They might be late to the game, but hardware designers are starting to realize the benefits of social networks.
Upverter Inc., a Toronto-based startup that has created a cloud-based platform for engineers to collaborate on electronics projects, is leading the charge. The company has recently announced that its product is ready for primetime, now with the capability for “end-to-end ideation,” according to Upverter co-founder and CEO Zak Homuth.
The company was founded on the principle that teams of electronics designers needed to collaborate more to shorten the distance between a good idea and a finished product. In some ways, it’s the hardware equivalent of GitHub, an online portal where software designers can work on projects together, whether “open-source” or private.
But Upverter faced the added challenge of dealing with physical — not virtual — products. Giving engineers the detail and tactile “feel” they needed to realize their projects was key.
“At some point,” says Homuth, “the white board kind of stops working.”
The logical design is the easy part, he adds, but “at some point that stops being enough and you actually have to start laying it out in physical space.”
The new Upverter has a physical design component that simulates the operation of the hardware, including basic modeling of the interactions between parts of the device: Whether they are too close together, for example, and might be destroyed in the real world, he says. On a higher level, it offers a look at the flow of electrons via waveform graphs.
And Homuth says in the future, this crowd-sourced model for electronics provides a lot of “fertile ground” on which Upverter ‘s modeling capabilities can grow increasingly more accurate.
“If we can collect enough of that data back into the system we can actually predict what’s going to work and what’s not going to work.”
Upverter is not aimed merely at hobbyists or small businesses, he adds. Larger enterprises, he says, who traditionally have had their engineers working independently, could use it as a vehicle to bring them closer together and shorten the design cycle of their products. These companies could either use Upverter as a public cloud service, or deploy it within their own organization in a private cloud.
The broad target market for the product is reflected in the company’s pricing schemes, which offers everything from a free open-source account for individuals to team accounts which run at $99 a month plus $299 a month per full-time user (part-time or “flex” users are billed at $5 an hour.)
Companies with team accounts can work on an unlimited number of open-source or private projects and get 10 hours a month of CPU time to run simulations.