Why is there a big fuss about the “Internet of Things?”
People are talking about it endlessly – this thing called the “Internet of Things” or IoT. It has become omnipresent as it seamlessly connects people, services, and products around the globe, builds communities and networks, generates limitless data, and creates an incredible array of business opportunities and threats. In other words, the “Industrial Internet” is creating an impact in all industries and companies, transforming and driving both old and new players to compete in new and innovative ways.
How Does IoT Impact Industries?
When products are no longer just physical goods, product design takes on a different dimension. And this is the difficult challenge faced by designers nowadays. With innumerable machines that are connected and with built-in intelligence, they have become a hybrid of products and services. Examples include:
- intelligent pumps that predict when they have to stop working
- elevator banks that eliminate waiting time by determining where riders want to go before they get on
- truck transmissions with the capability to anticipate road slopes when gears are shifted
With these emerging hybrid products, designers can no longer focus on the physical or tangible aspects of the product. The designers have to take into consideration the river of data streaming through the products, meaning they should integrate features that would allow the product to obtain the data they need to operate and how the created data will be used for other product-service hybrids. On top of this, the designers have to create products that will generate revenue from service-based business models as well as usage-based or results-based payment.
But designing hybrid products does not mean you have to do away with the standard principles of product design. Designers still have to adhere to the principles of:
Having intelligent machines doesn’t mean that they forego manufacturing quality. Designing for usability also equates to upgrade capability.
Machines that leave the production floor are designed such that users can upgrade their intelligent features without changing the components or parts of, or the entire machine.
Before the advent of the Internet of Things, machine upgrades usually meant that you had to acquire the next higher model of the machine or change the major detachable components and install or attach the new components using heavy hex bolts or socket head cap screws on the old machine and do some reconfiguration to make it run with the added features.
Nowadays, thanks to the Internet of Things, machine upgrade is achieved simply by downloading the latest versions of the software that runs it. Machines and products are designed to make them easier to use and learn over time.
Usability And Upgradability
The automotive industry is leading the way in hybridization. Automakers are starting to design for upgradability. Tesla Motors produce their Model S with a dashboard that can be updated like you’re updating apps for smartphones. Tesla Motors is now undertaking studies to enable Android apps to run directly on the computer system of the vehicle. With this feature, software designers can develop, design, and create new features or user interfaces for the drivers.
When designers take on the design principle of simplicity, they include a design for saving time. Customers prefer products that are easy to understand and operate.
Machine operators and mechanics prefer that the products and machines are easy to maintain and repair. Design simplicity equates to having less time for users to get up to speed and be able to get the machine to do what they want.
With the Internet of Things, designers are able to simplify complex processes. This results in saving customers hours spent to become familiar with a product or service.
This is best illustrated by rental cars. The Car2Go business of Daimler AG simplifies the rental process to great extent. Traditional rental businesses require customers to pick up or return the rented car to the rental company office or garage. With a smartphone app integrated into the rental car system, customers are directed to the nearest parked car for rent.
Car renters unlock the parked car with their membership card, use and drive to their destination, park the car on the street after the designated and agreed time, lock it up, and walk away. What can be simpler and more convenient than this?
When you talk about quality, it includes design for communication capability. Products designed to be “intelligent” should also include the ability to connect to the Internet in a secure and reliable manner. The design principle of quality also includes the ability of the product for data generation that is accurate, current, consistent, and complete. Products may need to communicate with other components built by other manufacturers.
Automakers may have car components that need to communicate with gears produced by other manufacturers. It’s important that designers understand how their products and the data created by the products will be consumed and used in other systems.
The design principle of product innovation includes design for discovery. R&D geniuses usually try out new product features with newly-built hardware or a new product itself.
With the Internet of Things, designers are able to experiment, do trials, and testing for new features using the same product or hardware. This allows them to discover new techniques and features that are potentially most valuable and suitable to customers.
Ford Motor has its OpenXC software and hardware development platform, which enables anyone to create apps and accessories such as warning applications for the nighttime collision. In other industries, the data produced by services can point to various ways to save money and develop new opportunities to create revenue streams. Refrigeration equipment manufacturers identified an opportunity to provide continuous services to monitor temperature for products being transported.
This includes design for creating insight. The designers focus on how to generate the data and convert it into action. Developments in analytics and sensor technology push the boundaries of what smart and intelligent machines can measure and learn and enable designers to develop and create products that have the ability to carry out better decisions.
This is illustrated by the automatic transmissions of cars. There is a service now being offered that extends the life of transmissions of trucks and reduces fuel consumption. Driver’s behavior is determined, GPS topographical data is added to its analysis, and the vehicle’s transmission computer relays a message when to shift gears, thus eliminating wasteful energy consumption.
In other words, the Internet of Things touches and has a great impact on what industrial designers are tasked to do, including the skills they need to have and the knowledge they should be equipped with.
Check the product you are using – do you see any trace of the Internet of Things?
2 thoughts on “Industries Take Advantage Of The Internet Of Things”
I have never heard of this term, but it certainly describes some very cool technology – especially the chips that run smart elevators. Who among us hasn’t experienced frustration waiting in a high rise building for an elevator to come down from the penthouse floor, or claustrophobia standing in a crowded elevator? Well, I suppose it would take some very advanced technology to prevent the later.
The launch of its OpenXC vehicle application research platform is quite interesting. From what I understand, open-source hardware and software toolkits are now available to anybody who’s interested in building hardware and on the OpenXC platform. It is a joint effort with BugLabs (what a great name!). I hope that more app developers create more apps that not only make life more convenient, but also help you to better maintain your vehicle. And there is nothing more convenient than not having your car break down.
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