Innovation: It’s All in the Software: Page 2 of 2

Engineers work on a daily basis to translate ideas into real-world innovations and while in many circumstances the world sees hardware as the “new thing,” in many circumstances today the real innovation is all about the software.

position. The reader can see that there is an ultrasonic sensor array beneath a user’s hand and once the input parameters are gathered, the software must generate ultrasonic waves at just the right frequencies to be detected by the human hand. This is not an easy feat given that the ultrasonic waves must construct at just the right distance and position in space to provide accurate and realistic tactile feedback.

The Ultrahapics solution is just one example where software innovation is viewed as much more important than hardware. Another example is to examine the open source hardware platforms that provide a generic hardware system such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Beagle Bone Black, and the like. Common hardware pieces that result in a completely new innovation once software is written for it.  

In many circumstances today, the innovation is in the software. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore hardware and stop trying to push the envelope. Software innovation can never occur without standing on the shoulders of hardware innovators first. At the end of the day, the software driving that hardware can often do more than anyone might ever imagine.

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at [email protected], at his website, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter .


You lack of vision and understanding of what is real product development. You mentioned Raspberry, Beagle bone... they are all for hobbyist... or prototype development. Anybody that put products in production and support those products know that you missed some important things... it seems to be a tangent from consultant. It's not because many innovations are possible in software that no innovation is done in hardware.

This is an amusing piece, as the same sort of arguments could be written by a hardware engineer who knows nothing about software. How useful would your ultrasonic feedback software be absent that "common hardware sensor." Sorry, but the components and systems you dismiss as common and non-innovative are the products of innovation that are so disruptive that they continues to provide the technological underpinning of coders like yourself for years to come. Stop building silos.

Haptics is a nice add-on, but there is not much wrong with that good old "beep" when an input is accepted. So the wonderful process of using the ultrasonics is just a fancy gimmick that adds a lot of complexity to the code. Yes, I know that it might reduce hardware costs a bit by avoiding the need for a separate haptic excitation channel, but it certainly must add a lot to the software, creating more locations for unseen errors that will only be discovered by the customers.

LOL, a software consultant writes that only software is innovative and hardware is merely common and limited? With an attitude like that you better grab all the money you can before your clients see through you and terminate their relationships. Your software is limited by the capabilities of the hardware it interacts with. It's a two-way street, son.

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