Four Ways the Internet of Things is Changing Product Design

The Automation Technology Expo – Midwest conference is in progress outside Chicago this week with a track dedicated to ‘Going beyond M2M: The Industrial Internet of Things." Dell OEM Solutions is contributing to the conversation with a session on how the Internet of Things is changing the design function.

Fundamentally, technology shifts are making it easier for designers to embed intelligence within their products. We see the changes in consumer products such as Nest thermostats and the fitness bands on our wrists, but there is rich opportunity to explore how additional connectivity and analytics can create value on the enterprise side.

The Internet of Things is expanding the design envelope in four ways:

  1. Software flexibility with a cloud model – Products can be changed after they leave the factory by accessing and downloading new software.  This gives designers a much longer lifecycle to explore, as products in the field remain touchable.  This also means that designers can choose to keep some product functions in the cloud, and have products connect when needed, giving designers the ability to control and enforce the exact software used in the field.
  2. Product ecosystems – If your product can talk to the cloud, and another product is talking to the same cloud…then different products can start talking to one another and interoperability becomes feasible.  We joke about the refrigerator talking to the washing machine, but there is incredible value to be gained when, say, one machine on the shop floor is able to pass along information about a specific unit to another machine down the line.  Designers can start collaborating both within their own organizations and externally to understand what types of conversations between products can produce efficiencies, higher quality, or deeper insights.
  3. New features – Connectivity gives designers a whole new dimension on which to ideate.  In consumer products, it often plays out with the ability to control devices or check status through our smart phones.  In the enterprise space, the ability for applications to monitor products and automatically reach out to the customer when an issue is detected gives organizations the opportunity to proactively address and prevent failures from turning costly.  The IT industry, with its inherently connected products, has had this capability for years.  Called SupportAssist for Dell server, storage and networking devices, it is an added feature to our Basic and ProSupport offerings.   This represents productivity gains for IT departments, and supports a strong customer experience.
  4. New services – Most products, with the exception of high-cost, long life durables, generate most if not all of their revenue when they ship from the factory.  The opportunity to develop high margin, recurring revenue streams from products in the field is appealing.  The agriculture industry has been visible in bringing new data-driven services to their market around asset optimization, crop yield optimization, and predictive failure monitoring services.  We expect to see innovation within organizations, as well as new startups, taking advantage of opportunities to convert data into actionable, profitable insights.

About the Author: Kirsten Billhardt