Innovator of the Year Award Winner Qoitech has received a surprisingly good response for a novel test solution in the established performance analysis market. But what does the use case actually look like for the test device?
DESIGN&ELEKTRONIK: Energy-optimization has grown to one of the central topics in embedded electronics. There are quite established solutions on the industrial scale like Power analyzers. What is your motivation for entering such an established market with an embedded-scale development?
QOITECH: Our team comes from the mobile telecom sector, where energy optimization has always been important, as the race for more efficient battery life in phones was and still is crucial. When we’ve been working with energy optimization in development, we’ve experienced first-hand that making sure your device has the best possible battery life isn’t as easy as it should be.
In most places, energy optimization is the headache of that one hardware developer, who knows how to use the elaborate lab setup with very expensive and complex equipment.
Our goal was to democratize the market and shift the responsibility of energy optimization from ‘the hardware guy’ to both hardware and software developers. To create a collaborative workflow, where measurements can be shared effortlessly and worked on from both hardware and software perspectives.
Not only did we create a solution which is easy to use by all developers throughout the stack, but it can be used by any company or organization, thanks to the price level. Now energy optimization can be done at any developer’s desk. Otii is the new generation of power analyzers, for the new generation of tech with a shorter development cycle.
D&E: What test interfaces and hardware capabilities does your solution offer?
QOITECH: The Otii Arc main terminals work in two modes: Voltage Source and Current Sink. In Current Sink mode, a battery can be connected to the main terminals and the battery can then be characterized, creating a battery profile. This battery profile can then be used in Voltage Source mode when the main terminals are connected to the DUT acting as its battery. An expansion connector exposes an additional voltage current measurement channel, digital and analog inputs and outputs and a UART serial port that can be used to collect debug logs and control the DUT. Simultaneous collection of voltage and current measurements allows the solution to accurately calculate energy consumption.
D&E: Could you describe some generic test exercises Otii Arc applies to? Which interfaces and recordings are entering these test exercises?
QOITECH: A typical use case would be a software developer using the Otii solution to power the DUT. The Otii solution would replace a bench power supply while also giving access to the DUT debug logs from a UART. Seeing the energy consumption over time and comparing to previous recordings provides the developer with a unique visual representation and numbers of actual energy consumption.
Since Otii is designed for collaboration between software and hardware engineers, the next use case would be the hardware engineer taking a quick look on a recorded Otii project shared by a software developer colleague. The hardware developer can evaluate the recording to see if the energy consumption in sleep modes matches the expected numbers.
D&E: The GUI doesn’t align fully with common design concepts of graphical user interfaces of electronic instrumentation – What is the origin of the differences?
QOITECH: Our goal was to create a solution for both hardware and software developers. We wanted to simplify the user experience for both, and to encourage software engineers to start using the measurements as well. We also wanted to create a solution which would be very intuitive and easy to use when collaborating, in order to bring in the gap during the development cycle.
D&E: Especially embedded software-developers would mainly try to automate the measurement using the commandline-api. Could you briefly describe the basic scripting, in- and output-interfaces and in a generic workflow?
QOITECH: From a software developer perspective, the Otii solution can be used to automate a complete cycle of flash programming, instrumenting a specific test pattern to execute and finally evaluate if the energy consumption is within the test limits. This is something that our users have expressed a lot of interest in, so this was added back in September and is now a part of the premium feature set of the Otii solution.
D&E: From Otii’s perspective, what are the most relevant Battery- as well as Device-under-Test these days in embedded electronics?
QOITECH: Primary lithium batteries (mostly coin cells) and alkaline batteries are common for sensor- and beacon-type electronics where multi-year battery life is expected. For wearables where the battery life is comparatively short it’s mostly lithium polymer batteries. Otii is improving energy optimization in both cases.
D&E: Could you name test exercises in which you see the Otii-platform competitive with the large-scale industrial solutions?
Which test cases are definitely beyond the scope of the Otii platform?
QOITECH: When developing Otii, we wanted to make it as easy to use and intuitive as possible. But also portable! What does it mean to our clients? The easiest field testing and pre-sales applications. You can take Otii with you literally anywhere to do measurements of your devices or to showcase how low-energy your devices are to potential customers. We see a great deal of a need out there in showcasing energy optimization, Otii gives you the freedom to do so.
D&E: Yesterday, you entered hardware-pioneers demo night in Munich. Could you briefly describe your experience? What would you say that differs this kind of event from common trade shows or seminars? How do you rate its importance for your business-development?
QOITECH: We love being a part of the fast-growing and very enthusiastic startup community, being a startup ourselves, where we can meet our customers and learn from them. Showcasing Otii to inventors and makers gives us the possibility to learn about the needs of the new generation of developers and keep improving our product for them. In addition, our engagement in the startup community spreads the word and the new mindset around energy optimization. Most startups are at the beginning of their development cycle, hence they can benefit from our tool early on and gain the competitive advantage of a longer battery life. We understand how challenging it is to be a startup and to bring products and ideas to life. With Otii, we help solve the challenge of energy optimization. These are the reasons we enjoy participating in Hardware Pioneers events in London, and Munich was no different.
This autumn we also participated in multiple international exhibits like MWC Americas and IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona. We believe that it is important to attend, but also to make it meaningful. For example, during IoT Solutions World Congress we were present at Orange and Sony booths showcasing low power solutions, and at a Telefonica workshop. When you are a startup, it’s important to have a theme and great partners.
D&E: Do you think the embedded community is lacking of a community focusing on the energy optimization topic?
QOITECH: From the start we wanted to spread the word about the importance of energy optimization, because we think a lot of the time companies approach it only when something goes wrong. We have discussed many use cases, when batteries get drained after software updates. And this can be easily avoided.
We want to start the conversation, share the knowledge and change the approach towards energy optimization. And we hope to begin building a community around this topic. Stay tuned!
D&E: What will the next enhancement of the Otii-platform look like?
QOITECH: We are constantly working on improvements and new features, using the feedback and wishes of our users from our forum. We can’t share exact enhancements at the moment, but we can say that our Jira is full of projects.
Interview originally published in DESIGN&ELEKTRONIK, conducted by Dr. Constantin Tomaras with answers provided by Dr. Vanja Samuelsson, Founder and CEO of Qoitech.