The Internet of Things (IoT) is just that: the connectivity of ordinary things. The connectivity of the internet (IPv6), the move to the cloud and big data analytics, combined with the emergence of processing power at the edge, have all allowed products to become connected and smart. From phones, to connected watches, cars to fridges, IoT has had a disruptive impact on our everyday lives. With the ability to replenish our fridges autonomously, to monitoring our daily activity levels, our lives have been influenced and simplified as we know it.
Devices monitoring our every step and heart beat are physically impacting a consumer’s daily decisions and have been a key contributor to what is now a massive IoT ecosystem. According to new research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) big data analytics and the IoT are expected to add some £322 billion to the UK economy between 2015 and 2020. This is twice the size of the combined education, NHS and defence budgets for 2014-15, and 22 percent of the UK’s net public debt (circa. £1.5 trillion in 2014-15). This goes to show the enormity and impact IoT has had upon the UK’s digital revolution.
Consumers now expect everyday objects to be connected and have the ability to think autonomously. This has meant that traditional hardware manufacturers have had to keep pace by embracing this IPisation of products and in essence, morphing themselves into software providers. This presents a drastic change of approach for the hardware manufacturing industry, as they have had to adopt a completely new way of thinking and working.
Additional pressures from the IoT revolution
Hardware manufacturers are having to change their strategy and start building hardware around software, rather than treating it as a traditional add on later down the line. IoT also has the added layer of complexity of the device often needing to be able to communicate across a variety of different platforms, such as 5G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This has forced hardware companies to think more like IT professionals than manufacturers, encouraging the adoption of a ‘software first’ approach.
Need to embrace robust security measures into product life cycles
Companies, traditionally built around the physical manufacturing of their products, already have knowledge of how to test them from a hardware perspective, for example testing a braking system on a car. However, they are not used to having to test software processes that integrate with the hardware, other software from their supply chain and external data sources.
The alternative to releasing untested software onto the market is, at best, embarrassing, but at worst could be catastrophic. Just last year, automotive giant Tesla was forced to issue a software update twice in a month after two researchers found a way to subvert its on-board system.
Need to embrace robust software Test and Validation into product life cycles
Japanese car maker Subaru was another to fall foul, and was forced to recall 72,000 vehicles with the company's Eyesight Driver Assist system, following identification of a software problem that could cause the automatic braking system to fail. It turns out that the dependency between the brake light switch and the automatic braking system had not been considered, leading to potential failure of two vital elements of the vehicle.
Luckily, these examples were both caught in time but they highlighted the need to embrace robust software quality and security measures into traditional physical product life cycles. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a connected lightbulb have a MAC and IP address, meaning that a once disposable commodity could potentially be cloned and used to access a network without sufficient security measures in place.
With this mind, many hardware manufacturers faced with embracing a software first approach may have their priorities confused and have become caught up in worrying about delivering functionality and monetisation, when it is information security that should be at the forefront of their minds.
Many updates for connected IoT products are provided over the air, however, this has presented additional challenges for the testing industry, as it has been the first time that they’ve been tasked with testing things on the move rather than in a controlled environment. This demand has resulted in third party specialists needing to modify their offering to assist with the unique agility of the IoT market.
Whilst software is omni-present in our increasingly connected lives, time and again traditional hardware companies have shown that they still have a lot to learn. There is no turning back. This is exemplified by recent collaborations between automotive companies and IT firms. For example, the pioneering partnership between Google and Fiat Chrysler; a move that bridges the technological unknown in a bid to manufacture the next generation of connected car.
The opportunity that IoT presents, particularly to the hardware manufacturing industry, is too big to miss out on and security measures must be put in place to not only safeguard consumers, but to protect brand reputation and avoid losing out to competitors.
Colin Bull is Principal of Consultant Manufacturing and Product Development at SQS
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
Lion Electric to Construct US EV Manufacturing Facility
Who is Lion Electric?
Founded in 2008, is an innovative manufacturer of all-electric, zero-emissions, medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles. Lion Electric designs, manufactures, and assembles all components for its vehicles that have unique features specifically adapted to the users and their needs. “We believe that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment and overall quality of life,” believes Lion Electric.
Lion Electric’s new Illinois Manufacturing Facility
Just two months after announcing plans to construct a battery manufacturing plant and innovation centre in Quebec, Lion Electric is expanding its locations further, selecting Joliet, Illinois for its new manufacturing facility in the US.
The new facility is said to “represent the largest dedicated production site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the US,” as well as being the company’s biggest footprint in the market. The new facility will give Lion Electric the capacity to meet increasing demand for ‘Made in America’ zero-emission vehicles and bring production closer to customers.
It is expected that the first vehicles off the production line will be in the second half of 2022.
“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030. In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”
Lion Electric’s Agreement with the Government of Illinois
Over the next three years, Lion Electric will invest a minimum of US$70mn into Illinois. The new facility - totalling 900,000 square feet - is expected to create a minimum of 745 clean energy direct jobs in the next three years, and have an annual production capacity of up to 20,000 all electric buses and trucks.
Scaling electric bus production and decarbonising freight and transportation
As the US moves to electrifying its school buses, the additional production capacity at the facility will help Lion Electric to scale its electric bus production, as well as produce an increased volume of heavy-duty zero-emission trucks to help governments and operators in the US further the decarbonisation of freight and transportation fleets.
“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company. This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion.
“I also want to acknowledge the crucial role that P33 and Intersect Illinois, civic groups committed to developing developing a long-term roadmap for the local tech industry, played in connecting Lion with the Chicago area’s business and civic community to help further commercial traction, as well as engagement with key workforce and supplier partners.”