In 2011, analysts said that by 2020, we could expect to see 50 billion smart, connected devices on the market. That number may have sounded comically high at the time, but in 2017 no one is laughing as we’re racing toward that figure.
Sensors in products on the intelligent edge, ranging from automobiles to refrigerators, are already gathering data with the potential to drive better product design, manufacturing, serviceability, and customer satisfaction. Whether your products are among these yet or not, smart, connected products are shaping the future of product design.
To stay competitive, it’s important to know how to make the most of the data that the IoT can deliver now and understand how it will change expectations for product design tomorrow.
You may know what they say about assumptions. It’s no different in product design.
Before sensors were an accessible design option, assumptions were a necessary evil of the development cycle. Prototype testing usually involved getting someone’s feedback about your design’s performance in a test rig or in the field, interpreting it as best you could, making educated guesses on the design improvements you should make, and repeating.
There’s a problem: No matter how educated your guesses are, they can still be wrong. And if they are, you run the risk of over-engineering your design—adding time and cost to the design and manufacturing cycle—or under-engineering it—opening the door to product failure or recalls once a product is in the field.
The bar is higher now. Product designers can use real data to make accurate, informed design decisions—no assumptions needed. Performance Based Analysis (PBA) makes this possible.
The term may be new, but the concept of PBA is simple:
PBA is all about taking the data available from your product prototype and using it to the best of your ability to optimize your design and your development cycle.
To picture how this can work, imagine that you’re tasked with designing the front suspension for a new racecar. When your sensor-equipped prototype is ready to test, you stick it in a car and get a driver to take the car through its paces on the track.
Real data—not assumptions—can now drive design changes during prototype testing.
Once, you might have had to interpret feedback like, “It was loose on the first curve and tight on the second” into actionable design changes. Instead, with PBA you pull all the data from those laps into your CAD program and view the real data in context. You can run the data stream on that first curve, visualizing all the stresses and forces exerted on your suspension during that time, and determine the optimal changes to address them.
In other words, with PBA you gather actual data from sensors tracking how your prototype performs in test conditions, pull it into your CAD system, analyze why it’s behaving as it does, and improve your design going forward. Now you’re making design decisions for your specific use case, based on real data.
As IoT continues to drive market transformation, your role is transforming too. The potential to harness all the product data adds pressure on designers like you to design to meet higher standards for sustained usability, improved manufacturability, and better fulfillment of end user needs
Setting yourself up to master PBA will drive your success as your role evolves on this journey. You’ll be able to use your CAD system to model your smart, connected product, your PLM system to manage your product data and its traceability, and an IoT platform to capture the data your product generates—then bring that data back into your CAD system to analyze, improve, and optimize your design. That’s a future worth racing toward.
PTC sits squarely in the middle of design and engineering as a market leader today and a thought leader for what’s next in product design. Learn more about how you can harness the potential of emerging technologies with the eBook, Smart Connected Product Design.
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.