For whatever reason, I was able to adjust to the GMT +1 time zone with no issues. However, it didn’t matter so much since the event started today at 10:30 to allow for local travel. The opening keynote was delivered by Tony. He did a great job of reviewing our performance and outlining the vision to the future. I am always impressed with how genuine he is.
The next presentation was delivered by Bernd Gombert a CTO at Siemens. He gave one of the more interesting presentations I have seen from a main stream manufacturer in a long time. It was a far future looking talk about how robotics and the automobile are converging. He started off pretty fantastically showing the convergence of two lines, one representing robotics starting with DaVinci’s first ideas of what we would call a robot and ending in the Honda robot (that just got canceled I think?) and the other showing the Model T ending in a modern BMW. The “converged” product was product shot from the upcoming transformers movie…very funny, and it put people off guard. Now that he had the audience paying attention, he went on to make his points about how the concepts of robotics (a machine that can navigate and make decisions about where to go in the real world) are increasingly applying to vehicles.
As evidence, he started with the ABS systems installed in the mid-70’s. These systems “enhanced” the performance of the human driver. These evolved into today’s TCS (traction control) systems which control not only the brakes but in some systems they also intercede to control throttle, gear and even steering. The change from ABS to TCS was a drastic one. It went from having the car take over one specific function (extreme braking in slippery conditions) to coordinating systems in a way that would be difficult or impossible for all but the most skilled drivers to accomplish. Advanced TCS systems actually can drive the car for a short time.
What’s next is more autonomous systems that actually drive the car for you in a wider range of conditions, even highway cruising or parking. By giving the car the ability to sense more of the external conditions (giving the car “sight” is key), its possible to have it do more with the information. The new Lexus 460 has an auto-parking feature already, so he’s not that far off in the future.
What does this mean for PLM? Well for one thing, if the products companies want to create are that advanced, the systems that create them need to be even more advanced. If our customers are thinking about things 7-10 years in the future, I’m glad we are as well. Another key point is that to create the “robot car” of the future more multi-disciplinary, which means the tools are going to have to be accessible by software engineers, designers, manufacturing engineers and electrical engineers. Not only will they have to be accessible, but they will have to capture all of the knowledge that each of those disciplines require into a single complete product model. That is quite a vision.