Back 2 School: Taking the IoT to Space




President Kennedy famously stood before Congress on May 25, 1961 to challenge the nation. "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” he said. And before a live, worldwide TV broadcast on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts realized his dream and became the first to walk on the moon.

While this was undoubtedly a monumental moment for human history, the President’s ambitious call for space travel also marked a transformation for engineering. 

Up to that point, engineering was largely a build and break process. The basic idea being that you’d figure out why something broke, and then build it better. However, this approach could never support a successful space program. President Kennedy’s demand forced the scientific and engineering communities to change to a predictive process.

This development of predictive methods would ultimately lead to PTC’s legacy and the launch of its first parametric, associative feature-based, solid modeling software in 1988. Today, the industry is evolving once again – this time because of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Sky’s the Limit – Or Is It?

During the nine years of the Apollo program, American support fluctuated between 35 and 45 percent according to opinion polls. Even after the moon landing, 53 percent felt it wasn’t worth the expense. As three new crewmembers just arrived on the International Space Station a month after their initial Sept. 23 liftoff, it’s hard to believe there was a time when most doubted the space program altogether.

Likewise, there are also skeptics of IoT, despite or maybe because of all the hype surrounding it. However, the consensus is pretty clear that IoT is poised to change everything. And the people and companies that have been among the first to embrace and understand its potential are already seeing why. 

To help bring the concept of IoT into a tangible experience, approximately 25 industry analysts came together for an interactive IoT workshop held at PTC. Working directly in the CAD software and IoT platform, the analysts took part in a space program of their own as they interacted with a smart, connected product – a Mars rover.

Following step-by-step instructions, the analysts-turned-students learned first-hand how the digital and physical worlds are colliding and how IoT and augmented reality are changing the design process. With an iPad, each analyst could see a full-scale 3D version of their rover, right down to the exterior coloring they selected. The workshop instructors also demonstrated how the driver of a rover could use a heads-up display, or a transparent overlay of data that doesn’t require users to look away from their usual viewpoint, to navigate a hypothetical dust storm on Mars using real-time data from the rover’s sensors.

“Augmented reality is about the bridges between the physical and the digital, and how humans can live, work, and shape both. And that’s what this workshop delivered: designing in the digital world, trialing in the augmented world, and then seeing the result operate in the real world (or as close as we can during a workshop),” said Ramon T. Llamas, research manager, wearables and mobile phones, IDC. “What I liked most about it was that PTC’s platform demonstrated both its simplicity and its comprehensiveness, enough to the point so that we could design, customize, and execute in rather short fashion. It’s a platform that, once in the hands of customers, can push boundaries and drive productivity.”

Lessons Learned

Are you interested in ‘going back to school’ and learning more about IoT? Take advantage of several massive online open courses (MOOC) available through Udemy, the world’s online learning marketplace at the links below. Each course is available for free and is self-paced to fit your schedule and interests.