Issue: Mar 2007


Automotive Industries speaks with Fred Hume, chief executive officer, Data I/O Corporation.



The high demand for drive-by-wire, entertainment, driver assistance, and added safety features is driving a surge in the development of embedded systems

by Lenny Case

In February, Data I/O Corporation unveiled its new Automotive Performance Programming System (APPS) at the APEX exhibition in Los Angeles. The new automotive solution is based on the PS Series platform and is tailored for automotive original equipment manufacturers as well as Tier 1 and 2 makers of automotive electronics systems. For the Redmond, Washington-based Data I/O, the launch of the APPS will give it a big push into the automotive electronics market that is expected to touch USD 35 billion by 2010.

“Several major factors contribute to the increased number of programmable semiconductors used in automobiles including the availability of lower cost component parts, making sophisticated electronics for infotainment, safety systems, and advanced navigation options affordable in mainstream vehicles. Environmental and legislative mandates addressing fuel efficiency, child safety, airbags, and environmental/emissions are also driving growth in electronics systems,” says a statement on a Data I/O release during the APPS launch.

Some of the key features of Data I/O’s APPS include features that help create a complete solution for automotive manufacturers. For example, the PS FlashCORE Remote Monitoring application provides managers or clients responsible for production processing residing in remote locations a real-time direct link to the programming activities on the factory floor. Customers can view up to five networked programming systems and monitor the current production activity and yield statistics.

And then the PS Extended Job Log for SPC tracking provides detailed information regarding every motion of a device during the programming process, in a delimited-text file that can be imported into a traceability database or proprietary statistical process control tool for analysis and quality management. "For the first time, production managers will have strict configuration control over data file and programming task management. Our key customers in the automotive industry tell us that change management and traceability are critical challenges, and the Automotive Programming System was designed specifically to address those needs," said Megan Miller, automotive segment manager at Data I/O.

The 35-year-old Data I/O is a leader in the device programming industry. It manufactures semiconductor device handling and programming systems to the automotive electronics, wireless and consumer product industries. The company prides itself in understanding that for automotive companies, product design and production requirements are unique. Data I/O’s Application Integration Services teams help customers program devices seamlessly.

Automotive Industries spoke to Fred Hume, chief executive officer, Data I/O Corporation.

AI: How do you think your Automotive Performance Programming System will impact the automotive electronics market?

The Automotive Performance Programming System grew out of our work with automotive customers such as Lear, Hella, Bosch, Delphi, Visteon, Siemens VDO, and Kostal that were shifting from the use of mask-programmed microcontrollers to the use of programmable microcontrollers and Flash memories. In many of these companies, the design and production engineers were unfamiliar with the issues related to data file management, firmware control, and the creation of secure production processes with programmable devices. The APPS clarifies the process and helps bridge the gap between the NPI (or Advance Manufacturing) teams and the production floor.

AI: What has the reaction been from the automotive industry to the system?

Individual features of the APPS, such as SPC job logging, remote monitoring, and serial number labelling, were developed at the request of automotive customers and their programming centers, to meet industry requirements for quality, traceability, and version control. The APPS solution provides that level of control and traceability, both at NPI and throughout the life of the end product. So, we expected a good response and we have had it

AI: What is the difference between the APPS and your other device programming solutions that are aimed at the automotive industry?

Data I/O offers the ProLine RoadRunner, that mounts directly on the SMT machine, to provide ‘Just-in-Time’ programming the moment before the device is placed on the circuit board. This eliminates the need for reprogramming when software changes. We also offer ImageWriter that is used to program the devices after they have been placed on the circuit board, and often during configuration at the very end of the line. The Automotive Performance Programming System is our complete automotive industry solution for off-line programming. Other offerings address specific needs, but APPS brings them all together in one solution.

AI: How do you see the design and development of embedded in-vehicle electronics evolving?

The high demand for drive-by-wire, entertainment, driver assistance, and added safety features is driving a surge in the development of embedded systems. But these systems must meet exacting requirements for reliability and security. The software embedded in the microcontrollers in the ECUs will change over time as a result of bug fixes and feature enhancements. At the same time, we must have the capability to tailor this software to regional requirements. So, we are entering a new phase in the life cycle management of these systems when we have to support globally disintegrated product development and production while maintaining tight control over software quality and version control.

AI: What are some of the products Data I/O is working on to meet future needs of the automotive electronics market?

We are developing a solution for one automotive customer that needs to test an ECU and then reprogram the microcontroller with the appropriate calibration corrections without taking the module off the line. In another example, we are developing a customized device serialization program that supports digital rights management in electronic media systems. This application is particularly important to manufacturers of infotainment systems.


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