Anyone who's been tracking the business of providing product information and data knows that companies have risen, striven, and died based on the belief that they could help you make that device or component selection easier than anyone else.
With that in mind, I'd like to guide you to our latest service, www.datasheets.com, and what I think is the best free site out there, bar none, to help you find, select, and get the part you need, when you need it.
The result of a partnership between our owner, UBM Electronics, and SiliconExpert Technologies, it hosts datasheets and information on an incredible 185 million parts -- and growing. It comes with many features:
- Parametric search: This has been done by independent companies for specific parts, such as microcontrollers, but is really hard to do for everything from resistors to power devices and processors. Datasheets.com does it, and does it well.
- Save search: This allows you to save your searches and come back to them later.
- Parts comparisons: Compare up to four parts, side by side (I'd recommend doing only two at a time; it gets unwieldy if you try four and scrolls off-screen.)
- Inventory watch: Get alerts when your favorite distributor gets the necessary amount in stock of a specific part you want.
There's more, but the breadth of coverage and the features above are the highlights. The site also shows the latest product announcements, so when you register you automatically get a regular email alert on the latest new products.
What's so hard about finding parts?
I was curious as to what the difficulties SiliconExpert faced in putting together a useful parts-search database, so I contacted Vineet Chaudhary, product marketing manager at SiliconExpert. As expected, the difficulty is twofold: Getting as much of the right data as possible, and then normalizing it to make it useful.
"Some sites just crawl the Web and grab datasheets, and you can't navigate them," said Chaudhary. "All they want is to get as many as possible and get indexed on Google."
Instead, SiliconExpert focuses on building solid relationships with both manufacturers and distributors to ensure a steady feed into its database of all their products. This gets the results 80 percent there. To catch the remaining available products, some Web crawling is necessary to find smaller companies' products and close the gap to get as close to 100 percent of available products as possible.
However, getting the data is only half the battle. The real work starts with normalizing it. As all engineers are aware, some specmanship is always at play, and some manufacturers may emphasize some specs over others, or not supply a spec at all.
"You have to read between the lines," said Chaudhary. "There's no 'standard' to compare, so it makes it hard for engineers... That's where we come in."
How does SiliconExpert do it? It has 250 engineers working on the problem of making datasheets from myriad vendors comparable. And these are real engineers, Chaudhary added, making the point that much of the intellectual property resides in the algorithms used to normalize the data, algorithms that the engineers are constantly working to optimize.
While SiliconExpert has been doing this since 2000, Chaudhary emphasizes that "we're always changing." He says electronics "is a mature industry, but with software we can always add new features." One feature in the works is customized alerts to engineers for new product introductions.
So, that's how Datasheets.com does what it does. The real question is: What do you think? Please share your thoughts below, along with any suggestions on how we can improve the site.
Story courtesy of EDN.com