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Dealing with the pressure

John Day

John Day

Posted Jan 25, 2010

I’ve been thinking about pressure. What’s it like for an NFL quarterback during those few seconds in the pocket looking for an open receiver and simultaneously hoping that none of his linemen will miss their blocking assignment.

Or an automotive electrical/electronic application developer facing deadlines and cost concerns while working to integrate analog, digital, and mixed signal technologies in electrical, mechanical, and other domains.

The QB has a playbook, teammates, hours on the practice field, and years of experience to boost his confidence. The engineer, we can only hope, has sophisticated system modeling tools to rely on and creativity to use those tools to best advantage.

When reporting on the benefits of cutting-edge automotive electronics technology – such as system modeling and virtual prototyping – it’s easy to assume that every engineer has it, and astounding to think that some may not.

But tools by themselves are no guarantee of success. An intangible quality separates Peyton Manning and Drew Brees from journeyman quarterbacks. Similarly, there is an art to creating effective system modeling. It’s knowing what to model, and why; knowing when to move from simulation to physical hardware, and closing the gap between hardware and software at every stage of design in order to simulate and verify an integrated system.

Skilled programmers pride themselves on the elegance of the code they write, but vendors of automatic code generation systems insist that the output of their systems is equally good, or nearly so. Optimizing components and otherwise tuning an integrated automotive system takes skill, but we are beginning to see computers that can guide engineers through the process. That technology will make it possible to evaluate more options, but if engineering is an art as well as a science, as I believe it is, there will always be room for human expertise.

What’s your take on the future of system modeling? And who do you like in the Super Bowl?

Drew Brees, NFL Quaraterback, Automotive Electronics Technology, Peyton Manning, System Modeling Tools

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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