Humanity-Centered Design

Human-centered design. Designing products as if humans were going to use them. Designing human-machine interface in ways that make it easier to see what’s going on.

It was 2009 and again in 2010. Emerson Global Users Exchange. Emerson Process Marketing Director Bill Morrison grabbed me (figuratively) to show and explain how Emerson was working with a university using Human-Centered Design for its products. And the benefits.

Emerson has talked to me more about HCD over the ensuing years than any other company. But I think many are adopting at least a little of the concept.

Today I listened to a recent Guy Kawasaki Remarkable People podcast interview with Don Norman. He called the episode Putting the User Back in User Interface. The wide-ranging interview, including time that both spent at Apple, took a dive into “Humanity-Centered Design”. This includes ideas from the Circular Economy where we design not just for the immediate use but also for life after the useful life of the product.

Don Norman: Putting the User Back in User Interface

This is the Remarkable People podcast. We’re on a mission to make you remarkable. Today, we’ll discuss the life and work of Don Norman, professor and the founding director of the Design Lab at the University of California of San Diego.

He has a diverse range of history, including a university professor, Apple executive, company advisor, author, speaker, and curmudgeon; Don has contributed to many fields, including electrical engineering, psychology, computer science, cognitive science, and design.

And for a time, he was my boss at Apple when I was an Apple fellow. I’m surprised he doesn’t introduce himself that way.

Don is the author of one of the most influential books on design and usability called The Design of Everyday Things. He has a new book called Design for a Better World: How to Create a Meaningful, Sustainable, and Humanity-Centered Future.

Here’s a bonus episode. Kawasaki interviews Carol Dweck. If you have not read Mindset, get it and read it now. And pass it on to many others.

Carol Dweck: The Mother of the Growth Mindset Tells All

Welcome to Remarkable People. We’re on a mission to make you remarkable. Helping me in this episode is one of my idol’s, Carol Dweck,

Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is one of two most important influences in my life.

Carol is a professor of psychology at Stanford University.Her work spans developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, focusing on self-conceptions and their impact on behavior, motivation, achievement, and interpersonal dynamics.

Rockwell Cloud Based Design

I hear that the Rockwell Automation investment in PTC has not brought all the desired benefits—although they did short-cut some software development with ThingWorx. The real pay-off came with the acquisitions of Plex and FiiX for cloud development. Further to the cloud story, this release details extension of cloud to its design software (think control system design, not CAD).

FactoryTalk Design Studio, a new cloud-based software product, leverages modern software development practices and an integrated version control system. Teams can collaborate more easily with automated tools to share and merge changes and project sizes can scale dynamically with support for multiple controllers in a single project.

FactoryTalk Design Studio is one of the five core solutions in FactoryTalk Design Hub. Industrial organizations can now transform their automation design capabilities with a more simplified, productive way to work powered by the cloud.

Siemens Adds AI to Teamcenter App for Microsoft Teams

Siemens made a splash at Hannover with several announcements. Some I listed last week. This one is AI and Chatbot. Another one was made by the software group. I am working on that one. Had a number of questions on it.

This news highlights further enhancement of Siemens’ long-standing relationship with Microsoft.  In brief:

  • Siemens’ new Teamcenter app for Microsoft Teams to use AI, boosting productivity and innovation throughout a product lifecycle
  • Azure OpenAI Service powered assistant can augment the creation, optimization and debugging of code in software for factory automation
  • Industrial AI to enable visual quality inspection on the shop floor

Using AI to power software development is something Apple developers hope to see next month in a release of Xcode. They say that this will be a powerful tool to enhance programming.

Siemens and Microsoft are integrating Siemens’ Teamcenter software for product lifecycle management (PLM) with Microsoft’s collaboration platform Teams and the language models in Azure OpenAI Service as well as other Azure AI capabilities.

“The integration of AI into technology platforms will profoundly change how we work and how every business operates,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Cloud + AI, Microsoft. “With Siemens, we are bringing the power of AI to more industrial organizations, enabling them to simplify workflows, overcome silos and collaborate in more inclusive ways to accelerate customer-centric innovation.”

For example, service engineers or production operatives can use mobile devices to document and report product design or quality concerns using natural speech. Through Azure OpenAI Service, the app can parse that informal speech data, automatically creating a summarized report and routing it within Teamcenter to the appropriate design, engineering or manufacturing expert. To foster inclusion, workers can record their observations in their preferred languages which is then translated into the official company language with Microsoft Azure AI. Microsoft Teams provides user-friendly features like push notifications to simplify workflow approvals, reduce the time it takes to request design changes and speed up innovation cycles.

Siemens and Microsoft are also collaborating to help software developers and automation engineers accelerate the code generation for Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), the industrial computers that control most machines across the world’s factories. At Hannover Messe, the companies are demonstrating a concept for how OpenAI’s ChatGPT and other Azure AI services can augment Siemens’ industrial automation engineering solutions. The showcase will highlight how engineering teams can significantly reduce time and the probability of errors by generating PLC code through natural language inputs. These capabilities can also enable maintenance teams to identify errors and generate step-by-step solutions more quickly. 

Insights from Product Data Boost Competitiveness

We keep returning to the theme of the importance of product data. This report from NI summarizing recent research into using product-centric data, such as test data, in product development brings forth some data on data.

Hundreds of senior product innovators say that product data is key to staying competitive, yet more than half of the respondents recognize gaps in the way they extract value from their test data. There is also a strong correlation between advanced data strategies and increased degrees of innovation, with two-thirds of respondents believing that a data strategy is essential to optimizing the product lifecycle.

“Companies face a dual challenge of increased product complexity and shrinking time to market, causing a shift in the way products are developed. They recognize that the status quo will not work anymore,” says Mike Santori, fellow at NI. “Business performance can improve through connected product data and analytics, and this research provides evidence that test data are a strategic differentiator.”

