Frequently Asked Questions

When answering common questions from prospective customers, we tend to see the questions group around business methods, services, skills, or resources. Follow the links to topics below.

Business

   How does a customer engage in business with Tier One?
   Does Tier One charge for proposals?
   Fixed-fee? Why in the world would you do that?
   Who has final responsibility for the project outcome when it is underway?
   Who owns the intellectual property created in the design work?
   How can you provide good service for customers that are not in your local area?
   Contactors come and go a lot. How do I know my business is safe with Tier One?
   Who owns Tier One? What kind of business is it?

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Services

   Where do Tier One's services start and stop? How much can you take on?
   Do you require that you do all of the development on a project?
   Does Tier One do schematics and layouts?
   What kind of software work does Tier One do?
   Do your projects include working prototypes?
   What kind of procurement services do you provide for prototypes?
   Do you provide assembly services for prototypes?
   Can Tier One design FPGAs?
   What kind of services do you provide related to manufacturing?
   What kind of services do you provide for agency certification?
   What about mechanical engineering and industrial design?

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Skills

   What are the qualifications of Tier One employees?
   What types of microprocessors does Tier One design with?
   Which operating systems does Tier One have experience with?
   Does Tier One do power supply design?
   What kind of DSP experience does Tier One have?
   What design and development environments does Tier One use?
   What kind of device drivers has Tier One written?

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Resources and Tools

   What kind of facilities does Tier One have?
   Does Tier One own its own lab equipment?
   What software package does Tier One use for schematic capture?
   What software package does Tier One use for PCB layout?
   How does Tier One help to manage the supply line of electronic components?

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How does a customer engage in business with Tier One?

First, we usually find out what the general requirements are, asking the necessary questions to narrow down the scope of work and services required. From there we usually make a formal proposal outlining fees, hard costs, schedules, etc.

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Does Tier One charge for proposals?

No. If a customer knows enough about what they want for us to make a fixed-fee proposal, we make it free of charge. If not, we usually make the requirements investigation and proposal on an hourly basis. At the customer's request, we will sometimes charge a small fee to develop a specification with enough detail for us to make a fixed-fee bid.

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Fixed-fee? Why in the world would you do that?

It puts our money where our mouth is. We claim to get it right the first time, on time and on budget. If we bid on fixed-fee basis, you don't have to just trust us. There is a very strong financial motivator for us to perform as we promise.

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Who has final responsibility for the project outcome when it is underway?

We hold final accountability for our committed responsibilities - not our suppliers or partners or any other third party. Our customers almost always have responsibilities of their own which only they can hold. We spell those out on the front-end of the project, however.

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Who owns the intellectual property created in the design work?

The customer does. We work on a fee-for-service basis, similar to an architecture firm or law firm.

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How can you provide good service for customers that are not in your local area?

Skill and experience provides most of our ability to work at a distance successfully. We have plenty of experience and a strong skill base in the development of mission critical products for a variety of customers. That allows us to anticipate needs much more effectively than most. What's more, we don't hesitate to work on site when necessary, even for the out-of-state customers we have.

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Contactors come and go a lot. How do I know my business is safe with Tier One?

Track record, commitment, process, and documentation. We have a great track record of performing for customers over the long term, and we have a strong commitment to our profession. We also follow company-standard processes, which mean that our techniques and methods can easily survive the addition and change of personnel over time. Finally, we document our work so well that virtually any competent team can assume our work from us without having to rely on our assistance in the future. Even if we were to disappear, the value of our design work would remain.

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Who owns Tier One? What kind of business is it?

We are a Georgia Corporation that is owned and managed by the founders. We do not have outside equity investors and do not carry any debts.

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Where do Tier One's services start and stop? How much can you take on?

Because we really are a full-service provider, it's probably easier to say what we don't do than list what we will do. We don't inventory finished goods for customers and we don't sell or market products for customers. Other than that, we offer almost every product development related service for embedded systems. Where we don't make an offering directly, we have a great network of partners whom we can put you in touch with, or we can serve as the "general contractor" for a development effort that includes activities outside our scope.

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Do you require that you do all of the development on a project?

