I am enthusiastic about the freedom that these new mobile apps bring. Particularly being one of those individuals that has creative moments at odd times of the day.
While I have experimented with apps on my android based phone, the screen size is simply too small to be practical for anything beyond very simple viewing. The larger screen size of tablets is definitely the key to making mobile design apps viable.
With cameras on these devices and location / position sensors, I believe we will also be seeing rapid advances in technology similar to Dassault's Natural Sketch which will allow for overlaying/viewing designs and physically existing structures together (perhaps almost in real time). This is something that wouldn't have been practical from your computer workstation.
Droid, you are definitely getting where this is going. You are echoing most of what the design tool vendors are telling me about their mobile strategies. I think the phone apps are just place holders and in some cases might deliver useful functionality. But I agree the real changes will come with the tablet devices and making use of their unique capabilities ilke GPS, cameras, etc.
Integrated technology is sometimes a hindrence. This past week the project I oversaw during installation was in a location that absolutely forbade cameras of any kind. Phones were not a problem, but no photography could be tolerated.
I had to leave my android smartphone AND my laptop computer in the construction company's trailer outside the secure area.
This particular startup had more difficulties than normal and would have benefited from a tablet and software as you've desrcribed. An Ipad with its cameras would not have made it past the checkpoint.
We were left with paper and pencil.
I did a lot of standing around Thursday and Friday. No phone, no computer. Heck, I use my phone for a watch so I couldn't even look at the time.
@TJ: That's a real eye opener in how dependent we really are on these devices.What a shame that a job site that could have profited from the use of mobile technology wouldn't allow it. I wonder given the proliferation of these devices and our increasing dependence on them, how long a mandate like that would be realistic.
Not knowing @TJ's particular situation this might not apply, but my workplace has a "no cameras except with a camera pass" policy which is routinely ignored by everyone who has a cell phone of almost any sort. They don't check, of course, so it's something of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
But I wonder how many of these policies are relics from the day when designs were drawn out on E-size sheets of paper and photographing them with a spy camera to steal the design was a big deal? Now, with designs in my business (VLSI design) being gigabytes of data on a computer, it's much more of a risk for someone with a thumb drive to slurp up the design and walk out with it in their pocket. Even an iPod (which can be used as a mass storage device) would work, but we don't have a "no thumbdrive" or "no iPod" policy (the latter would cause a revolt among the rank and file!).
There are situations where photography should be banned, but for the most part I think it's silly and a waste of everyone's time ... and money.
I never thought I'd get a smart phone, but Sprint had a promotional offer on the Samsung Replenish (made from ostensibly eco-friendly materials) in which the phone was free and the monthly cost was the same as regular phone service, so I decided I'd try it. I've had it for a year now, and am definitely hooked.
I use my smart phone often in meetings. It's more convenient than a laptop, and allows me to do most of the things a laptop could do: check my e-mail and calendar, read PDF and Office documents, search the internet for a piece of information, etc. It's also a great tool on the plant floor, or when visiting suppliers. I can take photos (or record videos) and e-mail them instantly. Often, this is a lot better than trying to describe something over the phone.
A Windchill app would be very helpful for me. It would allow me to look up part numbers and drawings anywhere. This would save a lot of time in meetings when someone asks, "What's the tolerance on that dimension?"
Although a tablet would have a bigger screen and a more powerful processor, you can't beat the convenience of something you can carry around in your pocket.
Dave, I think you are describing the initial resistance by many of your peer engineers perfectly. But once you get over it and get used to the utility of being able to access email and key materials on the fly, you definitely get hooked and are perhaps more open to exploring some of your more traditional engineering tools on these platforms.
Most of the PLM vendors are working on mobile capabilities for the PLM systems (note, I did not say mobile VERSIONS of their PLM systems). No one has drunk the mobile punch enough to believe you can run a full-blown PLM system on a phone or even a tablet. But you can benefit from some of the capabilities on a mobile device.
