IBM applies some engineering rigor to the Internet of Things

The company says the practice of product line engineering will help IoT manufacturers maintain their portfolios

IBM's DoorsNG requirements planning software now supports product line engineering for Internet of things devices

IBM's DoorsNG requirements planning software now supports product line engineering for Internet of things devices

Bringing some old fashioned engineering discipline to the emerging Internet of Things, IBM has updated its design tools to allow IoT component builders to keep track of their work though a widely used technique called product line engineering (PLE).

"Everyone is trying to create products, devices, and components that are applicable across a wide variety of industries and yet are customizable to any particular product domain," said Greg Gorman, IBM director of product management of Internet of Things platform.

The PLE process can maintain order over such a dizzying array of end-products, he said.

IBM has integrated its stack of development and project management software so that it can accommodate the PLE documentation in the design and building of IoT devices.

Long a staple in the aerospace and automotive industries, PLE documents all the development work that goes into creating a line of products, detailing all the hardware components, software and engineering for each individual product model.

PLE information can be valuable for easily creating new models in a product line, because it allows engineers to build on existing designs. Different models in the same product line can be up to 85 percent identical, IBM reckons. Think of a car manufacturer that uses the same suspension system for all of its automobiles. With PLE in place, the manufacturer can easily create new products by drawing on existing models.

PLE is also handy for debugging malfunctioning products, given that it provides documentation for design decisions.

A number of companies are already using IBM PLE capabilities for their own work, such as manufacturer Bosch, which uses PLE to keep track of its many products, and the many variations of its products across different countries.

The PLE discipline is well suited for IoT, Gorman said. "There is a growing complexity, within devices and between devices, with IoT," he said.

While certain industries have long embraced PLE, others now venturing into the IoC space, such as medical equipment manufacturers, may not be as familiar with the approach.

The new software package, called Product Line Engineering from IBM, modifies a number of existing IBM tools, including the DoorsNG requirements planning software, source code management software Rational Team Concert, collaborative software Rational Design Manager, and the Rational Quality Management testing software.

With the update, users can designate, through a new drop-down menu, that these products capture the work they do on specific version numbers and models of the IoT devices they are building.

"It allows you to say, 'I'm working on rev B of this particular device,' and the all the tools configure themselves to see the rev B stuff, as you follow traceability links, test cases, and requirements," Gorman said. "And if you find a defect in Rev B, you can see where else [that faulty component] was used."

Those organizations already running the IBM design software can apply the update to their existing copies. The company will also start offering Product Line Engineering from IBM as a pay-as-you-go cloud service.

The new software is one of the first fruits of the US$3 billion investment that IBM pledged earlier this year for developing a specialized IoT unit.

This year, 4.9 billion connected devices will be in operation, and the number of connected devices will balloon to 25 billion by 2020, IT analyst firm Gartner has estimated.

The software is being launched this week at NIWeek, a user conference for test equipment manufacturer National Instruments being held this week in Austin.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags IBMInternet of Thingsinternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?