THine Value The Story Behind the Development of a Solution - The Enthusiasm of Engineers toward “RDK”, an ISP Development Tool - Vol.1

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Image signal processors for cameras (ISP) are one of the main product lines of THine Electronics along with power source integrated circuits (IC) for many devices, LEDs, and motor driver ICs. In the summer of 2015, an innovative ISP development tool, “RDK (Reference Design Kit),” was created. We asked Masato Hatahara of the Product Planning Department to tell us about this new business development and Takahiro Iizuka of the International Sales & Managing Department about the features of RDK.

Joined THine Electronics to seek a friendly working environment

Before entering THine Electronics as a firmware engineer, Hatahara worked for four companies including a leading foreign-affiliated assembly manufacturer just after graduation from college.

Hatahara said, “The application guidelines of major companies describe many requirements including ‘three years of experience in ○○’. But the year when I joined THine Electronics, the application guidelines of the company said only one line: ‘Those who are well versed in cameras’.” He smiled and continued, “After I joined, I found the atmosphere was open throughout the company, creating an environment where employees can actively express their opinions transcending department boundaries. I felt very comfortable working here and six years have passed without my being aware of it.”

Identifying gaps between customers’ desires and our technologies

After joining THine Electronics, Hatahara was assigned to the Development Department as a firmware engineer. Recently, he has been transferred to the Product Planning Department and works on various projects as one of the core members.
“In the planning phase, we start by carefully identifying gaps between what customers want and technologies currently in our possession. After that we ask them questions in detail to fill in the gaps, since we cannot expect customers to clearly describe what product they really want. This is like filling the outer moat of a castle. In order to elicit their potential needs, it is important to have as many opportunities as possible to talk with customers,” he said.

“Balance of people, product, and money” is important for product development

zoomHatahara is involved in the planning of products covering both hardware and software. He said, “In the past I thought, ‘If I come up with something interesting and sell it, then the company will make money,” but now I think, ‘Rather than something interesting, it is more important to strike the balance among people, product, and money’. If a product becomes over-engineered, the entire cost climbs, resulting in higher unit cost, and the product cannot come out as the customer desires even if it is a good product. The company cannot become profitable either. Through engaging in development, I keenly felt the very strong influence that a product has on both the company and customers. I think this may have made me more aware of my responsibility.”

Since extensive development resources are necessary, it usually takes from one and half to two years to commercialize a semiconductor chip. When he was in the Development Department, he was part of the development of the THP series (9112, 9108, 7212, and 7312) for ISP. Hatahara said, “The Product Planning Department is responsible for not only planning products but also helping sales staff with after-sales service and verifying performance after the product is delivered. I visit customers to receive feedback in person and I make use of it for version updates or development of a next product. Compared with the foreign-affiliated assembly manufacturer I worked for before, I have many opportunities here to talk with engineers of other companies. Getting information from them is very inspiring and interesting.”

THine’s “RDK” changes the prevailing wisdom of ISP development!

zoomHatahara utilizes the information and opinions he collects from customers for future development. This is his basic stance toward work. This summer another product emerged, a new fruit of his approach to development with inspiration from customers’ opinions. It is “RDK” (Reference Design Kit). 

According to Takahiro Iizuka of the International Sales & Managing Department, RDK drastically reduces the development man-hours when customers develop a new camera. He said, “Usually the development of a camera requires enormous resources of skilled engineers. Since specifications customers may need are programmed in our RDK, I am sure that it will overwhelmingly decrease every customer’s burden in development. Generally, development technology is considered to be a company secret and its know-how cannot be disclosed. But we generously offer it in the form of RDK for customers to reduce the development time period. We are learning that there are needs also in foreign countries such as China and India besides domestic companies.”

It was impossible to provide all customers with the leading-edge technologies but it can become possible with RDK. RDK is undoubtedly an innovative solution that can be said to be “the trump card of our ISP business.” We are watching with great expectations what “chemical changes” RDK will bring about.