Internet of Things: What’s the Big Idea?

By Estelle

 

 

Internet Of Things


Written by Hong Bai *

Starting from January 2013, right after Google announced its $3.2 Billion acquisition of NEST, the expression “Internet of Things”, known as IoT, has suddenly become the big buzz word in all different industries. Engineers and business leaders are having all kinds of discussion around this area over social media. And some among them did successfully transform their business by creating disruptive innovations based on IoT oriented technologies, such as Parrot or Withings.

However, among all those discussions and successful business cases, there is one question that was never clearly answered: what’s the big idea about internet of things? I think that everyone may have his/her own answer to this question and there does not exist an absolute definition to which we can look upon. I would like to share my own opinions about the true nature of IoT here.

First of all, to understand the term “internet of things”, we have to start with the word “things” that refers to the products that are enabling IoT usages. There are two important features about these products: mobility & connectivity. These two features have already served in many consumer and industry use cases , and their main purpose is: collecting live information from anywhere at any time. This leads us to the second important element of IoT – data.

When you have one device collecting information for you, the outcome of that process is called data. But when you have billions of connected devices that are collecting all different types of information for you, then it will become Big Data. In my opinion, Big Data is the derived content of IoT. Its purpose is to be analyzed in order to better understand the behaviors of systems or consumers. Once companies can identify the patterns and interrelations among different behaviors, which seem to be random or disordered, they can anticipate events or activities that will occur in the near future and build an offer to bring additional value to users. The best way to deliver such additional value is through services.

Service is the third important element of IoT. It is also the most profitable and valuable part of the entire IoT value chain. If product and data are about creating needs, services are usually designed to be the exact solution to satisfy those needs. For instance, if I have a product which collects information about one’s body weight, it will collect a huge amount of data about people’s weight. From those data, I find out that people will start looking for professional advices once their body weight is 30% above the average. It allows bringing fitness services offering to those people to satisfy their needs. This provides an extraordinary user experience to the end consumers.

Now, the answer to my previous question seems to be obvious, the big idea of IoT is to have connected devices collecting data for analysis, and offer exceptional services based on the result of the analysis, to create unique user experiences.

Are you Ready for the Internet Of Things? Join us at Solidworks World 2015 and attend the session “Mechatronics engineering experience for Smart Devices with SolidWorks”  on Monday Feb 9th  from 10.30  to 12.00 pm.

* Hong Bai is the High-Tech Industry Mechatronic System Design Consultant @ Dassault Systèmes. In his role, Hong is working with worldwide  leading Electronics companies to support their key business process transformation initiatives. 

How to Take Charge of Your Mechatronic Product Development: The Smart Products Case study

By Estelle


Remote Home Control

The move to producing smart products has been gaining traction in the last few years. Consumers want more out of the products they buy: more flexibility and adaptability, connected and even more portability and mobility. On top of the electrical, mechanical and electronics components that you would find in traditional products, smart products are run by software that also gives rise to more innovation and features that were not possible before.

If the consumer market is opting for a refrigerator that sends you a SMS of the things you need to buy at the grocery or a car that drives itself, then how are manufacturers affected by it?

Businesses making smart products know that these stuffs are also more complex to design and create than their more traditional counterparts.  What this means is that you would need the services of more experts and more professionals in order to bring your products to market.  You also need to synchronize the varied design lifecycles involved in the manufacturing process.


Mechatronic Product Development

Other challenges include a longer time to market, quality issues, redesign and rework, more costs when it comes to product development, and problems with software development.   All of these carry a negative impact on the businesses, especially your profitability.  If you are behind schedule and fail to deliver your smart product on time, then it might mean lower sales and lower profits for you.

Fridge And here’s the thing, complexity will only continue to increase. Not only are consumers opting for smart products, they need something new or something better over time.   In the future, they will no longer want a refrigerator that just lists down its content and tells you what to buy, they will want one that does that AND suggest dishes that you could cook with all the ingredients you have in the refrigerator.

So your manufacturing processes would constantly become even more complex.

 

The good news is that you can take charge of your mechatronic product development by using better processes and using technology to provide integration, traceability and visibility platforms.

How do you do this? Here are some steps.

