Building a new handheld device from the ground up can be a challenge, but embedded designs are made easier by leveraging existing technology and working with experienced development partners who can provide expert assistance with hardware and software. Innov-X Systems, a leader in X-Ray Fluorescence measurement technology, wanted to bring its PDA-based handheld analyzer into the 21st century with an integrated embedded computer. Two Windows Embedded partners, PHYTEC and Adeneo Embedded, came together to help Innov-X Systems bring to market a new innovative breed of handheld device, based on Windows Embedded CE 6.0, in only six months.Situation
Headquartered near "America's Technology Highway," Route 128 in Massachusetts, Innov-X Systems is a global leader in rapid, on-site X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and portable X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) measurement. Its handheld devices provide a non-destructive means of analyzing and measuring the chemical elements Mg thru U in the field, lab, or anywhere.
Innov-X products are used in a multitude of applications, from measuring coating thicknesses, to sorting scrap metal recycling, to mining exploration and materials processing. Other uses include law enforcement, semiconductors, biomedical and pharmaceuticals, industrial hygiene, petrochemicals, and process chemistry.
The company’s first-generation handheld device is based on an HP iPAQ PDA running a PXA270 processor and Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 5.0. But year after year, the market demands better analysis and faster performance. In early 2009, Innov-X made the decision to boost performance by building an integrated device with an embedded computer.
“We needed a hardware platform with a floating point processor for extra computational horsepower,” recalls Peter Hardman, Chief Scientist, Innov-X Systems. “Finally, we wanted to upgrade the device OS to Windows Embedded CE 6.0 to increase the number of threaded processes that can run simultaneously.”
Hardman continues: “The real challenge was that our development timeline called for complete prototype delivery in months, not years. At the same time, we had no in-house engineering expertise in system motherboards or operating systems.”Solution
The vast Windows Embedded Partner (WEP) ecosystem allowed Innov-X to leverage the combined strengths and expertise of two Microsoft Gold-level partners. PHYTEC, a leader in System on Module (SOM) subassemblies and custom hardware design services to OEMs, contributed the phyCORE-i.MX31 System on Module as the core of the application. PHYTEC also provided a custom carrier board, Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Board Support Package (BSP) software, OS customization, and camera application development.
||Windows Embedded CE’s rich and fully-functional features for integration and communication are remarkable. As an OEM, we get so much from the Windows Embedded ecosystem—including expert partners, leading edge technology, and online support—it makes creating innovative devices easier.
“PHYTEC provided the complete hardware design, from prototyping to volume deployment,” explains Josie Adams, Systems Engineer, PHYTEC America. “Six to 12 months of development time was cut by the easy-to-implement SOM and BSP.”
Adeneo Embedded, a leading system integrator and partner of PHYTEC for Windows Embedded CE support and BSP development, handled most of the OS customization to address Innov-X design specific requirements, driver adaptation such as Bluetooth software stack integration, some application development, and training to Innov-X engineering team to ensure full competence transfer on the OS architecture.
“The top level expertise of both partners— Adeneo in Windows Embedded development and system integration of i.MX-based solutions and PHYTEC in i.MX hardware design—combined with the richness of Windows Embedded API, was the key to project success,” says Yannick Chammings, CEO, Adeneo Embedded.
One major advantage of Windows Embedded CE is that Innov-X could do application development independent of BSP development “We found it very easy to develop, debug, and deploy a Windows Embedded CE application using familiar Windows desktop tools, like Visual Studio 2008,” states Hardman. “We also have a large supply of experienced Windows programmers in our area, making it easy to hire resources when we need to scale up.”Benefits
For Innov-X, ensuring fast time to market was a major benefit of leveraging Windows Embedded partners. Innov-X delivered the new Delta Handheld XRF Analyzer in time for the 2010 industry tradeshow season.
“We had a working prototype ready less than six months after signing contracts with Adeneo Embedded and PHYTEC,” declares Hardman. “I am certain that working with Windows Embedded partners and proven Windows technologies significantly shortened time to market and reduced our development costs.”
Windows Embedded CE also provides Innov-X with a high-confidence platform for creating innovative solutions for new markets faster than its competitors. Some Innov-X customers want complex applications, while others want a simple user interface for pass/fail of a single element. Innov-X needs to customize new software applications to quickly meet changing market demands.
“We can rapidly customize our software by turning features on and off using Windows rich API and Windows Common Controls,” says Hardman. “We can be quick to a new market when it opens. Last year it was testing for lead in toys, this year its new EPA regulations.”
The benefits of Adeneo Embedded’s and PHYTEC’s work for Innov-X extend all the way to the customer. The complete redesign of the internal communications architecture took advantage of connectivity technologies like Bluetooth and USB.
“Implementation of Windows Embedded CE 6.0, led to a dramatic boost in product performance,” says Hardman. “It takes less than half a second for data to appear on the screen after the user pulls the trigger, compared to 5 to 10 seconds with the PDA-based system. The new system boots in around 10 seconds compared to nearly one minute before. This faster performance translates directly into time savings and higher productivity for our end customers.”
|Innov-X Delta handheld XRF unit|
Hardman concludes: “Windows Embedded CE’s rich and fully-functional features for integration and communication are remarkable. As an OEM, we get so much from the Windows Embedded ecosystem—including expert partners, leading edge technology, and online support—it makes creating innovative devices easier.”
Windows Embedded CE 6.0 enables Innov-X Systems with:
Keyword: Automation Devices; Test & Measurement EquipmentThis case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.