Part 1 Developing IoT-enabled autos: a tsunami of change

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Welcome to 2018! This year will see a continuation of the far-reaching transition that’s underway in the world of complex product engineering. To get you up to “speed” on IoT-enabled autos, I’ve written a four-part series. I’ll highlight the ways that automotive product engineering must adapt to new methodologies if they want to stay competitive and improve the customer experience.

And it’s just in time for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Automotive News World Congress and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). All promise exciting car technology to start off the year.

2018 continues a far-reaching transition that’s underway in the world of complex product engineering. To get you up to “speed” on IoT-enabled autos, I’ve written a four-part series. I’ll highlight the ways that automotive product engineering must adapt to new methodologies if they want to stay competitive and improve the customer experience.

Cars in transition

Entirely new development systems, agile methods and the introduction of cognitive, AI-driven analytics have dramatically improved how IoT-enabled vehicles are brought to market. These changes also impact how cars are updated throughout their lifecycle.

Many of these changes have been driven by consumer demand. Drivers want their connected vehicles to not only work flawlessly, but to be updated with new capabilities for as long as the they are in use.

Automakers and their partners are using IoT to improve performance, safety and development processes. Automotive companies in particular are striving for leadership in several interdependent areas. In these areas, requirements are evolving rapidly even as capabilities are still growing. They include:

  •    Development of new cloud-based information services.
  •    Cybersecurity in connected and autonomous vehicles.
  •    Alternative propulsion systems.
  •    Improved active-safety.
  •    The race toward autonomous driving.
  •    Differentiating the in-vehicle experience

So, is that enough on their plates? Only a fraction of this was in play a decade ago. And it requires dramatic changes in how cars are being developed.

Welcome to a complex world of code

In the premium segment, vehicles have 10s of millions of lines of code. And it must all be verified, tested and maintained to produce the most exciting products on the planet.

The days where your 10-year-old vehicle is frozen in time (before smartphones) will soon be behind us. And just like your other smart devices, cars will be updated with new capabilities through software delivered via the cloud.

Transitioning to Model-based Systems Engineering

The overall approach to the discipline of engineering is experiencing a long transition to model-based systems. These require deployment of new software and processes, particularly in systems engineering. Though engineers have used CAD models for many years to document designs, even the most sophisticated auto manufacturers largely rely on text- and document-based systems when developing functional systems and product architectures.

Goodbye, Microsoft Office

Text-based systems are exactly what you’re probably envisioning. They include information input in text by engineers during development. Engineers have long utilized many of the same basic tools that are a staple throughout the corporate world. MS Office, Visio, Wikis and other text-based documentation systems are used to build incredibly complex products.

Process diagrams may be drawn with flow figures, lines and arrows that remain static until manually re-drawn. Other schematics, photos and development collateral may be available as well. Even companies that have done a good job with repositories and tagging still have issues with the efficiency of product development.

That may work for simple products. However, cars and planes have lifecycles that are decades long. As engineering teams work on the various systems described above, how will they make sure that functional interdependencies aren’t affected by changes in one sub-system that may touch others?

Hello, model-based systems engineering

This is where model-based systems engineering (MBSE) comes in. MBSE was originally developed by the International Council of System Engineering (INCOSE), which provides a nice primer on why it makes sense.

Not too long ago, we hosted the third IBM Watson IoT Continuous Engineering Summit. We brought together engineers from several industries, including automotive. There, they shared how their approach to innovation in product development and lifecycle management is changing. At the event, Johan Gunnarsson from Combitech AB/Saab suggested that the change to MBSE will be so dramatic that automobiles are fast becoming as complex as fighter jets.

I agree with him. That’s why I appreciate MBSE-focused engineering software, like IBM’s Rhapsody. It provides the basis for developing domain models that become common communication tools among engineers. Rhapsody also allows the entire system to be simulated to understand interdependencies between sub-systems and components. This is particularly helpful when developing complex products like vehicles, which are built by OEMs through a multi-tiered network of suppliers.

The transformation in systems engineering addresses the need to efficiently deal with product variants. That’s valuable because consumers want vehicles that can be personalized both physically and digitally. MBSE also helps address change management to both vehicle hardware and software throughout its long life.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss product development within a scaled agile framework. In the meantime, if you’d like more information about these trends and IBM’s suite of Continuous Engineering solutions, visit our landing page.

And if you’re at CES, please stop by the Las Vegas Convention Center, say hello and see how #AccessibleOlli is changing transportation.

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