Forecast: A 100% Chance of Cloud Collaboration

By Steve Robbins


Forecast: A 100% Chance of Cloud Collaboration

Recently I was watching an interview on a television news show with a young entrepreneur. The future tycoon being interviewed was just out of college, from California, and had set up a company that designed and sold consumer electronic products. His parents were from India. He was a first-generation American citizen.

The designs of his products took place in California, the manufacturing took place in India, and he had a marketing agency in Belgium. Sales of his products had started in the United States, but he was planning on a global sales channel in a short timeframe. The interviewer asked this up-and-coming business owner where his office was located. The young man pulled out a iPhone. “This is my home office,” he said.

New Ways to Work
In this issue, we are covering how engineers are being freed from their desktop, both figuratively and literally. Technology is enabling them to collaborate and use compute power that only a few years ago could only be found in places like Los Alamos. As applications move to cloud computing and the accessibility of computer cores becomes virtually infinite, engineers will see new ways of working emerge. Some will be good, and some not so good.

When outsourcing fully hit America’s technology industries with the new millennium, we experienced both positive and negative effects. Crowdsourcing is now moving into the engineering world. While making a few hundred dollars on a crowdsourced T-shirt design might excite an amateur artist, using crowdsourcing in engineering design could drive innovation and produce better designs.

Crowdsourcing is like putting a design out to bid, and anyone interested can submit an initial design. Design ideas can be discussed, and potential customers can vote on the designs they like and explain why they like them. The successful designers get paid, and the other designers don’t.

Crowd Control Needed
For crowdsourcing to work in engineering, the crowd will have to be limited most of the time. We’ll need crowd control. Don’t laugh. We all know what happens when collaboration becomes disruptive. It’s kind of like The Ladders commercial “When Everyone Plays, Nobody Wins.”

The other potential problem is for the alchemists of the team. You know, your co-workers who don’t share knowledge: the ones who turn lead into gold. Crowdsourcing will put fear into their eyes.
Meanwhile, the storage and computing power of the cloud provides a way for engineers to share designs — whether in small, finite groups, or with the whole world. 3D models can be viewed, rotated, and altered. Reuse of designs will be more trustworthy and accepted. PLM will work in ways that we never imagined.

Just the Beginning
Running a business on a smart phone is not inconceivable today, but creating a full-blown 3D CAD model from your Android or iOS phone is not going to happen anytime soon. Most engineering work for the foreseeable future will take place locally, with cloud computing resources used to access engineering data and run applications that use multicore to great advantage, such as simulations, analyses, visualization and rendering.

Still, most of us work remotely, even if we don’t think about it. We work from home occasionally and travel moderately. Accessing our data and running cloud applications have become easier and easier. It’s also become safer, and in some instances faster. Remember the initial speeds of virtual private networks?

If there is one thing we all know when it comes to technology, what we see now and where we expect technology to be in the future is just the tip of the iceberg. In 1995 when the World Wide Web was taking off, did we expect Facebook or Google? In 2000, did we expect Amazon to be the store of the future?

Where will the world of infinite computing take us? Wherever that is, I expect that all the kinks will be worked out and an engineer’s toolset will be nothing like it is today.

Steve Robbins is the CEO of Level 5 Communications and executive editor of DE. Send comments about this subject to

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