Are You Ready for AI to Bring Fiction to Life?
What would your reaction be to seeing a 60-foot robot walking about like the RX-78-2 Gundam replica in Yokohama, Japan? Surprise? Amazement? Fear? This larger-than-life recreation of the Gundam manned robot from a widely popular anime show in Japan and elsewhere around the world can walk, kneel, move its arms and head, and even open and close its eyes. Proof the gap between science fiction and reality is shrinking. Fast.
What’s driving the world of intelligent devices from far-fetched science fiction features to reality? Leading the way in these innovations is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is how machines are programmed to imitate human intelligence. Companies are now designing and developing products with AI to help solve problems in a new way, improve the customer experience, and create a more connected world. This technology is enabling smart products to interact with consumers and provide us with useful information instantly. Recent advancements in self-driving cars and surgical robotics technologies utilizing AI are already impacting our transportation and healthcare.
AI, machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other intelligent technologies are accelerating innovation and reshaping how products are conceived and designed throughout the product development process—bringing both new opportunities and challenges. Gartner echoed the impact of AI on companies in their “Top 10 Trends in Data and Analytics, 2020” report. According to the report, 75% of organizations will shift from piloting to operationalizing AI by the end of 2024. Also notable is that Gartner lists smarter, faster, and more reliable AI as the No. 1 data and analytics trend. [i]
Smart Products Bring Design Complexity
When a product can communicate directly with its environment through AI, it introduces new potential design innovations. For example, if your luggage becomes autonomous, how does that change the material used to make it? The handles, the compartments, the wheels? These design revisions impact various teams and supply chain partners.
With greater numbers of electronics, software, and sensors in smart products, today’s manufacturers and supply chains need better ways to collaborate throughout new product development and introduction (NPDI) to ensure products work as designed.
Developing products with AI and other smart, connected technologies means electrical, software, and hardware design teams need to better communicate to avoid interoperability issues. Not only do all components need to work in unison—they require dispersed teams and global supply chains to collaborate in real time. To manage this complexity and support continuous product innovation, manufacturers need a single, secure source of truth to facilitate instant, transparent communication during design, test, prototype, and volume production stages. This keeps everyone on the same page and allows engineering, quality, and manufacturing teams to turn on a dime whenever issues arise or breakthroughs are made.
As systems become more and more autonomous and better equipped to navigate, manipulate, and interact with the world, the impact on product design and product innovation will be enormous. [ii]
Incorporating AI-based technology into new product designs increases the chances for interoperability issues if engineering and manufacturing teams are working in different systems. Product development solutions like product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management system (QMS) software help manage these design complexities that are critical to successful AI-integrated or other smart product design. By eliminating data and communication silos with a centralized product record, teams can avoid confusion around the latest design. This establishes better cross-functional design collaboration throughout NPDI and enables continuous improvement.
Be Smart About Your Product Development
We live in an exciting time with rapidly evolving technologies and virtually every product you can think of can become smarter. Companies that can embrace and leverage smart technologies will get a leg up on the competition. Leading companies like Lumicell, Kinsa, Kymeta, and AEye are examples of innovators forging ahead in the development of smart products across the automotive, medical, and mobile communication industries.
According to the PwC “Digital Product Development 2025” report, 61% of enterprises who are the most advanced using AI and ML (Digital Champions) use fully integrated product lifecycle management (PLM) systems.[iii]
With a single source of product development truth, these companies and many more have been able to develop innovative products and overcome the new challenges. Using Arena’s Cloud PLM and QMS software, their cross-functional teams can collaborate, design reviews are streamlined, and NPDI is accelerated.
Above and beyond what we’ve seen already with smart home products, autonomous vehicles, and connected medical devices, we expect to see continual technological advancements as AI, IoT, robotics, and other smart technologies mature. With the rate of technological change faster than ever, companies must prepare by not only advancing their products but the systems and processes to develop them.