  1.  Set the goal and make sure that everybody is aware of what these goals are so that they all work towards it. To be effective in setting goals, you should consider what are needed to achieve that goal.  To illustrate, imagine that you are working on a new smartphone, do you know what your customers are expecting it to have and offer?  In this case your goal would be to create a smartphone that is useful to your customers without cramming in too many features that your customers would not use.
    Now here’s the challenge: product requirements from different domains often have different systems and formats and this leads to fragmented information.  This in turn leads to overlooked requirements or over designed products.
    What you need is a way to consolidate your requirements that are drilled down to actionable details.  These requirements need to be version-controlled so that it could go through the entire product life-cycle, become guidelines for your product’s design and used for product validation.  You can also save time if you can keep this centralized document visible so that you could also update it in the future.
  2. Working with your requirements, you need to come up with a conceptual design. Getting the conceptual design right would help you avoid expensive reworks and redesigns when you find a major flaw along the way.What you need to do is systems modeling and find a way to simulate systems behavior to help your design engineers come up with optimized concept products.
  3.  Validate your product often. Smart products are quite complex so you have different factors that you need to analyze.  When you can simulate the system’s behavior, you can easily validate your product to show that you have made the right decision when it comes to design.  It also helps your designers to analyze, interpret and report results.
  4.  Design by discipline. If you have laid all of your products’ requirements, you can easily have different parts of the product designed simultaneously.  The challenge at this stage is that different disciplines usually mean different tools and different design lifecycles.  However, parallel design efforts can help you cut the time to market.What you need to do is make sure that every member of your team knows what the others are doing through collaboration and communication.
  5. Revise when necessary. Always address errors and bugs in a timely manner, so you might want to manage these changes as well.  The thing with changes is that a change in one component would mean that designs for the others would also change.  As such it is imperative that everybody working on the design of your product knows all of these changes.

In all of these steps, a mechatronics collaboration platform can  help you do what needs to be done to make your smart products even more competitive.

Tech Clarity White paper

 

If you want to know more on how to master the development of your smart products, advance your business processes and systems maturity, and improve your products quality and time-to-market, download the Tech-Clarity white paper here.

Foamy Headphones and Smelly Clothes: Designing for the Second Moment of Truth

By Estelle

This post originally appeared at Core 77

High tech products

News about a bad product experience travels quickly. Maybe it’s because of the fact, according to a white paper “Designing for the User Experience,” that five times as many people will tell a friend about a bad experience than a good one, or that social media makes it easier than ever to share that negative message, but news of design shortcomings and failures spread fast.

If I’m buying a pair of headphones and the sound is good, but they’re not comfortable, they’re too small for my head, they are too foamy… I’m not going to have a good Second Moment of Truth with that,” explains Stuart Karten, Principal and Founder of Karten Design.

The same goes for a bottle of laundry detergent you may have purchased for its swanky packaging: if your clothes don’t come out smelling clean, you probably won’t buy it again. That Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) often relies on the user experience, what happens when a consumer actually uses the product. As more and more of those products move towards the digital space, that experience comes down to a digital interface, the intuitiveness of those interactions and ease of use. Karten elaborates:

In general, there are multiple trends that are happening in the consumer electronics arena. One is that things are becoming rectangular boxes with user interfaces. The “stickiness” and the appeal and the connection are moving into the digital space. That puts a lot of challenge on—not only the overall form factor of the product on that first level—but the second level of that digital engagement”.

There are other challenges as well when it comes to designing high-tech consumer electronics. “With High-Tech, the technology is usually brand new, so this thing that you are designing is actually morphing as you move down the development cycle because, as time is changing, the technology is advancing,” explains Rob Brady, CEO and Design Director at ROBRADY, which focuses on consumer, industrial, marine and medical products.

Both Karten and Brady agree that designing for that second level requires a user-centric approach, spending time with the target audience to anticipate and better meet their needs. For electronics and other high-tech goods, that means understanding the incentives behind why a consumer would want this product and the motivation behind their purchases. “People make a conscious decision that they want a new pair of headphones, a new laptop,” says Karten. “They want it to define who they are and the person they want to be.”

Watches rendering

Designing with a broadly aspirational approach often means putting a series of virtual prototypes in front of focus groups, simulating interaction and providing a realistic rendering that can then be iterated upon before even printing out a physical prototype. Once the limits of virtual prototyping have been reached, focus groups can be brought in and products are placed in their hands. As these products move into the digital space, however, so do those focus groups and companies like Dassault Systèmes are creating solutions that virtually emulate the product development process from coming up with a concept to testing it in a online retail or working setting.

Ideation & Concept Design

You build a model and you test it. You do an alpha and you test it. You do a beta and you test it. You prototype early and often,” says Brady. “At the end of the day, it’s all about humans interacting with products and designers making these different products approachable and accessible.”

Do not miss the new edition of MADEin3D contest “Cup of IoT”, featuring the theme of Internet of Things! Register to the MadeIn3D community to enter the contest now! Also, you will want to check out our white paper titled “Designing the User Experience”.

Enter the Cup of IoT contest!



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