can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world, in real time. (Source: MIKROE)

MIKROE invented the mikroBUS development socket standard in 2011 and the compact Click boards that use the standard to dramatically cut development time. Now the company offers more than 1,000 Click boards and the mikroBUS standard is included by leading microcontroller companies such as Microchip, Renesas and Toshiba on their development boards. SiBRAIN is MIKROE’s latest standard for MCU development add-on boards and sockets. MikroElektronika also makes a wide range of compilers and additionally provides development environments, development boards, smart displays and program debuggers.

This article was originally published on Embedded.

Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of embedded.com. With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.

 

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