Making Smart Products Smarter, More Connected and More Efficient

Sudhir Sharma, Global Industry Director for Smart Connected Products, ANSYS

Smart functionality and connectivity are no longer an option for product development teams — they have quickly become a competitive imperative. How can engineering teams quickly master the complexities of power efficiency, signal integrity and other design challenges as they deliver ongoing innovations? The answer is simulation.

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Making Smart Products

Two years ago, most companies were just beginning to grapple with issues like connectivity and thermal management as they related to forward-looking smart product designs. Now, no one is asking, “Do we need smart functionality?” Instead, product development teams and executives alike are asking, “How do we design the most innovative smart products to win in the digital economy?”

ANSYS has been helping companies develop complex products for a long time — but, in the smart connected product era, the engineering challenges have become more intense. Miniaturized, multifunctional devices now proliferate across the globe, which may mean that they need to operate in harsher environments, consume power more efficiently and offer more digital functionality to keep pace with the market’s growing expectations. They need to become intelligent by sensing their environment and gathering data more accurately than ever to inform future product development and stay one step ahead of global competitors.

smart connected products

Wherever they are in their own engineering journey, product development teams can leverage the ANSYS comprehensive simulation portfolio to solve design challenges in five critical areas:

  • Size, weight, power and cooling (SWaP-C)
  • Sensing and connectivity
  • Reliability and safety
  • Systems integration
  • Product durability

These five areas represent incredibly complex engineering challenges — yet overcoming them is essential to realizing the full potential of the next generation of smart connected products.

Size, Weight, Power and Cooling

As product development teams race to offer increased digital functionality, while simultaneously making their designs smaller and lighter, they must address the problem of thermal buildup, design for harsher environmental conditions and deliver all these innovations quickly and cost-effectively.

Simulation remains the only practical way to make informed design trade-offs to achieve size, weight, power and cooling objectives for today’s complex products. Via a range of physics simulation capabilities in the ANSYS technology platform, product developers can quickly explore, analyze and iterate design ideas to obtain the optimal balance between power, performance, thermal reliability and structural integrity. Without simulation, many of today’s most ambitious smart connected products would not have been delivered to the market.

As one example, Peraso Technologies engineers developed a tiny chipset for a USB stick that uses a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port to achieve high wireless processing speeds. Peraso leveraged ANSYS multiphysics software to address the thermal issues inherent in loading high-power transmitters into a very small package — reducing the thermal design cycle time by two-thirds. (Read the full story)

For companies with less dramatic design goals — for example, manufacturers of traditional products who are incorporating sensors or other digital components for the first time — simulation proves equally valuable. These product development teams can easily make trade-offs and produce a balanced design before committing to the high costs associated with physical prototyping and production.

"Simulation remains the only practical way to make informed design trade-offs to achieve size, weight, power and cooling objectives."

Sensing and Connectivity

Sensing is one of the most fundamental capabilities of any smart connected product. An enormous amount of data must be collected — in real time and under unpredictable conditions — to support safe and reliable operation. Sensing is central to performance in just about every application for a smart connected design, including autonomous vehicles. Accurately collecting data via sensors, and communicating that information reliably are essential capabilities that enable data processing systems to analyze the information and make the right decisions.

With the advent of fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications, peak data rates are expected to be 20 times faster than those enabled by existing 4G technologies. Forward-looking 5G architects are aiming to address a range of applications, including machine-to-machine communications, smart city and smart home designs, autonomous vehicles, and multimedia streaming technologies. Achieving the right trade-offs to deliver on these capabilities will require improvements in sensor reliability as well new radio frequency (RF) architectures — including massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) systems and beamforming antenna designs.

in silico testing

Engineers are already using ANSYS simulation tools to accurately recreate a real-world environment in a risk-free virtual design space. Designers can evaluate thousands of product scenarios and answer what-if questions as they vary the physical environment in which sensor designs are operating. For example, using shooting and bouncing ray (SBR) simulation technology from ANSYS, engineering teams can accurately predict and improve the real-world performance of antennas. This capability can be very helpful for engineers developing wireless sensor networks, as well as designers of automotive radars.

MaiSense — a company that designs sensors for autonomous vehicles — is focused on developing new 4D sensor technology that detects the velocity of objects around it. This is critical in enabling vehicles to distinguish a stationary object like a fire hydrant from a living, breathing toddler who may enter the street. Engineers at MaiSense have used ANSYS HFSS and HFSS SBR+ to develop and verify a novel sensor technology that detects motion and velocity, along with algorithms that process this information intelligently.

Reliability and Safety

Though invisible, millions of lines of embedded software code form the foundation for every smart connected product. A single flaw in this code can have dramatic implications, especially in safety-critical applications such as transportation and healthcare.

Modern cars are among the most complex machines ever developed, with control software consisting of more than 100 million lines of code. Infotainment systems, assistive parking technologies, adaptive cruise control, collision detection systems, navigation aids, heads-up displays and other technologies provide value, convenience and safety to today’s drivers. However, testing these systems is a nightmare for engineers. One small flaw, buried somewhere in the millions of lines of code or complex circuit designs, could lead to a catastrophic outcome. Should one component fail, the underlying code needs to support the functional safety of all the other systems and components.

smart connected products diagram

For autonomous vehicles, the engineering challenge is only amplified. It is estimated that a Level 5 autonomous vehicle — which requires no human intervention — would need 8 billion miles of testing in order to be certified. At the present rate of road testing, more than 400 years would be needed to accomplish this task.

