Maybe you are just starting in the prototyping world, and you want to know more about the different components that you need to address in order to design and build a good device. You have some doubts about hardware, and software, and it may be difficult to tell which one you should be looking for to develop with a company. That’s why we want to share with you a short article to explain the difference between hardware and software.
What is software?
A software is any platform, system or application that a user needs in order to perform actions such as: writing a report, processing data in the computer, order a pizza on a specific App from the phone, or watch a movie on a streaming platform.
If you for example are planning to develop a new App that will compete against Uber or Airbnb, you will need software development.
There are many developers that specialize in app programming, while others have the knowledge in building platforms for data processing, education, entertainment, among others.
The software involves coding and different algorithms that need to be built in order to work properly. It all depends on what you want to do with the software. Of course, it won’t work alone, the software will need hardware in order to work.
What is hardware?
A hardware is a piece of physical device that is needed to execute or run a program (software). What does this mean?
If you are using an iPhone, you have a piece of advanced hardware in your hands: camera lenses, chips, a screen, sensors, electric components, etc. This phone won’t work unless you have a software installed in it, and vice versa, the iOS software won’t work if the iPhone has a broken component or a part is missing.
Imagine the hardware as the foundation of a good device or product. Every component plays an important role for the construction of the hardware. For example, a good design of a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) ensures that your product will be different to anything seen in the market, not because it affects the physical design, rather, it’s the easiest way nowadays to have complex circuits in very small devices.
Building your own PCB will help your device to be more reliable, since there won’t be lost connections or malfunctions by suddenly moving the device or product.
Depending on the stage in which you are with your project, you may need hardware design and development, as well as software development.
Hardware vs Software
These two depend on each other to work. However, there are some differences to bear in mind.
The hardware serves as a basis for controlling machines, chips, lenses, doors, etc. While the software has all instructions on what the hardware is going to do depending on the commands given by the user.
For example: You need to take a picture with your phone. You click on the camera icon on the screen. In a simplistic way, the software sends the order to the hardware to activate the lens, and that way, you now have the chance to take a beautiful picture.
From time to time, the phone company will release new updates of your phone’s software to improve its performance. In the case of the camera, the update would help your camera to open faster, or maybe enhance the quality of the final picture. Though the physical camera will have a limitation; over the years, new and more advanced lenses will be included in other phones, and the lens you already have may become obsolete.
That is when you will need to update your hardware, that is, change your phone; if you want to have the best quality in your photos and videos.
When there is a failure in hardware (electronic component, PCB, or other component), it is necessary to go to a technician to fix the problem, however, when the problem is caused by the software, usually a new version or reinstallation can solve the issue.
The hardware has an “expiration time”, over time it will wear out with constant use, however, even though the software may present errors because of constant use, it can be easier updated than hardware.
That’s why you usually see old phones in the market that no longer accept more updates of a specific app. Since the technology is so old that new apps are too advanced for it.
More advanced phones require bigger batteries, and these devices require more power, different chips, and new microcontrollers. Therefore, the software needs to be even better to be able to control the new technologies.
Where should I start with my project, hardware or software?
The answer to this question depends on the product or service you want to offer. You can simply contact a hardware and software company, or you can analyze the following.
Let’s say you want to launch a new IoT device for the agriculture sector. The software will be an important part of this product; however, you first need to start with designing the product (hardware).
Starting with the design of the product will help you to acknowledge how big your device will be, its performance, physical characteristics and materials. This can be done through a prototyping process.
Once you have a preliminary design, you or the company you hire for developing your project will test it with a basic hardware set up. This will help you get results from a quick proof of concept. From this scenario, you will know if the idea is worth building or not.
If the results are promising, you can continue with the development process, in which the aesthetics will be better taken care of, and the software that will control the device will be well built to guarantee your device will work properly under real circumstances.
We expect this information is useful for you. Now you understand the main differences between hardware and software and can make good decisions on where to start with your project development.
If you have any comments about the topic, we invite you to comment below.