Getting Started with USA Firmware


We shake hands, sit down, and analyze the problem. Then we assess and consult on what engineering will be required.I'm intrigued
We determine what features and functions you need. We communicate this in an SRS (System Requirement Specification) document.I want To learn more
Are the project and product requirements and specifications feasible? We use this information to mitigate risks and potentially save you money.I'm a good learner
We create solutions by using an intelligent mix of analysis, talents and coffee. Then we
communicate the options with the client team.Yes, please
It looks like we’re done, and it feels like we’re done,
but not until we run everything through
rigorous testing.I'm ready
We keep a hands-on approach with your project
as long as possible. We keep everything in house
for greater control.Keep going
We determine if the testing and calibration work as expected. We target each core component for accuracy before the final step.I'm getting pumped up

Our goal is to make your product development run smoothly.

Gain control of your future by working with USA Firmware.

Step 1: Free Consultation

• Where are you at in our project/product?
• What regulatory and industry standards do you need to comply with?
• Are you making assumptions that need to be explored?
• Is your idea really viable, marketable, possible?
• Are you really ready to take the next step?
• Are their alternative technologies you should consider?
• Technologies that would be better suited.
• Questions you need to answer.
• Whether you are ready or need to do more homework.
• What is truly in your best interest in moving forward.

We only take on projects that we believe will succeed. If we think your product is unmarketable, we won’t allow you to spend money using our services. We don’t expect you to be up on all the available technology that can be brought to bare — that’s our job. You will see how we work and we will see how ready you are. This saves you time and money. We might give you some homework so we don’t end up spinning wheels and spending money inefficiently. Again, we are your ally. We want to see you succeed and we will do our best to place you on good footing before going to the next step in our process.

Step 2: Requirements & Specifications

Requirements take objectives and convert them to product features and functions. A clear and notable factor in all successful product development is the documentation of product requirements. To further clarify, let’s say you want to notify a customer that the battery is low. There are requirements revolving around this simple “objective.” For example: “There shall be a visual indication when the battery is low.” Another may be, “The battery shall be considered low when it has less than 20% remaining life on it.” Requirements are critical when performing what’s called Customer Validation Testing. You’ll learn more about that in a bit. Notice we didn’t specify the “solution.” The solution gets you into specification land. Solutions should only be specified in the requirement discernment phase if they are required. So our requirement is visual indication; we don’t say what that visual indicator is. It could be an LED, a street light, or a stop light! But at this point all that is required is that it’s visual, vs. audio or tactile, and so on. Yeah, things are getting very cool now! Keep reading …

Specifications take your requirements and in working with engineers and other technologist and ‘you’ or your customers developed specifications. Again, a clear and notable factor in all successful product development is the documentation of product specifications and requirements. To further clarify, let’s say you want to notify a customer that the battery is low. There are requirements and specifications revolving around this simple ‘objective’. For example a requirement may be ‘There shall be a visual indication when the battery is low’. Another may be ‘The battery shall be considered low when it has less than 20% remaining life on it’. But the specifications digs much deeper. A specification for this may be ‘LED manufacturer XYX part number XYA shall be used for the visual indication of low battery. Another might be ‘The LED shall blink at a duty cycle of 50%, on a 500ms time interval. Now you are down to the level of engineering speak. Something we at USA Firmware are rather familiar with. That and vulcan but I digress.

Simply put, this is the life or death of your project. Don’t worry, we prefer life! But how do you know what you are getting unless we document it? How do the engineers know what they are designing unless you specify it? How do we test it thoroughly unless we have specifications and requirements to test against? Documenting your requirements and specifications is the seed from which we grow your the solution for the services you require. And just to remind you, we have a ton of experience with it. In fact, templates used by RequirementOne for embedded systems product design were created by our CEO, Bob Scaccia. So feel free to use our templates to build your own — or have us do it, it’s up to you. It’s life or death, but now it doesn’t seem so scary.

Step 3: Feasibility Study

The obvious place to start: Is your product idea feasible? Maybe it’s cost-prohibitive. Or it might be too power-hungry to run on batteries. Maybe you are attempting to create something that isn’t technically feasible. We won’t waste our time or your money. We are experts at product development, with hundreds of years of combined knowledge. If there are potential hurdles that need to be addressed before we can move forward, we will identify them. From there, we counsel with you to determine a course of action with the goal of reaching an official confirmation or denial of said feasibility. If we reach a clean bill of (project) health, we smile and take the next step.
Project risks typically fall into three categories: Financial (will we run out of funds?); Schedule (will it take too long to pay back our R&D investment?); and Scope (what is the longest path that could prevent us from meeting our dates if we don’t use contingency plans where necessary?). To mitigate risks, we design action plans to make sure potential stumbles are reduced to manageable levels. When needed, we use contingencies.

