Few years ago, I got a problem with automatic transmission of our Honda Odyssey. The funny part of the story was that problem appeared after regular maintenance. Short trip to nearest dealership and after some time our Ody was out with updated software that fixed the way car controled parameters of torque convertor. Details aside, according to dealership, they installed new software patch that fixed software problem that was installed during the maintenance. That was my first practical experience of how wrong software can influence devices we considered to be purely mechanical. Another similar story few months ago was related to updating of firmware on my Canon EOS-M, which improved significantly auto-focusing of the camera.
These examples made me think about how software updates can be delivered easier. Think about software updates for your computer systems. I’m pretty sure you think now about bad was your last Windows update experience :). However, there are more pleasant examples. My Android phone is updating itself automatically. I don’t remember any failure for the last 6-8 months of use.
Nowadays this topic can be easily connected to a modern IoT (Internet of Things) trend. I’ve been reading Wired magazine article Tesla’s Over-the-Air Fix: Best Example Yet of the Internet of Things? article, which brings some examples how IoT will be able to influence our car behavior. One of the examples was about how Tesla charging system can be updated and tuned over-the-air. Navigate here to read more. Here is my favorite passage:
…Tesla owners recently received a recall notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alerting them that a charger plug needed to be fixed because it had been discovered to be a cause for fires. “Not to worry,” said Tesla, and completed the fix for its 29,222 vehicle owners via software update. What’s more, this wasn’t the first time Tesla has used such updates to enhance the performance of its cars. Last year it changed the suspension settings to give the car more clearance at high speeds, due to issues that had surfaced in certain collisions. That particular fix did not carry an official recall notice by NHTSA, and went largely unheralded in the news.
The list of examples can be continued and this is totally up to your imagination. From very practical examples of preemptive alerts about car maintenance to crazy ones related to driving behaviors and self driving cars.
Now let’s get back to our PLM system. Car is not simple mechanical device anymore like it was 50 years ago. It contains lots of electronic, but what we learned even more these days – software code. Sophisticated engineering data management systems need to be used to manage all information about the car – bill of materials, configurations, behaviors. Everything got connected. It is clear software components need to be included in manufacturing and support bills to insure consistency and availability of information. I’ve been touching this topic few days ago in my post – How to combine engineering and software BOMs? Even more, I’d expect before pushing update to hundreds and thousand vehicles, automakers probably will be interested to simulate results of this update using their PLM system. The last one clearly brings list of additional requirements to PLM software vendors related to Simulation Lifecycle Management.
What is my conclusion? I can see an interesting connection between IoT and PLM systems. The designed behavior of the car can be controlled by different devices and to provide information about maintenance, improved configurations and the need to handle mechanical works based on car characteristics and driving behaviors. What Tesla does today can be expanded and used by other car manufacturers tomorrow. PLM systems need to be tuned and adjusted to support these use cases. Note should be taken by PLM software architects. Just my thoughts…