No. In fact, that is pretty uncommon. We almost always find ourselves working with another design or product team at some phase of development. Where that happens and to what degree depends on the customer.

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Does Tier One do schematics and layouts?

Yes, both in-house. Unlike many design firms, we can do not only our own schematics, but our own layout. We feel it is the best way to ensure design quality.

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What kind of software work does Tier One do?

Just about everything, but we are at our best working on software that has to be highly optimized for a specific embedded platform or for high performance and stability on a PC or Internet host service.

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Do your projects include working prototypes?

Yes. We feel strongly about this. Either we deliver early working prototypes or the effort is not properly focused, in our view. We often make a large part of our payment contingent on the customer's acceptance of working prototypes.

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What kind of procurement services do you provide for prototypes?

Complete. We have good working relationships and credit terms with many key suppliers. Our customers are typically unaware of any of the logistics of prototype procurement. We provide that service turn-key.

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Do you provide assembly services for prototypes?

Yes, we either manage a contract manufacturer through the assembly of prototypes, or build by hand ourselves if necessary. Sometimes design complexity requires incremental hand assembly for careful debug purposes.

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Can Tier One design FPGAs?

Yes. We have solid skills in this area. We have designed network MACs, video processing parts, and other FPGA-based hardware.

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What kind of services do you provide related to manufacturing?

We routinely help customers find the right manufacturer for their needs and cost requirements. We also support their selected manufacturer through early runs and ongoing delivery.

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What kind of services do you provide for agency certification?

Unless a customer wants to take on the task themselves, we almost always certify our designs to UL, FCC, CE, etc.

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What about mechanical engineering and industrial design?

We have trusted partners that provide industrial design and mechanical engineering services. They are firms much like us, only specializing in mechanical engineering instead of electronics and software. Depending on the focus of the development effort, either we or they will take the lead on the project as the "general contractor". This has worked very well for our customers and partners.

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What are the qualifications of Tier One employees?

All of our employees are engineers, and almost all have advanced degrees. These degrees are in electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, and mathematics. All of us have many years of direct experience in driving complex hardware and software products from the lab bench to the shipping dock.

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What types of microprocessors does Tier One design with?

A very wide variety of 8, 16, and 32 bit microprocessors from the very simple to SoC level complexity. The full list is too lengthy to place here.

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Which operating systems does Tier One have experience with?

Many processor-specific RTOS products, all versions of client and server Windows, all versions of Windows Embedded products such as Windows CE and Windows XP Embedded, and Linux.

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Does Tier One do power supply design?

Yes. Power supply design is, in fact, one of our strong specialties. Many engineers comfortable with digital design are not at all comfortable with power supply design. We are, and it is very helpful to our customers.

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What kind of DSP experience does Tier One have?

Substantial hardware and software experience. We have used DSP silicon to develop a high data rate nuclear radiation detector, for example. We have also developed software algorithms for stereo image correspondence problems, camera-based barcode recognition, and optical character recognition.

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What design and development environments does Tier One use?

A very wide variety. They are too numerous to list here.

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What kind of device drivers has Tier One written?

It might be easier to describe what kind we have not written. We do not have direct experience with complex mass market "desktop" device drivers such as printers, scanners, etc. We have written device drivers for almost every other category of devices and networks commonly found in embedded systems and PCs, however.

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What kind of facilities does Tier One have?

We have our own suite in an office complex located in an Atlanta suburb. It contains our offices, our laboratory, our meeting facilities, etc.

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Does Tier One own its own lab equipment?

Yes. We have a significant capital investment in the equipment necessary to complete successful embedded systems designs.

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What software package does Tier One use for schematic capture?

We almost always use ViewLogic, but we do also sometimes use ORCAD.

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What software package does Tier One use for PCB layout?

PADS. On occasion customers will ask for assistance with ORCAD layouts, but this is uncommon.

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How does Tier One help to manage the supply line of electronic components?

We have excellent relationships in the electronics distribution and contract manufacturing communities. This, combined with a diligence for designing in parts for availability, helps to ensure that the supply line for customers' products does not run dry.

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