Sachin Nandkishor Mhashilkar, CIO&Leader, spoke to Suchit Jain, Vice President-Strategy and Business Development & Community, SolidWorks - Dassault Systemes, at SolidWorks World 2017 in Los Angeles
What is your perspective on IoT from a Solidworks point of view?
The Internet of Things is beyond just products. You can refer to them as connected products or smart products. Our customers have been designing these products using SolidWorks for a long time now.
So from a design point of view, what can you do to enhance the overall purpose of IoT?
In start-ups or companies today, IoT is more than just products. IoT is about how you run your business and perform analytics. Thus, IoT is more about offering services than products. At SolidWorks, we have classified IoT into two things: Design of Things and Manage of Things.
From a design aspect, there’s mechanical design, electrical, electronics, and software design. At SolidWorks, we have decided to focus on design to develop core technologies for IoT and enable partners for the run part.
Also, we are partnering with people to undertake the hardware product planning as well as the early stage product planning. If you have to build the next connecting device, you have to figure out the battery, Wi-Fi, network connectivity, etc. Sometimes, you also figure out the cost in the early planning stage. There are companies like Seebo who have a product and integrate its components into SolidWorks. The idea is to carry out prototyping (how do I test) and deployment (how do I run my business). For that, we have a strong partner, Xively. So unlike competition where they are investing in platforms and run-ins, we believe that we want to invest more in working with partners rather than creating our own.
Can you talk about the role of Solidworks’ building the IoT ecosystem along with Cloud and Networking players?
We are working with incubators and accelerators who support these trends. For example, we are working in healthcare to leverage our services in a remote village in India where there are limited doctors. By installing device locally at such remote places, doctor can get all the information from the device and doctors can communicate over these devices. We have customers who work with a lot of incubators and accelerators to figure out what role does SolidWorks play in design and operations.
Design and Operations are core to education, healthcare and smart city planning. What role do you play in these areas?
Education is core area for SolidWorks. We visit schools and teach youngsters and provide the software for engineering training, etc. We have started to building applications for school children to introduce them to technology at an early age.
Our contribution in the healthcare space is already well known. About 60-70% of all global medical devices are designed in SolidWorks and these connected devices are designed in SolidWorks. For the last few years, our goal has been to make it easy for people to design products and make sure that these devices are connected - and this is where I talk about the design and operations.
India has many start-ups in the IoT space. Are you also tapping these start-ups in India?
2017 will be a big year for that. We are associated with Fab Lab, a digital fabrication facility and global network of field fab labs managed by MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. Their job is to turn data into things, and things into data. It manages facilities, runs research programs, supervises students, works with sponsors, creates start-ups, and does public outreach. So we work a lot with Fab Labs and as part of that, I happened to visit Pabal, a village 75kms from Pune. At Pabal, there’s Vigyan Ashram where the Fab Lab Zero is located. It is the first Fab Lab in the world. And I believe, every engineer should go to Pabal village and learn what’s happening in the village because their whole motto is ‘Create by Doing’. They create everything themselves including their houses and the students, who haven’t completed their high school education, and become good businessmen. I would say that this is like the grassroot incubator and it’s not about VC-money coming in, but it is about each village becoming self-sufficient in what they do. There’s all kinds of innovations. Some of them are IoT devices as well.
Subsequently, I did a Google search, asking, “are there hardware incubators, especially among start-ups, and where are they?” I found the only ones present are in Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai. It is hard, it takes a lot of money. I went to IIT Mumbai and they have started something unique. In India, it is very different as compared to the US, where everything is private money. In India, there’s no private money in hardware, yet, but it will come. In Pune, I also visited CEOP Engineering College and they have built a Center of Innovation. They are creating incubations for hardware and so on. In 2017, we expect a lot of new things will happen. Also, lot of the US start-ups like PCH and Highway1 are present in Northern California. They are connected to HAX, which is linked to Shenzhen, China, and they in-turn are connected to India. So all such connections are happening. I believe in the next 2-3 years, more hardware related innovation stuff will happen in the space.
What is your advice to Chief Design/Information Officers and Plant Heads on how to align with businesses (from business productivity, ROI and cost optimization point of view)?
They have to look at the latest trends on cloud and be aware of what’s happening in the space. In the US, big CIOs also face problems while transforming their day-to-day operations and change their ways of working. In plant manufacturing today, the IoT output is very important in production. With sensors, there are a lot of technologies now that allows them to improve their output.
A lot of times, the machines go down even for a little while, there is a lot of loss in production. Now, with IoT, you can predict failures in advance based on certain behaviors. For example, a company called Nutonian provides analytics framework where you have thousands of data; a washing machine where it will measure vibration, temperature of water, etc. Based on the data, they can predict when it will fail.
So that’s what the key to IoT is: One is the software and the other is how do you make the decision on what is going to fail and how will you handle the cost of failure.