Advances in continuous engineering help manage the Internet of Things

Director, Product Management & Design, Internet of Things, IBM

Engineers are creating the future—not just cars, airplanes and electronic devices but also industrial and infrastructure technologies such as smart factories, smart grids and smart transportation systems. This technology is being used to improve our lives, move us from place to place more easily and help us stay in touch with loved ones. The devices that are the building blocks of these technologies are becoming more and more complex as new features are added as a part of the Internet of Things (IoT). They are all connected, intelligent and instrumented, providing unique data and opening new horizons.

The promise of the IoT comes with a daunting challenge: keeping things simple when designing, building and maintaining these intricate devices. There can be thousands of components, many of which may contain very complex software. Consider the latest cars; some can have nearly 6 million lines of code in the entertainment system alone. Airplanes, medical devices and nuclear power plants include all that and more, along with stringent safety requirements. Multiply this across dozens of product variations to support different user needs around the world and the task can become overwhelming.

The idea of versioning has been around for years. As any software team will tell you, if you don’t keep versions straight all you have is a bunch of text that does nothing. Expanding that idea across the entire engineering domain to include managing versions of requirements, designs, test cases and source code—and then factoring in any changes—makes engineering projects much harder to control. Adding to the complexity are responsibilities such as the requirement that a certain function must happen when a button is pushed (perhaps a fail-safe to shut down an MRI), which is linked to the architecture of the system to show where the button is and how it is connected to the software design, the software implementation and the hardware designs.

All of this can seem pretty simple if you’re making only a single change. However, managing many changes across all of those items can be very hard to tackle.

 Fortunately, we’re delivering unprecedented new capabilities in support of the engineers creating the devices of the future. We’ve created tools that allow an agile and efficient way of working, and that enable tomorrow’s efforts, not impede them—and more tools are on the way. Using IBM Design Thinking, we’ve designed all these advances to be intuitive, simple and convenient. By the way, they're all built with open standards, so any tool vendor can participate if they so choose.

I’m very excited about the new release of our continuous engineering platform. This is the result of several years’ effort by the team to give you powerful, exciting ways to execute the concepts of product line engineering. Needless to say, we’re proud of our work. 

Find out more about the IBM Internet of Things Continuous Engineering Solution by getting a free copy of Continuous Engineering for Dummies.