Design for connectivity: From hype to reality
Written By: Cat McClintock

New design technique makes the most of data from sensors—without the noise

 Growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is skyrocketing. As it does, the promise of collecting real-time data to improve product design can sound as close as your team’s first smart, connected product design.

The promise is real. But so are the pitfalls:

  • Post-prototype requests to add more sensors can add time and expense to the design cycle.
  • Too many data streams from sensors can make it impossible to find, let alone use, the valuable data behind the noise.
  • Lack of a sensor strategy can lead to unnecessary complexity and confusion.

Design for Connectivity (D4C) optimizes the promise of IoT

Paul Sagar, VP of Product Management for PTC’s CAD portfolio, has advice for designers who want to harness the benefits of sensor-enabled products. 

Sagar offers a lesson from war stories of early adopters who took the “ready, connect, aim” approach out of the gate: “You hear, ‘We instrumented our product, but we didn’t evaluate what we wanted upfront. We just stuck a whole bunch of sensors on it,’” he says. “Now they’ve got all this data coming back, but it becomes just noise—it’s useless to them,” he explains.


 Paul Sagar discusses design for connectivity

Paul Sagar, VP of Product Marketing for PTC’s CAD Portfolio, has advice for designers who are looking to enable their products with sensors—without creating data overload.

 The solution, Sagar says, centers on your design team and how you integrate what’s called “Design for Connectivity” into the product lifecycle.

 Design for Connectivity (D4C for short) simply means including what data streams you’ll collect directly into your initial product design.

 D4C can streamline your design process and make the potential of IoT a reality. In this scenario, your design team addresses data collection requirements as baseline factors for the product design—just like any other core requirement.

 D4C is about forethought instead of afterthought, which shortens the development process. Better yet, your product will be optimized to collect the exact data streams you’ll need when your product goes into the field. This sets up your product and service teams to reap all the benefits of critical data from the field with none of the noise.


 Slide showing components of design for connectivity

“Integrating requirements for D4C into core requirements in your product design specifications shortens the design process.”

Key considerations to D4C

The goal of Design for Connectivity is to optimize the right use for, location of, and quantity of sensors during the design phase and also evaluate the data streams that will come back in so you can collect the data streams most relevant to your business. 

This comes down to making D4C principles part of your product strategy. Sagar recommends that your design teams collaborate with downstream teams upfront in the development cycle to define the critical information you’ll need to capture to support making informed decisions.

Your decisions should include consideration for three key areas: Design, manufacturing, and service. For each area, your team will define the data you need to capture and how you’ll interpret it and use it downstream. You’ll feed these requirements into the design requirements and implement your design.

And now comes the exciting part. Drawing on the foundation that D4C established, you can begin to use real product data coming in to: 

  • Optimize your product design in the prototype stage.
  • Improve serviceability of products in the field.
  • Shape the next generation of products based on the data coming in from the current generation in the field.

Keep an eye on the future of emerging technologies




The market and the world continue to evolve toward the fourth industrial revolution. PTC solutions support your design and engineering needs today—while also preparing you for what’s next in product design.

To learn more about the emerging technologies that are shaping the future of product design and how you can harness them, download the free Book, The Future of Product Design in the Age of Smart Connected Devices.

Tags: CAD Industrial Connectivity
About the Author Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.