Embedded vs Cloud vs IoT

What is an embedded or embedded-system product, you ask? What is Cloud Computing, and what does it mean when an app is in the cloud? And how is the IoT (Internet of Things) involved? In this post I’ll review some of the basics involved.

Embedded Systems

An Embedded System is a computing device that the user doesn’t really know or care is a computing device, such as a smart phone or tablet device, an HVAC monitoring and control system or a GPS-based vehicle navigation system. Developing an embedded system often involves a highly technical cross-functional team, involving product conceptualization and user experience (UX), low-power analog, digital and RF electronics design and regulatory compliance testing, and complex embedded firmware with a unix-like operating system and variety of network protocols.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing just means “not on my computer”. If it happens in the cloud, it’s happening on a computer somewhere, just not on yours. A web site is “in the cloud”, but is still just software running on a computing system somewhere. The technologies involved vary wildly depending on the application and the implementation strategy, but often involves a mix of unix system administration, web application development and database design and administration.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a nice marketing story with devices everywhere communicating with cloud-based services that together make the world a better place. However the success of products will depend on solving real problems for real people. Sensors will need to function in real-world conditions involving extremes in temperature, moisture and mechanical stress. The real world also has varying degrees of fault-tolerance and criticality (how likely a failure is, and what is the effort of the failure).

I hope that clarifies a bit the new wild west of interconnected networked products. Please leave a comment or question if you like.

New ERPNext v11 Update

Congratulations to the ERPNext team and entire community on the latest v11 update. I’m eager to upgrade the Swift Construction Company demo site to check it out.

Open source software does not come without cost, but so does making do with an antiquated proprietary ERP, using fragile workarounds for modules that couldn’t be included in the license, and needing to use multiple systems due to non-integrated workflows. The question is which cost will return the greatest benefit.

What is ERP?

The meaning of ERP is much more than the acronym Enterprise Resource Planning.

Traditionally, businesses relied on people to manage ad hoc processes based on experience. It was effective, but slow and costly compared to the data-driven processes of today.

In the postmodern age, well-defined business processes managed using digital devices provide transparent trustable information through formal and social relationships, resulting in increased quality at lower cost.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software integrates core business processes, and may include support the following:

  • Project management
  • Engineering Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • Purchasing
  • Production planning
  • Manufacturing or the delivery of services
  • Marketing, sales and Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Materials and inventory management
  • Shipping and payment
  • Financial reporting

In summary, an ERP system provides a common point for the various functions and departments of an organization to access, share and manage business information.

What is a QMS?

What is a QMS you ask?

A Quality Management System (or QMS) is a collection of business processes with the intent to consistently and demonstrably meet an organization’s customer’s requirements. A QMS is aligned with an organization’s purpose and strategic direction, and is expressed through documented policies, processes, resources and records. A QMS may include any or all facets of an organization, as functions such as sales, research, product development, engineering, manufacturing, shipping, etc. exist only to supply a customer with their desired product or services. 

The ISO 9000 family of standards is likely the most widely known QMS, although other QMSs exist within specialized industries such as medical devices and avionics.

Implementing and managing a quality management system within an entrepreneurial organization can be difficult. Too much control stifles creativity and productivity, and too little allows confusion which destroys focus and direction.