Navigating engineering complexities with the Industrial Internet of Things
By Steve Shoaf | 1 minute read | March 14, 2017
I’ve heard that purchasing an extended warranty might be a waste of money. True? Well, on the one hand, it’s a good deal. Today’s products have more embedded software, delivering more functionality, driving complexity skyward. A single software bug could shut down your car, or HVAC system, or refrigerator. And the number of components and the interactions between them leaves engineers struggling to achieve quality objectives.
But, on the other hand, technologies like industrial Internet of Things are helping engineers manage complexity, and helping companies generate new revenue streams. How?
Understanding product behavior
Combining with simulation technologies that have evolved over decades, the IoT enables a new level of understanding of product behavior through what is called a digital twin. A digital twin is virtual representation of product and process behavior, allowing engineers to explore alternatives that would have been unimaginable not long ago.
These alternatives are not only with respect to how a product is designed, they’re about how it’s built, and how it will function within a complex system. Various outcomes can be explored, such as operating efficiency, time to failure, and cost to repair.
Exploring broader scenarios with the IoT
How does the IoT play in this? Today’s products are highly sensored, and provide operational data that can be captured and managed in the cloud. The connection between things allows broader scenarios to be explored, as the operational characteristics of one product can have effects on connected products. The value for engineers is the ability learn about product and system behaviors, and use that knowledge to quickly improve a design to address product deficiencies. Engineers learn by feeding IoT data into the digital twin. This helps them understand the effect of design decisions on predicted behavior.
So the IoT and the digital twin enable an IoT feedback loop, where engineers design a product with the right sensors to deliver the data that will help them analyze behavior to improve the design. They design for analytics and then use analytics for design!
So, with the digital twin helping engineers make better products, should you buy an extended warranty? Is the glass half-empty or half-full? You have to decide.
To learn more about the Industrial IoT and digital twin, please visit www.ibm.com/internet-of-things/iot-solutions/product-development/.