Nice overview, Beth. The one that really got me was social media. I'm curious about whether this is a matter of pasting Facebook-look functionality onto everything that moves or whether this is a truly useful addition. the answer could be generational. The younger engineers may find this natural and helpful, while the older engineers are probably rolling their eyes.
You raise good points, Rob. I don't think simply pasting Facebook functionality into design tools will satisfy any engineer--old or new. I think that CAD and PLM vendors are recognizing that social media is not a fad and implemented correctly, it can add significant value to engineering processes, particularly since the discipline is far more collaborative than it ever has been. In addition, I do think that younger generations coming up the ranks are going to expect this kind of functionality in all of their business tools, be it CAD programs or spreadsheets. The capabilities we see today may not be the capabilities we see tomorrow, but my guess is some sort of social functionality will become a mainstay of engineering tools over time.
Fantastic list, Beth! I like the Integration and Cloud pieces. I'm excited about the mobile developments but it looks like that will share the same pinch point as mobile PDAs a decade ago... limited interface baud rate. Even though Jeff Hawkins designed Graffiti, it wasn't until multi-touch and now voice that mobile took off. It is great the industry is preparing for mobile design while the input methods are fleshing out. That way when the interface it right, vendors can rush in with solutions. I'm not at all surprised about Social. Social for humans is a given and will continue to permeate all we do in 2012. What I am excited about is Social Objects. We've made great strides in Object Oriented development -- the next big thing is to have Objects become social. It means the Internet of Things, but it also means Social Software Objects in design -- as in various components communicating with each other within the software application to measure compatibility (proper morphology, material compatibility, load limits, stress distribution). Be prepared for a component to communicate with designers "Sorry, Dave. I would drill and tap a hole at this location, but the current location is in a position of maximum stress for this component according to the FEA. Can we move the position to this location?"
William: What you are describing is pretty unbelievable, but I suppose not out of context if you consider how quickly technology evolves and delivers lasting impact. In some ways, dashboards and simulation tools can already provide some of this analysis, but it's placing it in the social context and the ease of presentation where we're likely to see the most dramatic changes.
I think you're right in that engineers won't be looking for social networking as it is. However, you're right when you say the collaboration required will result in a desire to have functionality that will simplify the communication and that may look an awful lot like some of the social networks. Engineers from different continents are working on projects at the same time. And the ability to share designs, concepts and ideas in a quick and easy way will definitely be a selling point in the future.
I think the integration of not only CAD but communication whille still in CAD will be the next big thing. Being able to work on a design and instant message a colleague hundreds of miles away while reviewing the same design will be very helpful. Are there any companies that you know of currently working on this, or are there tools already available?
Beth, I do agree with you about young engineers coming up through the ranks expecting these kinds of tools. They're second nature to kids, and those kids will soon enough be involved in design. For many young people, social networks -- particularly Facebook -- have replaced email for communication.
Absolutely, Rob. My 14-year old thinks it's weird to call someone on the phone and rarely graces his email. It's either texting or Facebook as a means of communication. That said, young engineers are not going to conduct vital engineering work in the open forum of a Facebook or another public social network. But many of the conventions that social network tools bring to the fore--the idea of communities of experts, ratings, likes and dislikes, commenting, search functionality--those can all be brought to bear in traditional CAD and PLM tools to make them more social and more akin to how the younger generation perfers working.
I would guess the social networking tools will evolve to manage individual groups of users who have varying levels of access to the design: internal users, vendors or customers, and outside experts. Facebook is developing and deploying group tools to segregate communication based on individual groups, so the ability to manage groups is coming if not already there.
And yes, I can relate to the notion of Facebook and texting as the primary communication tools of the phone for young users. The other day I was driving my 15-year-old daughter to dance. She was either texting or on Facebook (this is constant) and her phone rang. She was startled. She looked at the phone like it was from outer space. Then she answered it. It was her mom, one of the few people who actually call her.
I have a tough time understanding what's so great about only being able to use 2 modes of communication. Isn't it better to have multiple modes at one's command? In addition to texting and Facebook-ing, I can fax, email, phone, type or handwrite (printed or cursive) and send that via snail mail, or visit someone in person. Moreover, my brain's vision algorithms recognize cursive handwriting as well as hand-printed letters and various typefaces, and they even interpret hand gestures and facial expressions (something I'm not always sure is true about teenagers).
Meanwhile, I think social media is probably revolutionizing the integration and interaction of far-flung global engineering teams.
I agree Ann, that having multiple modes of communication is preferred. I think the real productivity surges come by having these multiple forms of communications, including social media, tightly integrated into the design tools so there is constant collaboration and interaction at every stage of the development effort and no matter where the team is located.
Yes, there is a wide range of communication. The focus on social networking is probably because it's new and it has facets not found in other forms of communication -- bringing in people without regard to distance or even time. Plus there is the ability to create groups with individual interests. There is also the ability to archive the communication for later recall or further sharing. From a professional point of view, there are strong attributes.
The cloud can really make an impact in design tools. The major way this happens is to make more back end computing available to CAD users. As the front end tools and platforms become more portable and powerful, the ability to intergrate back end processing to realize a more on-demand computing approach will help revolutionize CAD tool design as well.
I think you've covered all the bases here, Beth. The only trend we haven't seen is one that mitigates vendor lock in. As tools continue to expand from point products to full-blown PLM suites, I'm not sure that will ever really be addressed.
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