Intelligent planning and innovative project execution! We want to reach the finish line intact, without wasting money. This step is our safety net before moving on to Design & Development.

Step 4: Design

Schedule, scope and cost are the “stuff” of projects and product development. At the beginning of the design phase, we will have a System Requirement Specification in place. Feasibility studies gave your project a thumbs-up, and all risks are identified with mitigators and contingency plans ready to roll. Success is within reach! At this point the project is given over to the engineering team to work its magic.
We blend old-school tools (phone calls, status reports) with modern technology (Basecamp, RequirementOne, Skype, FaceTime). Collaboration is crucial to success, and you will be in constant contact with our team.
It means we will treat your project and product as if if were our own. We follow a team-first approach and by making sure you are ready (feasibility, SRS, risk mitigation, technology assessment, etc.) and informed (weekly meetings, Basecamp, etc.) we maximize the likelihood of great outcomes.

Step 5: Testing

Of course! But there are different tests depending on where you are in the project. We will conduct unit testing and system integration testing during which we bring all the pieces (units) together for full functional testing. But this only gets you so far along the testing road. Testing is a huge part of a successful launch. Look at the next tabs to learn about Validation and Verification testing.
By now, the engineering team has designed all the electronics, software, firmware, and mechanics. We’ve demonstrated functionality to you. The design engineers have tested their pieces (units) and the team has come together to test the system as a whole. Now what? Well, now we go back to the specifications and verify them by another person — other than the designer — using a test plan. Each specification is tested. This could include temperature extremes of operation, electromagnetic radiations specifications, safety specification, accuracy limitations, resolution and so on. Issues will be loaded into another collaboration tool called a defect tracker. Here, all defects or bugs are loaded into a system and the engineer who designed the section with a defect goes through a rather methodical and regimented process of resolving the issue. This is called Defect Resolution and it works. There are several steps to this process, and at the end of the day you can be sure your product works to spec and works well.
So we have verified that the product meets spec. But what about the requirements? What if when we tie all the pieces together and we present it, the result isn’t quite what the customer wanted. Take our visual indicator, for example. Maybe the client wanted audio indication but not even the customer realized this until they got their hands on it and played with it a bit. So validation is the process of going through the project requirements with either a customer or a customer representative or representatives. Each requirement must be looked at and the customers validate each requirement.

Step 6: Prototype

A prototype is a functionally equivalent design, but not necessarily final form and fit. USA Firmware has prototyping capability utilizing state-of-the-art prototyping equipments. This puts prototypes in our hands, under our control, very quickly. Prototypes are used to do validation of the electronic designs. The hope is to move to pilot. For very complex designs, we may require a couple of prototype builds (typically referred to as an alpha and a beta prototype).
Yes! The advent of 3D printing has made it possible to get prototypes in our hands of mechanical systems without the very expensive step of tooling. Electronics is done via the use of machines such as a Pick & Place machine that puts the parts on to the PC board. A Reflow Oven is used to solder all the parts placed by the Pick & Place.
With our in-house abilities to create prototypes, we can minimize mistakes that occur with handoffs. We keep your IP safe within our facility. Our design engineers will be watching and monitoring the prototype builds — rather than sending them out of house, which makes the control process much more challenging to accomplish. Most design houses just ship their boards to contract manufacturers for this step. We take care of your baby as long as possible.

Step 7: Pilot & Pre-Production Builds

The final steps! Once we have successfully analyzed your hardware and mechanics via prototype builds, we can create a ‘pilot’ build. At this point, you need to verify that all of the processes and procedures required to create your product, at the location it will ultimately be build (the Contract Manufacturer), WORK and are RIGHT. We know now the design works but does it work at the contract house? Did we right all the manufacturing instructions correctly? Does the testing and calibration work as expected? What are our yields? Does the tooling work as expected?
Pilot is like a test production run. We use all the processes and procedures written for final production and ‘get the bugs in the system’ rung out before taking it to production. If any issue’s are found, we then use manufacturing processes to make the changes required. In other words, at this point everything is systematized, and controlled.
Pre-production is a limited quantity run prior to the complete transfer of the work over to the contract manufacturer. All the changes required and found in the pilot are incorporated and the designs are produced for sale. Once completed, you are ready for full scale ‘production’. Job done.