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‘Google for Engineers’

Before starting any project — be it a news article or an engineering design — research is perhaps the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the process. Search engines capitalized on this concept at the dawn of the Internet era, and aggregators and other businesses have been fine tuning the model ever since.

In spite of these efforts, engineers spend a vast amount of time culling through component data, design specs, and various tools before actually beginning a design. Now, a site that pulls many of these disparate elements together has arisen from an unlikely source — a catalogue components distributor — but experts say this kind of solution is long overdue.

{complink 12809|element14}, the sister community to Newark in the Americas and Farnell in Europe, has launched The Knode, an interactive site hosting component data, EDA tools, design-related content, PCB prototyping services, an engineering community, and a component store — to assist engineers in their design efforts. Initially targeted at the PCB design and the embedded systems markets, The Knode will continue to expand into other design areas such as FPGA, according to Jeff Jussell, senior director of global technology for element14 parent company {complink 12895|Premier Farnell plc}.

“We see this as a gateway into engineering design solutions,” Jussell told us in a phone interview. “We now provide solutions beyond component development kits and hardware tools: We can now help enginers with the design, their component selection, their PCB services, and their prototyping needs and contain it all in one 'room.' The concept is to present these solutions to engineers and let them do their work faster with less risk, and in a way that makes sense to them.”

“You can get what you need all in one place, and something like this has been needed for a long time,” says Gary Smith, founder and principal of market research firm/consultancy Gary Smith EDA. “I've been preaching about this for years, and distributors have been in a good position to step up to something like this. [Element14] is the first to do it.”

From a business standpoint, element14 hopes to sell components once a design is done. From a relationship standpoint, the company wants to engage with customers at the early stage of the product design cycle and become the go-to place the next time an engineer embarks on a project. “We asked our customers where they were spending their time and found they were literally visiting hundreds of sites to get the information they needed,” says Jussell. “They were going to vendor sites, testing design tools, looking for prototypes, using in-house resources and searching through Google, and then they had to sift through the results and it was taking them weeks at time. As a distributor, we have the opportunity to pull these things together in one place.”

To do this, element14 had to build a dedicated infrastructure to support The Knode. For example, most component data on the Internet is pushed out from suppliers to secondary sites that may or may not update the data on a regular basis. Element14 has a set of engineers that search for and pull data to keep component information up to date. The company has also vetted the tools and service providers featured on The Knode.

“You could call it 'Google for engineers,' ” says Smith. In terms of the selection of tools and components The Knode offers, Smith says the site is designed to be agnostic. “[Element14] has its own linecard, but once you get into systems design, the [decision] is about more than just components. The Knode is pretty [vendor] neutral.”

In an upcoming blog, I'll discuss the competitive component-sales environment, and how distributors leverage tools such as The Knode to obtain and retain loyal customers.

19 comments on “‘Google for Engineers’

  1. hwong
    June 22, 2011

    I heard that google has some sort of collaborative efforts with end users to work together on developing products. I thought that's a brilliant idea because at the end of the day, it's the users that is going to determine if they like the product or not. So we have to keep doing things to Manage Innovation.

  2. Anand
    June 22, 2011

    “You can get what you need all in one place, and something like this has been needed for a long time,”

    This is excellent idea. I am sure this will help the design engineers to choose right component for their design. Moreover it helps them to save their time because they can get all the info from single website.

  3. Mr. Roques
    June 22, 2011

    Very nice idea. I also like how this can be used for educational purposes. Do you know if they have thought about it, or even better, if they started working with an university, etc?

    Thanks!

  4. mario8a
    June 22, 2011

    it will be nice to search for something and not have to filter over so many unwanted results, in addtion this will be very helpful to have Engineers access information and share data about specific studies.

     

    Excellent idea.

     

  5. Daniel
    June 23, 2011

    We can say Element 14 as an ideal forum for electronic and hardware engineers. They had integrated many use full EDA tools and expert panel for clarifying the design and related doubts. More over they are showcasing many of the related products with online purchase option. In contrast we can say that, they had integrated well A-Z of the electronic industry, which can fits from component and design to final layout rooting.

  6. saranyatil
    June 23, 2011

    Barbara,

    Brilliant idea! this will be treated as god in disguise for design engineers. If we are going to get everythin at one stop, it reduces so much effort and time.

  7. jbond
    June 23, 2011

    This sounds like an excellent idea. This will save countless hours of going to numerous sites and filtering through unwanted results from the search queue. Element14 should be able to make some decent headway with sales and being a stop shopping outlet. Do the research, make a design and order your parts. This should work great.

  8. Houngbo_Hospice
    June 23, 2011

    “Moreover it helps them to save their time because they can get all the info from single website.”

    I'm not certain if the site can provide information about every engineering domains, but it is a pretty good concept that will be adopted by both the research community and the industry. Also the sucess of site will depend on  how suppliers provide their components' specs on a regular basis. An outdated information might lead to wrong designing decisions.

  9. seel225
    June 23, 2011

    This idea sounds amazing everything under one roof makes life easier and saves lot of time. I am sure Element 14 idea should workd great.

  10. Clairvoyant
    June 23, 2011

    Excellent idea for a site. I will definitely look more into the information contained on the site.

  11. prabhakar_deosthali
    June 24, 2011

    This site should turn out to be an excellent community of Engineers and suppliers. It may be a good idea if some of the successful product designs are made available on this site ( may be at cost ) . This will help the designers to avoid reinventing the wheel, avoid duplication of effort and start-off from an established design to create a niche product by incremental effort.

  12. t.alex
    June 24, 2011

    This should be a good reference source. Engineers still rely on google most of the time.

  13. Wale Bakare
    June 24, 2011

    Infact element14 website comprehensively captured and simplified components search for design engineers. 

  14. Himanshugupta
    June 24, 2011

    Hopefully when engineers can find all the technical and reliable information at one place then we will rely on it rather than google. Even now, we only find the relevent sites/cataloges on google and then have to dig in those sites for technical information.

  15. BG
    June 24, 2011

     

    This looks great!  EE's have so many rocks to look under to find solid designs to use. 

    It appears Digi-Key has a quiet gem with different approach to locating valuable designs, a reference design library… http://designs.digikey.com/library/index. 

    It's not fair when your EE's have great tools like these and others don't, lol.

  16. itguyphil
    June 24, 2011

    As a technical person, I think it's better to have to search through multiple sources to find the information you need, as opposed to everything in one place. As a wise man once said “Smart people don't know everything, they know how & to find everything when needed”

  17. t.alex
    June 26, 2011

    pocharle, quite true. This raise another question: does the website bias towards one vendor over another? We always look for alternatives and compare before making any decision.

  18. itguyphil
    June 26, 2011

    It depends. Most people have their favorite sources of information. But when you cannot find what you need easily, time to start searching Google for other resources. But I always like to check a few sources before applying any changes to 'important' systems just to be sure.

  19. Mr. Roques
    July 18, 2011

    I hope they are flexible enough to change if something in the industry changes as well. That would allow them to not fade out as something new comes in.

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