Beth, I think your article answeres the question that was prompted by the emergence of mobile devices for design engineers. Do they actually need these mobile apps? By the way, I'm impressed by your use of "obviate."
This technology serves as part of a much larger trend -- that is, the tendancy for our offices to follow us everywhere. This could be great or scary, depending on how you look at it. Tools like these could enable us to spend less time at the main office, but more time working. The walls between work and the rest of our lives are crumbling, bit by bit.
Beth, as mentioned in the article mobile apps are designed as an extension of the corporate structured suite of CAD tools not a replacement. When Jeff Hawkins created the PDA, his vision was to replace the desktop PC. Today we still have desktop PCs with computing power matching Cray machines.
I eagerly await more and more CAD tools apps for tablets and smartphones. However, given the large assemblies and high processor power that our designs need, I'm thinking that these apps for me will be an extension of our existing 3D CAD tools at best (at worst they will be too painfully slow). I am hopeful that processing power will catch up to the need in the long term.
True, Greg, but do we really need all that power when we're out in the field? If it's just a layer or two that is being looked at or simple notes / mark-ups being made, the high-power stuff can be done later.
Yes, I do agree with you Jack that many times mark-ups in the field would be great on a simplified representation of the part or assembly and this would be adequate and powerful. However, as the design engineer, I'm eager for the day when I can pull up the entire CAD assembly and do some focused work in the field (to offset the extra emails and task assignments that accumulated during the time that I was out of office). Maybe in the not to distance future...
@Greg; @Jack: I think you're both right in terms of the need trying to be served. For out in the field markup and collaboration, the ability to manipulate lightweight models is really all you need, hence the high utility of smart phones and tablets. But the idea of being able to go further and do some hard core CAD modeling work is also appealing, especially once the devices whet your appetite for doing more. I think we'll get there over time.
OK - I see where your coming from Greg. Just out of curiosity, what would you think about an eventual move to the cloud? I was previously opposed to that altogether, but after using some work apps, I'm starting to change my thoughts.
Good question Jack. As long as there are no security breaches and up-time is always (and I mean always) there, I think it is a good option. However, in talking with a colleague who actually owns a company that provides cloud services, he is kept awake at night by the threat of security breaches. He tells me that once this happens and it goes public, the backlash from the marketplace that he services will be huge and costly.
So again, I think that the initial work apps you are using will be fine for now. I'm just cautious to keep sensitive data off the cloud and watch the news for any potential security breaches or downtime problems.
In this particular case it's more of a company-owned cloud with a lot better security than some of the more public ones (or so I'm told). The advantage to the company is two-fold. One, when they want to upgrade the software they can just do it and not have to hope that the distributor network follows the procedures and actually does it. Two, in the case of someone leaving the company they can shut off access immediately without wondering what's going on with the laptop in the mean time.
First off, traveling is not a good design environment, despite the long hours on airplanes and hotels.
There's the hotel soap, etc. with writing so small, and with such lousy contrast that you often wash your hair with mouth wash!
But worst of all, as we progress in our careers, we are also aging. Our eyesight is degrading. It ain't so easy lookin' at things no more!
Even on my laptop with glasses it is not an easy task to see your work. Even on a medium-sized schematic you can only see a partial view with a 17" screen. And, as you know, that 17 inches is not square but squished in the vertical. It is far from ideal, and largely a pain in the neck.
I applaud their efforts, but until the screen size improves, and airplane seats get bigger to accommodate them, I just don't see mobile devices helping anyone over 21.
Warren, though I tend to agree with your arguement I am reminded back when I started in this field of the old-time draftsmen arguing the same points that new-fangled AutoCAD Release versions will never replace a good board drawing.
Fast, high resolution, tablet computers like the iPad will, most certainly, become increasingly powerful, making the need for cumbersome, slow desktops and notebooks obsolete. Currently, my smart phone handles many tasks more quickly than my office-based and portable systems.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.