You've given your product a USB Interface , so why not also use it to make upgrading as simple as possible, too? Sending your upgrades by email reduces risk, saves support and shipping costs too!
What If Your Worst Fears Come True?
It happens more often than you might think. The hurry to meet a product ship date causes a rush to finish the project, and confusion at the critical time when final test and integration are taking place. You ship lots of units, only to discover later that some firmware bug got into the products you shipped.
What will you DO? How will you PAY for all the support costs??
The old way was to do one of these things:
- Have the customer ship the product back to you. You open the product and program new firmware into the PIC processor inside, test it a it, and pack it up and ship it back to the customer. (Sounds expensive, doesn't it? It IS...)
- Provide the customer with some slipshod, hobby-grade bootloader that she has to use with either Windows Hyperterminal (her laptop doesn't have a serial port anymore, remember?), or some PC program written for techies, that confuses her and gives your product a bad reputation.
- Or worse yet, ignore the customer and hope that nobody else hears about the problem.
But Now There's a Better Way: Simple Upgrade Management SYSTEM!
Simple Upgrade Management SYSTEM ( SUMS ) from Trace Systems Inc. can actually email your upgrade to your customers for you. The End User Upgrade Mode presents your end users with a highly simplified and largely automated user interface: a few clicks of the mouse and their product has been upgraded, free of hassles and confusion for even non-technical users.
SUMS Upgrade Manager can encrypt your firmware, along with the Company ID (which we provide you), the Model ID (that you make up for each hardware model in your product line), and the unique Serial Number in the customer's device.
SUMS Upgrade Manager then collects all the necessary files into a WinZip[tm] archive, or even a self extracting WinZip[tm] file that contains the firmware upgrade files that you have set up for them. (SUMS requires WinZip 12.0 or higher, sold separately. We recommend the inexpensive $84.95 WinZip "Big Zipper" bundle [link].)
All your customer has to do is to extract the files to a clean new folder on his Windows PC, run the bootloader PC program he just unpacked, and click the mouse a few times.
Talk about "phoning it in!" It's quick, easy, and safe for both you and your customers!
Sends Your Customer A PERSONALIZED Email
SUMS will even personalize the email you send to your customer, using email templates that you can customize yourself. Here's what a template looks like:
Items like $$Customer_Name and so on are mail-merge variables. For each customer you send an upgrade to, the email gets personalized by SUMS , vy substituting the customer information and your company information into the template, so the customer actually receives an email that looks like THIS:
You can customize the email templates in any way you like.
Here's what one customer has to say:
Our customers find us from all over the world. Many of our designs involve custom firmware and production runs of only 1-5 pieces. In the past, when a user would request additional features after taking delivery, our only option was to ship the gear back to the shop for reprogramming.
Since most of our customers work in 'need it today' environments, we've spent a collective fortune shipping equipment back and forth overnight. Just this week, we've pushed additional features out to one customer in Australia and a second group on the far side of the country. Our customers love this new solution, and sales have increased specifically because we now offer field updates as an option. The money we've saved on overnight freight has more than paid Trace Systems' fee.
The Trace Systems USB Bootloader allows us to provide firmware updates in the field. It's a simple, elegant and stable solution. I can't imagine developing any future product without it.
John Chapman,Lead Designer, Engineering Solutions Inc
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