North America accounts for over 45% of the embedded systems market owing to the presence of major tech giants like Microsoft and Intel. The local talent pool, however, is struggling to meet the demand for engineering talent. As of writing this article, Indeed has over 10,000 job ads for embedded engineers in the US. LinkedIn shows an even more massive figure — over 71,000 vacancies.
If you’ve already had to hire embedded developers for your IoT software or hardware development needs, you don’t need me to tell you that the competition for talent is fierce. So fierce, in fact, that some companies even move their headquarters to locations that have a larger supply of embedded development professionals.
You, however, may not necessarily need to go that far. There are other, less drastic ways to fill your engineering skills gap, and outsourcing is one of them.
Seeking help in collaboration with embedded design companies based in countries with a higher availability of engineering talent seems like an obvious solution when your local supply is scarce. But while working with remote software developers, who rarely need anything other than their laptop for work, seems straightforward enough, organizing remote embedded development with all the hardware components and tools involved may appear a lot more daunting.
Daunting, but not impossible. Having worked as a business developer on the software engineering market for 15 years and on the IoT market specifically for the last four, I can assure you that outsourcing embedded development is not only doable, but beneficial too. Below, I address some of the most common concerns related to the subject.
If your core business is producing electronics or embedded software development, you obviously have an in-house embedded engineering team, and so outsourcing may seem like the last thing you could benefit from.
That said, from time to time you probably do have R&D projects with uncertain outcomes and no guarantees that the invested engineering resources will produce any tangible business value. You may also need to scale your existing team on a very short notice to tackle an unforeseen issue quickly — to address a critical vulnerability, for example, or to support a new version of an OS.
If these situations sound familiar, you should definitely use outsourcing as an opportunity to save time on recruitment and onboarding of new embedded engineers in an overheated talent market.
If you run a service-centric startup that utilizes smart products — a personal mobility device or a home care device for seniors, for example — you will probably only need to have them developed once. Since you won’t need to add updates and release new versions of the device on a regular basis, investing time and resources into hiring in-house engineers and buying expensive lab equipment is unlikely to be a worthwhile pursuit. Instead, it may be wiser for you to partner with a tech agency and leverage their engineers and tools.
An ideal partner should be able to:
- work with your hardware of choice: ideally, they should not only have experience with it, but also have licenses for all required IDEs and access to development boards;
- make prototypes locally, at their own lab;
- have access to local hardware distributors to get the newest components fast: ideally, they are an authorized partner of your hardware vendor of choice;
- help you establish remote access to hardware by organizing a video conference with step-by-step guidance during working hours typical for your time zone;
- deal with customs and shipment of hardware: for instance, at Lemberg, we have our own customs broker who is in charge of customs clearance;
- have strong security policies in place to ensure the safety of your IP;
- create understandable manuals for how to use their solution on your hardware — in both text and video formats;
- implement additional firmware features for control, like additional logging, input/output check, LED lights, etc.
A dedicated code repository, well-developed documentation, and robust communication that includes regularly scheduled meetings will ensure that you, your in-house team, and your remote embedded engineers are always on the same page.
For instant communication, you can use apps like Slack or Skype, while tools like Jira, Codebase, or similar will help with project management.
To learn more about organizing remote work, read our guide on managing remote product development teams.
It is only natural to worry about your intellectual property staying secure when you are dealing with an overseas agency. However, any reliable partner will sign all the contracts and NDAs necessary to guarantee that your data is safe with them.
For an added level of safety, you could also opt for working only with those agencies that hold ISO or similar certifications proving their high security standards.
If you have any further questions related to outsourcing embedded development or want to discuss cooperation with Lemberg, feel free to reach out to me through the contact form on our website or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to browse through our IoT development services and case studies.