The cloud is impacting virtually every industry. From enterprise data management to online mobile banking, valuable and critical data is stored and transmitted through the cloud every day. What is driving this? How will this impact the world of industrial design?
First, the driving force behind storing intellectual property (IP) in the cloud is primarily convenience. Distributed accessibility to information from any location on any device can certainly create inefficiencies. Whether that is downstream information for easy-access, or the ability to push information upstream by uploading data to the cloud from the field, not having to be on a company network to facilitate these processes can shorten timetables for certain projects.
Secondly, cloud hosting providers specialize in data center management. Many companies happen to have data that requires centralized storage and management, but the organization’s core competency is in something entirely different. Outsourcing the server maintenance, bandwidth requirements, firewalls, etc. allows that organization to focus on their core business and profit center by re-aligning their resources with the primary goals of the organization.
Third, technology is improving. Consider Moore’s Law, and how bandwidth and storage continue to become increasingly more available at a lower cost. Technology is not going backwards, back to our comfort zones with paper files and sticky notes. This new infrastructure is becoming more viable and is expected to deliver more benefits as time goes on.
So, how will this impact industrial designers?
One key advantage is the ability to share design data with a collaborative group of stakeholders, allowing a central receptacle of feedback and information. Another is being able to access a design from anywhere, make changes and updates to it, whether you are in the office or on the road. Certainly industrial designers can take advantage of these conveniences.
Another process that can be made better with the cloud is collaboration. The ability for multiple designers and engineers to work on a design simultaneously. The is especially beneficial when you consider the [exterior and interior] vehicle design consists of multiple interfaces and complex relationships which are usually designed and engineered in-parallel, and are consistently changing and evolving as the design matures. Cloud collaborative workflows enable concurrent design and engineering practices which can help reduce compatibility errors and avoid lengthy re-work, as well as potentially cutting time and cost from the design process.
In the automotive design space, however, there is a unique level of sensitivity to our IP and how much of it is distributed on a “need-to-know” basis. As mentioned in our previous blog post, “Why Do We Still Use Clay Models in Car Design?” Cornelius pointed out how despite this new 3D modeling technology, we continue to use age-old tactics to visualize designs before anything is approved for production.
The question becomes, will automotive designers embrace the cloud?
There are numerous ways that workflows could be enhanced and information could be more efficiently shared, but is that enough? In a world where spy cars are used to protect the integrity of the design and limit the number of eyes on a project prior to launch, are we too paranoid to leverage this new technology for our own benefit?
One side of the argument is that these cloud service providers specialize in data management and security. Protecting networks behind firewalls, providing a disaster recovery plan in the event something were to take the network down, enabling the right amount of pipeline for data transmission… these are the cloud provider’s core competencies. SSAE-16 is a standard used to measure the level of security in a data center, whereby hackers are hired to break into the system in order to extract proprietary data or otherwise tamper with it. Surely a company that can comply with these requirements is better at data protection than a medium-sized design firm with a part-time IT administrator on staff.
However, I empathize with those who are slow to migrate to the cloud because it is risky putting your eggs in someone else’s basket. The fear that a design could go missing, or be shared with a competitor is a part of our reality. We are bound to confidentiality agreements and project code names for a reason.
In summary, the cloud is here to stay. The question is, will it become a tool that we use every day for our design management or will its impact remain minimal due to the sensitivity we have around protecting our design data?
What do you think?
10 years in CAD/PLM Software Development
Worked for Autodesk, Siemens PLM Software and SDRC Imageware
Worked in Development, User Experience and Product Management
Led competitive CAD benchmarks for Design at Automotive OEM’s globally