Connected Engineer: Designing Smart, Connected Products

Written By: Nicole Avedikian
  • 4/23/2018
Designing Smart Connected Products

Designing Smart Connected ProductsIn the era of IoT, smart connected products are all around us in the form of everything from thermostats to self-driving automobiles. Designing these products and deriving full value from their data is the foundation for future manufacturing success. On the latest episode of The Connected Engineer podcast series, two experts from PTC – Kevin Wrenn, General Manager of PLM and Brian Thompson, SVP of CAD – share insights into why designing smart, connected products matters, what to consider, and how to get started.

What is a smart, connected product? 

As Wrenn explains, a smart product includes software that controls how the product operates. The connected element means the electronics and software communicate so the product can better operate and deliver valuable data to the cloud, allowing people -- like product operators and manufacturers -- to review and make use of the information. 

For example, on a previous podcast episode, Welch Allyn talked about its smart connected product, the Connex® Vital Signs Monitor, communicates information directly to the electronic record system. This product can also distribute information to physicians, labs, emergency departments, nursing staff, and others to help improve customer care.


Why are smart, connected products important?

According to Thompson, the emergence of smart, connected products benefits product outcomes, operations and manufacturing processes. They also deliver unique value to engineering teams. Imagine collecting data from the field to rapidly evolve and improve product design as part of the normal engineering process. 

From Wrenn’s perspective, it’s no longer enough to simply release products to the field. To deliver better customer experiences over time, manufacturers need to stay connected to their products while they’re being used and continually iterate the product in response to product usage data and trends. 

Harnessing data across domains

Wrenn reminds us that product usage data is valuable cross a company’s domains. Consider predictive maintenance. The service department can use product data trends to predict when products will need service and proactively plan service cycles so customers avoid unplanned downtime. At the same time, predictive maintenance could help engineers learn more about the products they’re designing so they can continually improve them. 

In fact, this cross-domain mindset is essential when figuring out how to design a product for connectivity. The engineering team must consider all the disciplines across the organization that can make use of product data. In other words, they need to think about the product design holistically and determine how to gather data streams that make it possible for the company to fully capitalize on that data. At the same time, many companies overlook the other side of the connectivity formula: adding data to the product. Many innovative companies are doing just that by using Augmented Reality to display service instructions, manufacturing instructions, and operating instructions in the form of digital data. 

Listen to Brian and Kevin on our podcast to learn more about the value of smart, connected products and a smart way to start designing for connectivity.




  • Windchill
  • Connected Devices
  • Electronics and High-Tech
  • PLM

About the Author

Nicole Avedikian

Nicole Avedikian is the Marketing Program Manager for PTC’s PLM and ALM division. She has a background in software marketing, previously running the engineering digital strategy at Aspen Technology. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @nic_ave or get in touch on LinkedIn.