The impact of the Internet of Things on product development
Every day, around the world, engineering organizations explore the technological possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Products have moved beyond mechanical and electrical components to include complex combinations of hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors and software—as well as ubiquitous connectivity. Companies that can adapt to the pace of change in our ever more connected world, incorporating and analyzing data from many various sources, enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate innovation, meet heightened consumer expectations and gain the advantage in an era that has redefined competition.
Using interconnectedness to build systems of systems
To succeed in a world defined by the Internet of Things, companies must reexamine how they do business. Traditional problems can now be approached in disruptive ways, which can throw incumbent players off balance as small startup companies combine a good idea with some crowdfunding, then grow into global businesses in mere months. In such a world, being first to market with innovative offerings (whether products or services) is of primary importance. But to be first, companies must use IoT innovations to revitalize their own development, manufacturing and operational processes.
Companies across a wide range of industries are exploring how to exploit the instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence offered by IoT products. The availability of operational data can combine with analytics to provide a significant competitive edge, allowing businesses to develop capabilities and services to extend product value. Companies can analyze the data generated by products, corporate assets and operating environment, using the insights gained in doing so to accelerate innovation, heighten customer satisfaction and create new business models.
To take advantage of the Internet of Things, today’s products are designed with interconnectivity and interoperability in mind. These products combine real-time analysis with machine-to-machine, machine-to-infrastructure and user-to-machine communication, allowing them to adapt as circumstances change. Such interconnection with back-end systems and other intelligent products effectively transforms products into systems of systems, bringing dramatic increases in overall complexity.
As companies learn to take advantage of the Internet of Things, not only products but also product development processes and technologies must evolve. Traditional “end-to-end” engineering practices were not designed to support systems of systems. For example, producing a requirements definition, then following it with design—which is itself followed by building, testing and so on—can bring bottlenecks and delays that slow product releases. Using the traditional model, design feedback comes only through sales figures and consumer complaints—and thus, of necessity, after design and production have already been completed. In such a model, operations support is often an isolated function, commonly provided by a separate company.
Operational performance feedback is an integral part of product development in the IoT era. But rather than simply reacting to feedback such as warranty claims or product failures, a proactive approach is needed that allows engineers to apply analytics to operational and performance data, deriving meaningful insights. As a result, engineering teams can learn dynamically, enhancing product performance much more quickly than they can using traditional models.
Continuous engineering can help in managing the challenges of IoT product development, offering an enterprise capability designed to hasten the delivery of increasingly sophisticated and connected products by helping businesses keep pace with change. Continuous engineering helps simplify complicated processes for manufacturers that constantly update products to address dynamic requirements—an approach that has become the new normal thanks to the Internet of Things.