With the cost of IoT hardware components falling and examples of successful new business models in many industries, OEMs and manufacturers are adopting the Internet of Things.

Many of these manufacturers have also been utilizing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software for years to effectively manage the hardware product’s lifecycle. But when it comes to the Internet of Things, traditional product design and development tools don’t cover enough ground for increasingly complex and connected products.

Here’s why manufacturers must look beyond existing PLM software systems in order to successfully ideate, develop and realize smart products and systems – and reimagine the product development lifecycle along the way.

Taking concept definition, development and design to the next level

PLMs are great for mechanical and electronic design. IoT takes product definition a step further, requiring product teams to design hardware, firmware, cloud software, and mobile apps, including the interaction between physical products, gateways, cloud, apps and web dashboards. That’s no small feat, even for teams with an IoT product or system already under their belt.

A visual model specialized for IoT design is crucial for understanding the role that every component plays in an IoT product:

  • Ideating features/concepts – traditional CAD tools aren’t capable of designing design smart features or the sensors and components of which they are composed.
  • Designing interoperability between the system components. An IoT product requires a “IoT rule” mechanism – based on “IF-THIS-THEN-THAT”- to define how different products or parts of the IoT system interact with each other – a new paradigm that is uncatered for by traditional PLMs.
  • Designing cloud connectivity
  • Designing mobile apps or web dashboards

Development – From stakeholder feedback to simulation

PLMs have long helped OEMs and product managers coordinate communication between teams, manage tasks and integrate data from diverse sources during product development.

But even a PLM that can construct a BOM for IOT would require many hours of manual labor to record each sensor and component that would need to be purchased for an IoT product. Plus, the PLM doesn’t help product teams figure out which components and features deliver business value.

Also, while computer-aided simulation has long been used to validate mechanical and electronic design, new IoT simulation enables product managers to take their entire IoT system specification and validate its correctness and completeness. Testing out the connectivity and IoT rules empowers teams to find errors in logic and close loopholes before they create the BOM – saving enormous amounts of time and money.

Cross-functional development  

Traditional PLMs aren’t built to manage software development – everything from mobile applications and web dashboards, to the firmware embedded in a smart product’s electronics. Besides requiring both hardware, firmware and software, IoT development requires cross-functional alignment and delivery between the different development teams. When they are managed separately, problems necessarily arise.

Today, some platforms combine PLM and ALM (application lifecycle management) systems to provide a more complete offering. These platforms, however, rely on a predesigned IoT product for intricate specifications, without providing tools to help users define or design them.

In-market analytics – closing the IoT product lifecycle

PLM tools generally focus on the early stages of the product lifecycle: design and development. That’s because before the advent of data-collecting sensors, manufacturers had to rely on customer feedback to learn – and learn very late – what worked in their product, and what didn’t work or was redundant. And it’s incredibly difficult to find root causes for issues without measurable data.

Newly-emerging IoT behavior analytics platforms enable product managers to understand their product’s functioning in market. But to be most effective, these platforms need to compare the system’s behavior to the product blueprint, with all the rules governing feature functionality and system interoperability.  

Ultimately, existing PLM software tools center around data and information management during the mechanical and electronic design and development phases. For an IoT product, the IoT product lifecycle involves more skillsets, teams, and technologies, and goes beyond development to also cover in-market production usage.

Today, terms like CAD, PLM and BOM are being redefined as IoT changes the face of the product lifecycle: increasing its breadth and scope, and enlarging its potential to serve the product once in market.

Manufactures should utilize IoT Development Platforms that work in tandem with CAD and traditional PLM software to take IoT project from ideation to in-market success most effectively and cost-efficiently.