Hardware manufacturers must be nimble and adaptive, constantly ready to pivot. These pivots come not only in response to advances in hardware and software development, but also to shifts in consumer preferences. As everyday users change the way they interact with technology, hardware manufacturers must adapt in kind.
In recent years, one of the most significant changes to the way people interact with technology is the advent of cyber physical products (it’s sometimes hyphenated as cyber-physical). Cyber physical products have served as the catalyst for some major new developments in hardware manufacturing, and their influence isn’t going to lessen any time soon. Simply put, it’s essential for hardware manufacturers to develop product lines with cyber-physical concepts in mind.
But what are cyber physical products, exactly? And what are the broader implications for the hardware world?
Here’s a quick definition of Cyber Physical: When we talk about cyber physical products, we’re talking about physical products that integrate digital software systems. In other words, this is a physical device, appliance, or application that has its own self-contained software ecosystem, allowing for more user input, as well as ongoing adaptation and learning.
Cyber physical products can vary quite a bit in terms of their complexity. At one end of the spectrum, you might have a smart thermostat, automatically regulating the temperature of your home-based sensor inputs or commands received from your cell phone. At the more complicated end of the spectrum, you have completely automated manufacturing systems. The cyber physical product range encompasses countless items between these two poles.
A Closer Look at Cyber Physical
To get a better sense of how significant the cyber-physical revolution is, let’s look at those two examples in greater detail.
Smart Home Devices
Thermostats are just one example of smart home devices. These are tangible products that you can install in your home, but they also come with built-in software that allows them to adapt seamlessly to external input. Again, think about changes to the ambient environment (for example, a smart home alarm might go off when it detects motion or noise) as well as direct user input (such as a command transmitted from your iPad).
Automated Manufacturing Systems
In the industrial world, cyber-physical products can include sophisticated manufacturing systems that coordinate and optimize production processes. These cyber physical products lead to enhanced efficiency, reduced errors, and increased safety.
Why Are Cyber Physical Products So Significant?
Cyber-physical products offer tremendous convenience to the end user, whether that’s a homeowner or a product development team. But it’s important to underscore the fact that the cyber-physical concept isn’t just about convenience. It’s about a whole new way in which people can interact with technology.
Consider that, in the home, cyber physical means energy efficiency, comfort, even increased safety. And in industrial settings, cyber physical products translate to smart manufacturing, predictive maintenance, innovative logistics solutions, and beyond.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Consider also:
- In the field of healthcare, cyber-physical products play an important role in tracking and recording patient conditions, offering physicians access to real-time data collection.
- Cyber-physical products have yielded some significant environmental benefits to the agricultural sector, where they allow for more targeted and selective pesticide use.
- In virtually any sector, cyber physical products can be implemented to cut the costs of labor and materials.
Given the incredible benefits and utility of the cyber-physical concept, it’s essential for hardware manufacturers to get on board. The time to integrate physical products with self-contained software solutions is now, as consumers and manufacturers increasingly look to this level of responsiveness.
The Need for a Product Roadmap
Of course, developing and launching such complex products is not without its challenges. For one thing, it’s important to develop these products in a way that can accommodate iterative software updates, including security patches.
To coordinate the different timelines required for developing both the physical form and the software within, cyber-physical manufacturers must make use of state-of-the-art software solutions, including product roadmap management (PRM) tools. PRM makes it easy to keep track of different end user needs and pain points, and to ensure that the physical and the cyber are truly in sync.
The bottom line? Cyber-physical products are the future of hardware manufacturing… and to keep pace, manufacturers need to adapt cutting-edge tools and planning solutions. PRM tops the list.