While many of the engineering vice presidents and heads of R&D recognize the value of data in their product development, over half cited cost as the inhibiting factor preventing the transformation of their production models. The research also pointed to test being an underutilized resource with 38% of respondents saying they rarely use test to inform product design and 51% recognizing that they could extract more value from their data if they implemented test earlier in their processes.

Additional findings include:

  • 52% of companies with an integrated company-wide product data strategy experienced faster time-to-market in the last 12 months, compared to 33% of companies without this advantage
  • 55% of product innovators say that integrating test data into the product development process will be a key priority over the next 12 months
  • 40% identify integrating test data into the product development process among the initiatives that could bring the most value to their business

The survey was conducted among senior product innovators in 10 industries including semiconductor, transportation, consumer electronics, and aerospace and defense. It was produced by FT Longitude, the specialist research and content marketing division of the Financial Times Group.

Not All Tech is in Silicon Valley

Riffing on Benedict Evans’ latest podcast called Another Podcast. He is a long time technology analyst whom I’ve followed for perhaps 20 years.

He was at an upscale restaurant in Italy recently and noticed the lights on the table. Not traditional candles, these were LED lights, with a battery and USB port for charging. 

LEDs are now everywhere. Not long ago, LED screens were prohibitively expensive. Lights were rare. This isn’t a Silicon Valley phenomenon. People who make interior decorative lighting saw the possibility, hired an engineer or two, and developed the product. They had the channel to market and relationships with customers.

Some 40 years ago while I was Quality Manager at a manufacturing plant for juvenile furniture, the general manager had a vision of lights (LED would have been perfect) on a high chair tray. There would be several. Perhaps they illuminated randomly and the child could slap at them. Maybe turn them on and off. We could have hired an electronics engineer (or I could have switched roles?) and done that back then.

It wouldn’t have taken Silicon Valley. 

Think also of the company who makes Tasers. It has relationships with almost all police organizations. They thought about products. Noticed they could combine small cameras that were now ubiquitous packaged with networking, audio, rugged packaging, and sell body cameras to those same police customers.

I’ve had jobs like that in my career where I scanned the environment for ideas from other places that we could use in our market.

We have had process and manufacturing engineers in our industry for years who absorbed technology in order to solve a problem. We needed “Silicon Valley” perhaps to design and manufacture components and provide foundational software. I’ve known many chemical engineers who became also computer engineers who then became also networking engineers all in order to solve process problems.

Yet, media reports would have us thinking that it’s all about Silicon Valley. It’s not.

So often it is not about the technology. It’s all about the problem we’re trying to solve.

Hyundai Concept Cars Utilize Autodesk Generative Design

“What happens if you combine a car and a robot?” asked John Suh, Hyundai’s founding director of the company’s recently announced New Horizons Studio based in Silicon Valley. To many, the answer is easy: Transformers!

I have a new contact at Autodesk who recently shared a company blog post by Kimberley Losey telling the story of some cool concept cars from Hyundai. Designers are using generative design from Autodesk Fusion 360 to bring concepts to life. Check out the entire post. I’ll include some highlights.

What is generative design?

Generative design is a design exploration process. Designers or engineers input design goals into the generative design software, along with parameters such as performance or spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. The software explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives. It tests and learns from each iteration what works and what doesn’t.

A unique mobility solution–something that drives and walks–presents immensely difficult design and engineering challenges. One of the most common amongst these is a never-ending quest in the transportation industry: create components that are lighter, but stronger, than past generations of similar components. Designers and engineers tasked with these “lightweighting” challenges frequently look to futuristic materials such as metallic foams, carbon fiber and new metal alloysalong with modern design techniques such as generative design, for solutions. These are areas where Autodesk’s tools and expertise excel, so Hyundai turned to Autodesk for input.

Hyundai’s New Horizons Studio believes that the combination of driven wheels and powered legs will result in ground vehicles with unprecedented locomotion capabilities. The studio aims to contribute to Hyundai Motor Group’s core automotive business as it seeks to expand into new markets that enhance transportation on and off the road.

“What could a car achieve if it had the ability to walk?” continued Suh’s thinking, which ultimately resulted in the walking “Elevate” concept that Hyundai developed in collaboration with storied industrial design studio Sundberg-Ferar and debuted at CES 2019. Called the ultimate mobility vehicle (or “UMV”), Elevate has the ability to transform from a four-wheeled, car-like vehicle into a four-legged, reptilian walking machine, giving it the ability to traverse terrain that’s inaccessible to even the most capable off-road vehicles. When originally debuted, it was heralded for its ability to climb walls, cross diverse terrains and approach barriers, all while keeping its body and passengers completely level.

Uses for such a vehicle include irregular-ground transport needs, surface exploration, search and rescue emergencies, and clearing the significant transportation hurdles some mobility-impaired individuals face daily.

Generative design seeks to streamline and accelerate the process of developing design ideas and getting to production. In the time a designer can create one idea, a computer can generate thousands, within the constraints provided by the designer, and present those numerous design options with the trade-offs of strength, weight, cost, manufacturing complexity and sustainability clearly illustrated early in the process. Autodesk’s tools provide options through which designers and engineers may tap the near-limitless compute power of the cloud to reduce their mundane, repetitive analysis work, freeing up their time to focus on creativity and innovation.

Creating tools for modern teams of this nature, leveraging the cloud and a common data platform to ensure everyone’s on the same virtual page: this has been the focus of Autodesk’s Fusion 360 platform since its inception more than seven years ago. Teams can explore how to save time, remove frustration and maintain details of a project from start to finish when file sharing is seamless and everyone’s speaking a common design, engineering and manufacturing language.

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