Electronic-design engineers are
discovering a new way of simplifying their jobsthe ubiquitous
World Wide Web. New "dot-com" companies appear almost on a weekly
basis, offering training, information, and other critical resources
to the engineer in the comfort of their office, or even their home.
All a designer needs is a computer and an Internet link to be able
to find components, vendors, technical data, and tools to do many
design tasks right on their PC.
The chip- and board-design resources you can find on the Web
cover a wide range of editorial and technical information. Some
companies concentrate on a small segment of information. Examples
include companies that post the latest industry and company news
and others that offer training classes on popular EDA tools. Other
dot-com companies, such as TechOnLine, offer a broad range of
editorial and technical data, encompassing a variety of engineering
disciplines, on different Nets within the company's Web site. A
brief discussion of the types of engineering products you can find
on the Internet will give you an idea of how far Web-based design
has come in just the past few months.
Many electronic trade journals post their print publications'
entire editorial content on-line, including current issues and
archived issues going back as far as several years. In addition,
most have Web sites that complement their printed material with
news coverage that is updated frequently (weekly publications
update news daily). Some dot-com engineering-information companies
complement news coverage with other traditional editorial material,
including staff-written and contributed technical articles,
executive viewpoints, technical-event calendars, and conference
coverage. This wide array of vendor, product, and industry
information is necessary to encompass the range of components and
design activities encountered by the electronics designer.
There is no shortage of Web sites offering product and vendor
directories for the engineer. Taking the place of many shelves of
written directories, these sites let you search for specific
components (hardware and software) and compare components for a
specific application. Search criteria range from simple string
searches to full parametric searches based on component
characteristics. Many site source information directly from the
vendor, so you know the information is up-to-date. Chip designers
can even download complex silicon cores for a fee. The next logical
step beyond component evaluation and purchase is the
application-software provider (ASP).
The ASP is a new breed of Web-based company giving you per-use
or per-design access to EDA tools. You can access these Web-enabled
tools, which reside on a host server, from your PC. Among currently
available software are design tools for FPGAs, analog circuits, and
even tools to develop configurable-processor chips. A few
traditional EDA vendors are starting to sell online tool-use to
complement their tool sales channels. Along with actual EDA tools,
you can now find Web sites dedicated to specific tools, called
"user-focused Internet communities" by one EDA company that offers
two such sites for PCB designers.
Complementing pure ASPs are Web-based companies that help
enterprise-engineering design teams, managing design tasks and data
for geographically and temporally diverse team members. These
vendors offer Web-based Internet and Intranet tools for
collaborative design including tasks such as project-flow
management, configuration management, project-information
communication, and design-tool integration. Other Web-based vendors
offer supply-chain and the newly developing design-chain
management. These "cradle-to-womb" services promise assistance for
the complete design-definition-to-manufacturing cycle.
The days of commuting through traffic to and from the office or
lab are not gone, nor will they be in the foreseeable future.
However, Web-enabled-design products and services will help you
find the information you need, train you on new tools and
techniques, make available design tools without expensive up-front
purchases, increase your design productivity, and make your job
easier and more enjoyable.