Product connectivity, through the Internet of Things (IoT), offers many advantages to product designers and engineering. it enables us to relay information back and forth when the product is out in the field and it gives us more ways in which to add new capabilities for our products and solutions.
Over the coming years, one of the challenges facing engineering teams will be knowing which is the best way to add new capabilities to their products. In particular, it will be come down to understanding the options available and which will be the best to choose for a specific capability.
What are the main approaches for adding product capabilities
When you’re presented with a new customer requirement, there are essentially four different ways, four different engineering domains, in which to create capabilities:
- Mechanical approach – adding mechanical features and characteristics to the product
- Electrical approach – add circuit boards and electronic capabilities to the product
- Embedded software approach – embed software in the product to enhance the product
- Cloud-based software approach – use software in the cloud, with the software in a data centre
How to choose the best approach for your specific requirement?
Over the next few years, you’ll likely find yourself asking the question: For this new feature or this new capability, which of these four domains is going to be the best one to use? There are some important factors to consider, when making this decision:
#1 What is the requirement for availability or response time?
For example, an anti-lock algorithm inside a car probably should be running in the car itself in case the availability or response time of the network becomes a problem.
#2 What is the nature of the user interface?
In some situations, moving the user control of the device into the cloud and then deploying it into the user rich experience of a smartphone can make more sense that deploying separate mechanical devices.
#3 What is the nature of the problem that the product should solve or the solution you’re trying to create.
If you’re running big data analytics, looking for patterns in data coming from many different products, almost by definition, you’re going to have to put that capability in the cloud.
#4 What is the level of connectivity that your thing is going to have to the Internet.
This is important because some of those connectivity needs are essentially free and others vary with the volume of data being moved back and forth. You need to be careful not to create a big expense around data transmission, if it’s practical to process the data from within the product itself.
Realise that you have these four domains in which to deliver new capabilities.
But, also, step back and realise that there is an inevitable progression in value and innovation from hardware to software. And, secondly, within software innovation, there is the inevitable progressions from embedded software to cloud-based software . Spent time considering the right balance of mechanical, electrical, embedded software and cloud-based software to produce the most value in your product and in your business.
Originally published 21st July 2015. Updated 23rd February 2018 for relevancy.