Technology is constantly improving and progressing at a rapid pace. Many technologies we take for granted in 2024 would have been beyond imagination, even a decade ago. Manufacturers often have a front-row seat to these evolutions, witnessing significant technological revolutions at their earliest stages.
One shining example of this is cyber-physical product development. Cyber-physical products have become increasingly popular among consumers and businesses alike. Manufacturing companies have been at the forefront of this movement, pushing cyber-physical products toward higher performance levels.
Most consumers are familiar with cyber-physical products, even if they don't know them by this name.
When we talk about cyber-physical products, we're talking about physical/tangible products controlled by self-contained software algorithms. This enables the physical products to respond to prompts or external sensors, "learn," and adapt via AI or recurring software updates.
For an example of cyber-physical manufacturing, look no further than smart home thermostats. These are physical devices that homeowners can manipulate via prompts from their smartphone or tablet. Additionally, sensors allow the smart home thermostat to regulate the home's temperature based on ambient conditions. Naturally, a self-contained, internal computer system is required for the thermostat to function this way.
Cyber-physical products aren't just for use in private homes. Large-scale automation systems allow manufacturing companies to work more efficiently, often with cyber-physical technology at the center. And there are plenty of other examples besides.
How Does Cyber Physical Affect Manufacturing?
Cyber-physical products offer consumers unparalleled levels of convenience and control. Naturally, these products have proven to be big sellers. But as cyber-physical products become more and more ubiquitous, manufacturing companies must be mindful of a few innate challenges.
1. Cybersecurity risks
One of the most consequential challenges cyber-physical manufacturers face is the rising risk of cyber-attacks.
Simply put, hackers and other computer-based assailants can tunnel their way into any Internet-connected system. And if a homeowner has a cyber-physical product linked to their smartphone or personal computer, it could provide hackers with a back door into sensitive data.
Thus, manufacturers must increasingly prioritize the involvement of IT and cybersecurity professionals, ensuring that products are developed in a way that any vulnerabilities can be identified and patched after the fact.
2. Product development challenges
It's also important for manufacturers to note that, for cyber-physical products, the product life cycle is slightly different than other types of products.
Customers who buy cyber-physical products don't necessarily want "one-and-done" solutions. Instead, they want products that can be updated and expanded over time, specifically with new software updates.
That has significant implications for cyber-physical product manufacturing. Products must be developed with expandability in mind, and attention must be paid to customer support once the product is released.
Product roadmap software, like Gocious, provides tools for manufacturers looking to stay organized even during a more complicated product development process.
3. Rapid ideation
The cyber-physical space has been moving forward rapidly, with new innovations seemingly being brought to the market daily. This is really exciting for consumers, but it provides some challenges for manufacturers. Simply put, it's hard to keep track of new features consumers want or assess them in terms of feasibility.
What manufacturers need is a toolset that can help them prioritize new ideas and develop new features based on user feedback. Again, product roadmap management software can be invaluable in this regard.
For cyber-physical products, one of the big challenges will always be ensuring ease of connectivity to a wide range of network and device types. Consumers must be able to connect their cyber-physical products right out of the box but also manage connectivity as new technologies enter the ecosystem.
Managing connectivity, while balancing cybersecurity, is a huge part of the manufacturer's mandate.
Cyber-physical products have already disrupted the landscape in ways both great and small. It's up to manufacturers to keep pace, using every tool at their disposal to manage the evolving needs of cyber-physical manufacturing.