The reliable performance of connected medical devices and medication dispensers is also dependent on software that needs to comply with critical design standards, such as IEC 62304. In the aerospace industry, it has been estimated that jets such as the Boeing 787 rely on more than 8 million lines of embedded code. It is easy to see the critical importance of this code for protecting human health and safety.

Traditional manual methods for verifying the operation of software are no longer sufficient. The process is time-consuming, prone to error and not practically viable because of the size and scope of the software. Simulation-supported software design not only drives significant time and expenses out of the development cycle — supporting fast, profitable market launches — but also increases the functional safety of the final product system.

Piaggio Aerospace, a global provider of aviation technology, has been able to reduce its overall development cycle by a factor of three by leveraging the power of ANSYS SCADE solutions. The company is able to produce mission-critical software quickly, remove functional bugs and reduce the number of expensive test demonstrations by using SCADE to automate and accelerate this once time-consuming manual process. [1]

"The challenges associated with delivering smart connected designs have placed enormous pressures on the world’s engineering teams."

Systems Integration

Smart connected products are made up of many components that are supported by invisible networks that connect them, as well as clouds that store and deliver data to them. These components are typically produced by different design teams — often in partnership with a network of suppliers — and are only brought together at a relatively late design stage to create the cohesive smart connected product system. As just one example, engineers at Starkey Hearing Technologies are tasked with designing smart hearing aids that combine more than 60 tiny components that must work flawlessly with one another, along with the wearer’s unique body type. [2]

connected virtual reality

When diverse components are assembled, unanticipated performance issues such as the interactions of the software and the electronics hardware often occur. The multidomain nature of these problems, and the sheer number of component suppliers, makes them hard to study in advance. However, simulation software from ANSYS provides earlystage validation results by allowing engineers to assemble the product system in a virtual design space — revealing systems-level qualities, properties, characteristics, functions, behaviors and performance. Based on this high-level perspective, system designers can make informed design choices that optimize the performance of not only each individual component, but also the entire system.

By applying ANSYS multiphysics solutions to couple the physical attributes of a product with the systems and embedded software, companies can greatly minimize integration issues, reduce costs, increase the likelihood of first-pass success and ensure that products perform as expected.

Recently, product developers at Integrated Micro-Electronics were faced with system-level troubleshooting in designing an electronic automotive power module with multiple components. When the module buckled during physical testing, the engineering team needed to identify why this failure occurred. Using multiphysics ANSYS solutions, the Integrated Micro-Electronics team was able to replace eight months of physical testing with four months of system-level simulation that revealed the integration issue. (Want to learn more?)

Product Durability

Smart connected products operate in a wide range of physical environments, with ever-changing and unpredictable conditions. Consider the extreme conditions routinely faced by jets, drones, oil and gas equipment, and other product systems used in transportation and industrial applications. To cite a statistic that hits closer to home, SquareTrade estimates that dropped smartphones have cost American consumers more than $10.7 billion. [3] To maximize product life, increase customer satisfaction and minimize warranty costs, all smart connected products, from smartphones to satellites, must be designed with real-world operating conditions in mind.


It would be impossible to predict every physical force and temperature extreme, then subject a physical prototype to those conditions. However, simulation allows product developers to test their designs under thousands of operating parameters and accurately predict performance early in the development process, when design choices can be made at the lowest cost — and with the least impact on the project schedule.

Vector is poised to revolutionize the satellite industry by sending a new generation of microsatellites into space via its rockets and launch systems. These rockets must endure incredibly harsh conditions — including speeds in excess of Mach 6, along with temperatures from –160 C to 3,000 C. Because it is impossible to cost-effectively replicate these conditions in iterative physical tests, this ambitious startup relies on ANSYS engineering simulation to study the full range of fluid and mechanical forces that will impact its rockets. (Read the full article.)

Smart Products Require Intelligent Engineering

The advent of smart connected products has changed our daily lives, and the way companies work, in large and small ways. And these products are poised to deliver even greater benefits. However, the challenges associated with delivering smart connected designs have placed enormous pressures on the world’s engineering teams. Customers are demanding more and more functionality, at lower price points and in smaller product sizes. And, in mission-critical applications like transportation and healthcare, the safety stakes have never been higher as products become increasingly autonomous.


Whether you already engineer smart connected products or are challenged to incorporate new functionality into a traditional product design, this issue of ANSYS Advantage demonstrates the real value of simulation in making intelligent trade-offs and arriving at optimal decisions. With the industry’s broadest simulation portfolio, ANSYS can help you make your products smarter, more connected and more efficient.


[1] ANSYS Customer Case Study: Piaggio Aero.

[2] Murray, C. I Hear You, ANSYS Advantage, 2015, Volume IX, Issue 1.

[3] SquareTrade, New Study Shows Damaged iPhones Cost Americans $10.7 Billion, $4.8B in the Last Two Years Alone. cost-americans-10.7billion-4.8b-in-the-last-two-years-alone (05/02/2018).

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