Practicality of the Internet of Things
We all know about Moore’s law of technology as applied to the pace of increase in computing power. In a similar sense, we can apply the law to software and technology development, though the increase in capabilities and speed may not be as linear. But in the business world there are these disruptions we experience ever so often (e.g., the introduction of cloud computing or high performing tablets). The next big event is the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT). Estimates are the number of Internet of Things devices will reach 75 billion worldwide by 2020.
The practical matter associated with IoT is the amount of information that is and will be generated by these devices. This information ultimately must be stored and made accessible. But more important, as the analytics providers will tell you, is that this information, if viewed in isolation, is not very helpful. It’s when all this data is viewed in the context of other related data such as specifications, designs and drawings, test results, compliance data, manuals, etc. that the information is not only instructive, but can provide insights well beyond our existing capabilities.
A recent article stated “if you don’t have a system in place… it will become impossible to effectively manage product complexity in the very near future. Excel spreadsheets can only take you so far.”* Much of the information and related files need to be managed in a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. But many organizations have yet to implement even an engineering document management software. Without an automated document management system “the complexity of products seems poised to outpace our ability to manage that complexity.”*
Engineering document management systems (those extending beyond CAD vendor PDMs) provide the basic building blocks for organizing, securing, searching, viewing, distributing, and collaborating with technical documents and drawings.
Engineering document management software (those extending beyond CAD vendor PDMs) provide the basic building blocks for organizing, securing, searching, viewing, distributing, and collaborating with technical documents and drawings. Without these basics trying to interpret IoT information is like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel, we can go fast but without any real direction.
Having control over critical files is a necessary first step before thinking about how to integrate the volume of data associated with IoT devices. Control comes in various forms, including: knowing where files reside, what’s in them, how to find them (and their content) quickly, and ensure their integrity (minimizing corruption).
For example, a company started receiving data on refrigeration temperatures from a series of units they produce. The data, some real-time, was received and compared to operating range parameters. An issue arose when it was unclear the particular version of compressor being used (as each version has similar, but different, acceptable operating ranges). A simple process of connecting a device to its appropriate operating specifications became an unacceptable manual step in the process.
Engineering document management software, though the first step, leads to the need to expand into a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. PLM systems are often characterized as robust, fully functional engineering document management systems. Additional functionality often includes versioning, synchronization, multi-location sharing, lifecycle management, and the addition of non-engineering type content. Being able to interconnect various product related files and manage them dynamically allows for a comprehensive analysis of all the data, including IoT data. In a sense, Internet of things device information becomes one more data point (though an important one) for the type of advanced analytics we just have not been able to accomplish in the past. Insights are gained not just from the device data but from using the device data in the context of all the related content. And this content must be managed, starting with an engineering document management software.
Scott Brandt, CEO, eQuorum
* Desktop Engineering, July 2015, The Difficulty with Simplicity, Jaime Gooch
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