Because the study of software programming seldom includes case studies, many engineers are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes, an embedded development expert will tell attendees at the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Boston.
David Nadler, founder of Nadler & Associates, says that in his role as a consultant, he has seen those repetitive mistakes end up costing money. “If you don’t plan correctly, it can cause considerable excitement,” he recently told Design News. “You have missed deadlines, lots of yelling, and a very unpleasant time for all.”
Still, most engineers are never exposed to the benefits of case studies, which is why the mistakes keep happening. “If you go to the Harvard Business School, you see case studies of companies that went off the rails,” he told Design News recently. “If you go to medical school, you look at case studies of diagnostic problems. But in software development, we don’t study cases of software development gone bad, and that’s to our detriment. So we end up making the same mistakes over and over again.”
Nadler will address that problem in an upcoming ESC session titled, How NOT to Do Embedded Development -- Lessons Learned. In the session, he will examine specific projects, including the creation of a type of aircraft anti-collision system now found in more than 30,000 planes worldwide. He will also examine the development of an automated toll collection system now employed in countless vehicles. Case studies will include, not only a description of problems, but of solutions, as well.
“We’ll walk through the techniques used to get the projects back on track,” he told us. “Then we’ll talk about how developers might want to use these techniques at the beginning of a project – before it goes off the rails.” Mostly, he said he will examine the problem of failing to plan for product test and verification, which may be the most common of all.
Nadler contends that all embedded developers benefit from an examination of case studies, especially those who’ve “picked up” software during their professional careers. “In the embedded world, a lot of people weren’t trained in software at all,” he said. “They pick it up after getting an electrical engineering degree, or a mechanical engineering degree, or a physics degree. But case studies also help people who are trained in software, because most curricula don’t teach that.”
Case studies, he said, have a way of enabling people to see themselves more clearly. “The idea is to learn about the things that seem to always go wrong, find out why they keep happening, and then figure out how to prevent them,” he said.
Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.