Few days ago I had a chance to speak with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD. We spent almost two hours speaking about what GrabCAD is up to. It made me think about what role future marketplaces will play in engineering software. In my view, engineering in general and engineering software was considered as a closed society. In many companies, designers and engineers worked behind the wall, doing their job and throwing result to manufacturing people. However, I think the situation is going to change very soon. There are few influential factors that, in my view, are going to introduce some changes in this space.
The development of transportation, communication and the internet changed a landscape of how products can be designed and manufactured. It becomes global. It started as an offshore operation. However, today, I can see it as more diversified activities towards optimization of how manufacturing design, build and support products.
Social Networks and Marketplaces
The usage of social networks becomes broader, and it allows to people to establish connections find job and service offering in different ways. Taking into account globalization the trend of distributed engineering work can become stronger in coming years. I want to bring an example of Amazon Mechanical Turk.
The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables computer programmers (known as Requesters), who have to have a United States address, to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do. It is one of the suites of Amazon Web Services. The Requesters are able to pose tasks known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), such as choosing the best among several photographs of a store-front, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music CDs. Workers (called Providers in Mechanical Turk’s Terms of Service) can then browse among existing tasks and complete them for a monetary payment set by the Requester. To place HITs, the requesting programs use an open Application Programming Interface, or the more limited Mturk Requester site.
You can think about future possible marketplaces connecting designers, engineers and manufacturers.
Community and Online Libraries
In the beginning, CAD libraries and Part Catalogs was almost the only place offered online engineering content. These days I can see companies are trying to create content libraries. There are many examples – 3DVIA and 3D Content Central of Dassault, 3D Warehouse of Google, Autodesk Seek, TraceParts and others. Future development of social networks and content providers create an interesting opportunity for catalogs and online libraries to grow towards communities offering different services.
What is my conclusion? I think GrabCAD gives us some example about how to introduce a new eco-system for engineers. Together with few other examples, I can see a definite trend towards re-organizing engineering work into market place or network of engineering services. It will allow to get out of the local design places and propose their services on a global scale. There are many un-answered questions, such as IP protection, handling of proprietary information, security, licensing, models re-use and other. However, I see it as an interesting experiment.