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What next for the dev kit?

Dev kits are fast becoming an essential part of almost all designs. Recent research found that almost half of designs now rely on dev kits and this is a trend that's only set to continue. So how did we get to this point and what does the future hold for the dev kit?

Recently we put together a short history of the dev kit, looking at the first kits and their journey through to the products of today, from those used in industrial applications to popular single board computers like Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone. While we certainly can't claim to have covered every single board and piece of news in the last 40 years, what was clear was that development boards are becoming much more accessible and much more integral to the design process.

Of course it's one thing to look back at the history of the dev kit, but what's arguably more important is the future and where this industry is going. It's difficult to escape the fact that the future of the dev kit is inextricably linked with that of the electronics industry itself.

Through the element14 community, we see people using dev kits for all kinds of applications – the engineers who completed our research identified the big areas for the market in 2014-2015 as being lighting control, sensing and wireless. This is just a sample of the wide range of potential uses that we're seeing from our customers and partners.

As just one example of a market where dev kits are driving innovation we can look at connectivity. The popularity of smartphones is driving attach rates of wireless connectivity technologies including Bluetooth, WLAN, GPS and NFC. NFC is a standard for short-range wireless, point-to-point communication operating in the unlicensed 13.56 MHz band over distances of about 10 cm. The next-generation of dev kits will be vital in assisting designers develop external user interfaces that meet NFC compliance with Reader mode, P2P mode and Card Emulation standards. This is an area set to grow hugely with the rise of the IoT as NFC becomes a feature that can be integrated into all manner of connected devices.

In addition to this, dev kits are also increasingly being used to experiment with wireless power, as we have seen in a recent Community Wireless Power Challenge. By powering devices wirelessly, they are not only less reliant on fixed power sources, but they can become more autonomous, which is a particularly interesting benefit for areas such as automation, actuation and robotics.

This research and charting the history of the dev kit marked the first phase of a comprehensive study that we are carrying out into the dev kit market. The next phase is to look at the dilemmas faced by the users of dev kits, the critical features needed and the challenges that are stopping designs being taken through to final production. Engineers and dev kit users can participate by visiting the element14 community and completing the short questionnaire. The results will be published later in the year and you can have your say here.

Richard Curtin is Global head of Strategic Alliance at Premier Farnell.

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Richard Curtin

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