The Internet of Things (IoT) has been one of the most common subjects of discussion nowadays – and this is for the right and most ideal reasons. Every sector has been exploring the various possibilities that have been made realizable by the Internet of Things. The engineering sector is not particularly left out as there has been a focus on how IoT can bring significant transformation into engineering and product development.
What does the Internet of Things mean?
Before diving fully into transforming engineering and product development with IoT, it will be great to shed more light on the meaning of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to the whole idea of ensuring connectivity between any device and the internet as well as other devices that are connected to the internet. The concept focuses on making sure that everything works like a strong, big network of connected individuals and devices that have the ability to collect and share data concerning their use as well as their environment.
In the real sense, IoT involves every device that can be termed “smart” and capable of connecting to the internet - whether it is a TV, a car, or a traffic light. It is targeted at ensuring that every smart object can be connected to other smart objects. For instance, IoT wants to ensure that your toaster can send data to your smartphone so that you can control things in your home even when you are away. Nevertheless, the product must be engineered in a way that will make interconnectivity to be possible.
IoT’s effects on engineering and product development
It does not come as a surprise that products are not just about electrical and mechanical components in this current time. Today, there is a need to integrate various combinations of microprocessors, sensors, software, hardware and tons of other things in different products. The integration of these things has brought a wide range of challenges to the design, manufacturing, and use of these products. However, we cannot help but notice the way this integration has opened many opportunities that can be explored for the improvement of our lives and the environment as a whole.
Of course, certain organizations are already making necessary changes that can help them key into what IoT has introduced into engineering and product development. Such organizations have been taking advantage of the interconnectivity of our planet by getting data from an array of sources and using them to gain exceptional insights, boost innovation, and improve their customer satisfaction. This, without a doubt, is a great way to stand out among the competition.
Reexamination of business models
The traditional ways of doing business are not going to be enough again. All thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) that has led to tremendous changes in businesses. Therefore, each business must sit down and take another look at their business model. This is because traditional business problems can be easily addressed with advanced technology. This advanced technology makes things easier, faster and more reliable. Over time, this will only make the current players lose their advantages as startups can come up with first-rate and innovative strategies for dealing with various issues. Well, the first players with the innovations will have a competitive edge and may even send the current market players out of the market.
To cope with these challenges, current market players must learn how to innovate. This is the only way to remain relevant in the market. It is vital for them to revisit their processes for product development and manufacturing. This is to ensure that they are always one of the firsts in the market to bring out problem-solving products. Similarly, they must improve their operational processes.
Various companies must wake up to the realities on the ground and start exploiting the insights and interconnectedness that are provided by IoT products. This can be made possible through the combination of analytics and operational data to build services and capabilities that can help them to boost the values of their products. Corporate assets, products and operating environment can produce data that can be analyzed and utilized to get useful insights to drive innovation and meet the varying needs of their customers.
Development of products
This brings us to the question – how can companies integrate the Internet of Things into their products? Foremost, before designing any product, every business must consider interoperability and interconnectivity. In other words, businesses must think about how their products can connect with other devices and be operated with other products. The products have to integrate real-time analysis with various forms of communication such as user-to-machine, machine-to-infrastructure, and machine-to-machine.
These forms of communication will make it possible for the products to adapt to any necessary changes that can improve their functionality in various circumstances. Over time, this awesome interconnection will make these various smart products to become what can be termed as ‘systems of systems”.
It is worthwhile to understand that the transformation goes beyond the products. Even the processes and technologies behind the development of these products will experience significant transformation. This is mainly due to the problems of traditional engineering processes that work as end-to-end practices that limit the interconnectivity and interoperability. Practically, the “systems of systems” concept is beyond the scope of traditional engineering processes.
For instance, when it comes to product development, there is a need for requirements definition as well as product design, development, testing, and other processes. During these processes, operational performance feedback is required, but it usually comes as a different process that is often offered by another organization. This is usually a major source of delay in product development. However, the interconnectivity of IoT solves this problem by making operational performance feedback to be a process in product development. IoT allows engineers to proactively gain useful insights and develop great product performance in a better and faster way.
It cannot be overemphasized that all these processes have some complexities that must first be dealt with. However, the result is usually worth the effort at the end of the day.
Other aspects of product engineering
There are other areas of product engineering that IoT has either introduced or improved significantly. Let’s consider these aspects below.
- Web-based and cloud-based tooling
This refers to the availability of tools and other important items on the cloud system. This ensures that the tools and their data are secure and can only be accessed by authorized individuals. Without a doubt, this is one of the ways through which IoT is changing the face of the security of product engineering and development.
- Information-sharing tools
Nowadays, different disciplines have various tools that are designed to share tons of information across a wide range of platforms. Requirements management, design modeling, and architecture are just a few of the major disciplines that have been taking full advantage of these peerless information-sharing tools. This goes a long way in improving the interdependent activities of these disciplines and sharing of information becomes more open than ever before. Notably, linking of various domains plays a pivotal role in these interdependent activities.
IoT and improved product engineering and development allow different individuals to understand their particular roles, workflows as well as the deliverables that are expected from them. How does this affect the work process? It influences the work process by ensuring that everyone gets real-time information about what they need to do to make sure that the overall goals of the team are achieved. It is essential to understand that cloud-based and information-sharing tools will be very important in ensuring these collaborative activities. Similarly, this is telling us that most of these processes work together.
- Agile engineering techniques
Well, the requirements of customers and markets change from time to time. Nonetheless, engineering them must be able to respond quickly to make necessary changes. And this is where agile engineering techniques come into the picture. IoT can improve agile engineering techniques so that they can help in changing priorities to improve the utilization of various engineering resources.
The need for a team of experienced product developers
Although businesses need to find the best contract manufacturers to assemble their products, the need for seasoned product designers can never be overemphasized. But this is usually a problem among startups that are still struggling with their finances. Nevertheless, every company must understand the extraordinary roles that product designers play. Hence, they should not hesitate to get the best that can offer them exceptional services.
At the moment, the Internet of Things (IoT) is still at its developmental stage, but it is already showing a glimpse of the excellent things that we can gain from it in the future, especially concerning engineering and product development. However, we should understand that IoT’s transformation of engineering and product development cannot do everything on its own. Businesses still need substantial investment and business models to be able to maximize this technological advancement. Therefore, every business needs a solid team of product engineers as well as a business team to get the right products that attract more customers and make them the go-to company in their industry.