We offer electronic design services, both hardware and software, specialising in embedded real-time building automation and control systems.

Whilst we have traditionally focussed on commercial buildings, we are becoming increasingly involved in residential systems, aka home automation. This is a fast-growing market sector, with some particularly interesting design challenges.

What we do

User and environment research – defining the users and environment the system will interact with.

System architecture – developing conceptual models for the structure and behaviour of the system, be it a simple thermostat, or a full environmental control system.

User interfaces – how users will interact with the system.

Transducers – how the system interacts with its environment, using sensors and actuators.

Electrical interfaces – from volt-free contacts to building control networks, BMS interfaces, and internet connections.

Power supply and distribution – from simple battery-powered sensors to whole-building power distribution, this is a crucial part of a good system design.

Feasibility Studies – looking for innovative solutions, and assessing high-risk areas of the project.

Electronic product and system design from simple single-sided PCBs with a few components, to complex high-speed analogue and digital designs on multi-layer controlled-impedance PCBs. Complete design process including circuit design, prototyping, feasibility studies, PCB design, and drawing packs for PCB fabrication, PCB assembly, and final product assembly.

PCB design – from simple single-sided paper boards, up to 8 layer controlled impedance FR4, with drilled or laser-cut vias, track and gap sizes down to 0.13mm, and handling all up-to-date component packages including BGA and microBGA. We use Pulsonix CAD software.

Power management and conversion – linear or switchmode, from microprocessor supply rails to 20 amp DC motor supplies.

Actuator control – from simple solenoids, valves and DC brushed motors, to brushless or stepper motors for higher power or precision.

Sensors – from simple environmental sensors (temperature, pressure, ambient light, humidity, occupancy, etc.), through to more complex technologies and inferred sensing techniques, this is an area that fascinates us!

Embedded microcontrollers – from low cost ARM Cortex M0, Atmel AT, and PIC devices for simple sensors and controllers, through ARM Cortex M3 devices for more complex control systems and user interfaces, to Intel XScale and ARM Cortex A8 CPUs with DDR2 RAM for high throughput network appliances etc. System-on-Chip or System-on-Module products are used for rapid development of more complex platforms, for example linux-based embedded web servers and network appliances.

Building Control Networks – from simple serial buses such as RS232, RS485, USB and Apollo, through bespoke networks, to industry standards such as Echelon LonWorks, CAN, BACNet, Modbus, Z-wave, Zigbee, ethernet etc.

User Interfaces – from simple lights and buttons, through to LCD and OLED displays, navkeys and touchscreens

Real-time embedded control software from simple single-threaded code to multi-threading operating systems.

Sensor and actuator interfaces using time-critical data acquisition and processing.

Network protocols from simple 2-wire sensor networks to full IP control.

User interfaces from simple lights and buttons, to graphical displays and navkeys.

Bootloaders and Flash loaders for bespoke hardware designs.

We typically use C or assembler, compiled using the excellent GNU GCC, and developed and debugged using the Eclipse IDE.

We develop support applications (user interfaces, programming and configuration tools etc) for Windows and Linux boxes, written in Delphi or C/C++. In addition whilst we wouldn’t claim to be experts in these areas, we are familiar with HTML, php, XML, JavaScript, Ajax, Apache httpd, mysql, Cygwin, Android, iOS, etc. These are vital tools for developing the UI/HMI apps that are becoming so popular, and we are learning fast!

Proof-of-principle prototype fabrication using wire-wrap, strip-board, and off-the-shelf modules.

Rapid prototyping of bespoke PCBs using fast-turnaround PCB fabrication and SMT assembly houses.

Rapid software development for quick low-cost testing of prototype hardware.

Design verification programmes for functional, environmental, and reliability testing.

Ongoing design acceptance testing – clients typically want to do this in-house, so we provide the support and advice they need, and develop any special jigs or software needed for this.

Reliability assessment – calculating MTBF and assessing environmental factors.

Failure mode assessment – particularly important for fire and intrinsic safety products

EMC and LVD assessment and testing – either by self-assessment or using a test house such as Hursley EMC.

RoHS and WEEE – ensuring our designs are compliant, and advising our clients where necessary.

CE Marking – meeting the relevant standards, and compiling Declaration of Conformity and Technical Files.

UL, WRAS etc. – whilst we wouldn’t claim to be experts in these areas, we often work with clients and test houses to attain these approvals.

Product Labelling – whilst product labels are typically designed by our clients, we advise and assist the client in meeting the various labelling requirements, such as power markings, CE, RoHS, WEEE etc.

Documentation – we typically work with the client on user, installation and service manuals etc., either providing advice, or working with a technical writer.

Our designs are typically manufactured by a sub-contract manufacturer such as NuStart and EC Electronics, with whom we work closely, providing whatever technical support is needed.

Drawing Packs – we provide full manufacturing drawing packs, using industry-standard file formats (PCB gerbers, Excellon drill files, IPC-D-356 netlists, pdf, csv and xls items lists, assembly drawings, csv component placement files, etc. etc.).

Production Programming – we typically provide either bespoke programming jigs and software, or advise the manufacturer on using their existing programming tools.

Production Test – from simple manual test procedures to fully automated test jigs, we design them.

and finally…

We’re not rocket scientists! If you have a multi-million pound budget for developing the world’s first nuclear-powered spaceship, we’re probably not the right people.

Building controls, however, whilst not being rocket science, do require a broad set of skills. Buildings themselves are complex, whether you’re considering their architecture, mechanics and thermodynamics, logistics for heating, cooling, lighting, plumbing, communications, access control, security, or the many and varied ways that human beings use and interact with a building. We have the broad skill base and experience needed for this.

If there is a particular skill that we are lacking, then we probably know a man who can.