The Importance of Systems Engineering for Smart, Connected Products

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a trending topic for quite some time and has caused a disruption within every industry, especially manufacturing. It’s not enough to have software embedded in products to make them smarter. Products developed today, need to be connected and not only to the Internet, but to other systems and even sub-systems, so that there is immediate interaction and feedback between manufacturer and the end user.

Many manufacturers are already seeing the benefits of IoT and having that closed-loop product development. For example, companies like Alstom Transport, AVL and Barco are able to do predictive maintenance; they are able to detect problems before they affect the user. The ability to service products, to make changes across the Internet and update software is a major benefit to these companies. Of course there is also a safety critical dimension that adds complexity when developing these smart products. You have to ensure that the process of making changes will adhere to compliance standards, and that there is a defined pipeline where all the testing is done and the certification and so on.

With a model-based systems engineering approach, you can build that, you can automate a lot of those processes. This will enable that fast feedback, that fast change to take place, reacting to problems in the field and being able to prevent a failure in the field. That information about those issues can then feed through not just to correct the problem, but also prevent it in the future. Those fixes may also feed back into the manufacturing process, or it might even go further back into the design and development stage. Enabling all of these feedback paths is a tremendous benefit to having smart, connected products and systems.

This is why systems engineering for smart, connected products is so important. As you can see in the Product Line Engineering (PLE) infographic, a study by analyst firm EMF shows that a model-based approach to product line engineering delivers 23% more projects on time; at 62% lower cost, than alternatives, based on a survey of 667 engineers.

Michael Azoff and Tony Baer, principal analysts with Ovum have authored this paper entitled ALM for Engineering Products, they state that, “Embedded software and hardware manufacturing is both architecture- and requirements-driven, and organizations that invest in improving their maturity in these two disciplines will reap the rewards of faster cycle times and improved product quality.”