Recent developments in mobile, ubiquitous and cloud computing, as well as in miniature sensors, impose a new understanding of products and production models. A (meta-) product is now a customer driven customisable entity that integrates sensory and computing units, which are in turn connected to the cloud, leading to a paradigm shift from mass production to intelligent, over-the-web configurable products. This evolution triggers an essential change of the whole design and production life cycle and opens totally new perspectives towards person-oriented production models that allow agile, small scale, and distributed production, with a considerable impact on cost-effectiveness and ecology.
The customisable meta-products consist of intelligent wearables (clothing, accessories) equipped with embedded networks of sensors. Sensorial data will be communicated in real-time to the new generation of mobile devices via low-energy wireless communication.
However, product design and production is now becoming highly complex and requires interdisciplinary expertise. The lack of appropriate methodologies and collaborative tools constitutes a barrier in the wider adoption of the new production paradigm.
The goal of EASY is to develop new methodologies, tools and ready-to-use components for designing and producing intelligent wearables as Meta-Products. We propose a cloud computing enabled framework for the Collaborative Design and Development of Personalised Products and Services, combining embedded sensors (Internet of things paradigm) and mobile devices with facilities for joint open development of downloadable applications and services.
EASY bundles expertise from all required areas and will provide a significant contribution in Collaborative Design Methods of Personalised Product and Services.
Scientific & Technical Objectives
The creation of a Meta-Product Development Platform offered as a service in a dedicated MP Cloud is the core of the EASY S&T innovation framework. The main objective is to connect design and development, testing, procurement, production, and quality assurance, seamlessly through a cloud hosted collaborative platform. An important enabler for efficient online collaboration, as well as, rapid validation and testing of new designs is the extensive use of simulation and VR tools. The innovative aspect of the EASY virtual prototyping tools will relate to the functional simulation, based on the integration of sensor characteristics in the simulation models. Research activities will also target the improvement of existing and development of new sensors and sensor networks embedded into garment.
S&T Objective 1 – Definition of Meta-Product Development Methodology
To handle multiple alternative product-service combinations in parallel, representing digital, as well as, physical yields, we will use the set-based concurrent engineering (SBCE) paradigm. To capture configurations (alternatives) from an evolving baseline structure, specific Configuration Management will also be needed. Combined with instantiations, configuration management will generate bills of material representing physically and digitally assembled and tested prototypes. This should be done by assigning a unique supplier or shop-floor serial/lot number to the prototype and handling it as an instance. Links to synchronize as-built structures with evolving as-designed alternatives will be defined. The example given in the figure below illustrates these links through configuration management:
Beyond their initial design and production stages, novel MPs are expected to be self-innovative and become smarter while ensuring simplicity for users. They will be upgradable through software applications or hardware module enhancement, which extend their lifespan, and reduce the environmental impact. The lifecycle management approach will track their lifecycle information through mechanisms related to the configuration management (revisions, versions, iterations, instances and so on).
S&T Objective 2 – Definition and Development of Meta-Product Cloud Services
For the design and manufacturing of personalised MPs there is a need of a highly effective and responsive collaboration between different actors (sensor designers and manufacturers, software programmers, clothing designers and manufacturers, medical and rehabilitation experts, sports training and games experts, etc.). This can be enabled through the integration of online communication, collaborative design, virtual prototyping and e-SCM (Supply Chain Management) tools, situated in the cloud and developed in modular form (Service Oriented Architecture model). A loosely integrated platform situated in a dedicated cloud (Meta-Products Cloud) will thus be developed in the form of a private cloud with access to public marketplaces.
S&T Objective 3 – Development of Innovative Front-End Services (MP Configuration, Capturing of Functional and Usage Feedback data)
Meta – products come with inherent personalisation capabilities as the combination of available services (applications) will offer a wide choice of different uses for one particular product (for example a pair of shoes with sensors can be used for both sports competitions as well as rehabilitation purposes by just downloading the appropriate application). The mobile user interface services will be effected through the communication of the wearable sensor network with the mobile device and a MP specific downloadable application (app). This app will enable the calibration and set-up of the wearable sensors, the capturing and processing of the sensor data and its uploading for further off-line analysis (body dynamics, body physiological parameters, etc.). The collection of usage feedback data will enable product personalisation and design improvements. To facilitate the described configuration and personalisation service a front-end paradigm consisting of three main services is being proposed.
S&T Objective 4 – VR based Product-Service Simulators for Prototyping and Testing
A VR simulator will allow a realistic 3D visualisation of the final product functionality and will provide comprehensive technical information about the Meta-Product capabilities. The 3D visualization will be web-based and build up-on the latest graphics standard for web (e.g. WebGL) as well as upcoming concepts of Native Client Code for local computing within browsers (see e.g. NaCl Chrome browser). The simulators will emulate the sensor behaviour under different conditions, and thus offer the possibility for the designers to verify the behaviour of their products. Sensor specifications, such as measurement range, noise level or sampling rate, as well as, varying body shapes and motions will be taken into account during simulation and presented in a comprehensive manner for the given application. Saturation areas, lack of accuracy, or jitter due to a high noise level will be easily identifiable. The design platform users will then have the possibility to add or change sensors to finally fulfil the desired application requirements.
S&T Objective 5 – Sensorial Networks and their Integration
This S&T Objective includes research into new adaptive, miniaturized and non-intrusive sensors and sensor networks with smaller footprint and new functionality and how to integrate these seamlessly into clothing and accessories
The goal is to develop a programmable and easily customisable sensor network consisting of movable and exchangeable miniature sensor units, a textile power bus, and sensor hubs. The sensors may be of different nature, whereas integrated miniature Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) will represent one core technology developed and evaluated in the project. The data-bus will be built with help of flexible and unobtrusive textile cables, such as the ones developed at IAW. The sensor hubs will capture synchronised data, as well as, build the bridge to the mobile end user devices, i.e. smartphones or given on-purpose devices.