Organizations across all industries are currently undergoing a digital transformation as advancements in technology offer the opportunity to optimize business operations and improve customer experience. The advent of 5G networking technology and the burgeoning internet of things are set to impact the aerospace and automotive sectors in particular, significantly disrupting various aspects of their manufacturing, operations and design capabilities, among others.
Along with improvements, of course, this disruption will bring challenges that will need to be addressed. Lessons can be learned from other similarly disrupted industries, however, and provisions made that will allow automotive and aerospace business to fully capitalize on the opportunities that this high-speed, low-latency, connected future offers.
The benefits of 5G and IoT
Given its promise of high-speed data transfers, ultra-low latency and increased connectivity, the potential benefits of 5G are manifold. A significant increase in the amount of computing power made available to vehicles and aircraft will enable greater accessibility and performance of entertainment and communications applications, for example. This will substantially improve the customer experience, especially with the degree of personalization and targeting afforded by real-time location intelligence. Advances in intelligent applications and the use of AI and machine learning technologies will provide entertainment and personalized services in automotive and aerospace scenarios that vie with services that are provided in traditional home, business and mobile experiences.
This same capacity for real-time intelligence will also enhance the safety of road vehicles considerably, providing satellite navigation devices with more accurate predictive traffic patterns and supplying the next generation of advanced driver-assistance systems with vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure data in order to avoid collisions. Improved networking and availability of diverse and significant data from IoT systems in air and on ground will enable advanced sharing of information across other aircraft and ground operations. This will improve safety as well as on-time performance across the industry. Using open cloud-based services such as SWIM (System Wide Information Management) in concert with improved networking and relevant data accelerates these new capabilities.
Likewise, aircraft pilots and navigation systems will similarly benefit from accurate, up-to-date airspace and traffic information.
Enabled by 5G, the myriad connected devices that make up IoT will transform the automotive and aerospace manufacturing process. With integrated sensors providing continuous feedback on the performance of any given component or part, and on its usage once deployed, R&D teams can make ongoing iterative improvements to any design based on accurate, real-life data. Indeed, analysis of a component’s performance and, where necessary, its failure, will allow for far better inventory and vendor management. Identifying a point of failure as and when it occurs, for example, will help manufacturers to streamline their supply chain and, ultimately, improve the efficiency of their overall operations.
Design and preparation
The examples outlined above are just some of the many opportunities for improvement that a digital transformation offers the automotive and aerospace industries. Consideration must be given, however, to ensuring that implementing such disruptive technologies will add value to a business and its wider ecosystem. Indeed, adopting the latest technology “just because everyone else is” could be counter-productive and lead to unnecessary, inefficient “bloating.”
Design-driven engineering is key. While its many benefits may be attractive, all functionality introduced by implementing an IoT system should be foundationally connected to real, considered business requirements which themselves are tied to an overarching business case for delivering quantifiable improvements. The systems architecture work that underpins the implementation of such a system should detail how it will achieve the desired improvements without introducing unnecessary costs or reducing system availability.
Preparation is important too. After all, a digital transformation program is not something to be undertaken lightly and its effects are likely to be felt throughout the entire organization. The business should invest in enterprise architecture design, for example, to ensure that digital integration is actioned efficiently across the whole organization and includes back office applications, which can provide automated workflows to enable intelligent supply chain, for example.
What’s more, an organizational plan should be put in place that clearly defines the revised roles and goals of a company’s workforce under the new, transformed business model, in which back office functions will be increasingly digitally integrated and automated. And with IoT fundamentally reliant on the real-time back and forth exchange of data from various connected sensors, devices and machines, it’s imperative that businesses have a secure and accessible data architecture in place. A data architecture that can be easily “exported” to business partners enables integrated digital transformation.
Many businesses are already a long way into their digital transformation and have learned important lessons along the way. Having tried to create next-generation mobile applications with the aim of improving customer experience and influence purchase decisions, for example, some retailers have found that, if these apps are not designed with user experience, accessibility and clear performance goals in mind, they are unlikely to succeed. Enabling and embracing agile methodologies in deploying transformative systems is critical to the success of ensuring high-value business requirements are met.
While they are yet to reach their full potential, disruptive technologies such as 5G and IoT are set to transform the face of the automotive and aerospace industries. Real-time data generated by external sensors will improve the safety of aircraft and road vehicles; widespread connectivity and fast data speeds will improve system performance and availability; and predictive failure patterns and continuous performance analysis will reduce manufacturing costs and optimize the supply chain.
But, all of this depends on preparation and design of system architecture, enterprise architecture and data architecture. For many businesses, however, this new digital environment is unchartered territory, the navigation of which can be greatly assisted by the employment of third-party strategy, design and consulting services.
By ensuring the necessary architecture is in place, and that any implementation is aligned with its business objectives — whether around safety, efficiency or customer experience — automotive and aerospace organizations, in common with those in many other industries, will be placed to reap the rewards that a digital transformation can offer.
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