How Spatial Computing Paired with IoT Can Enhance Design Techniques

By Shannon Flynn

Managing Editor

July 27, 2021


How Spatial Computing Paired with IoT Can Enhance Design Techniques

The data revolution of Industry 4.0 has thoroughly disrupted engineering and design tasks. Data-driven processes like computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) have become standard practices, taking the industry into a new digital age. Newer innovations, specifically IoT and spatial computing, can take it even further.

The manufacturing industry has already fully embraced the IoT. As of 2019, there were 97.7 million connected devices in the sector. Spatial computing, or the digitization of physical space and objects to use 3D space as an interface, unlocks new potential with these devices.

How Spatial Computing and the IoT Interact

The IoT and spatial computing interact in two crucial ways. First, IoT sensors provide the necessary data for spatial computing applications. Spatial computing essentially creates a digital twin of the real world that updates in real-time, requiring real-time data about the physical world. IoT devices can collect and transmit that information.

The second way in which these two technologies integrate happens in the opposite direction. Spatial computing services can direct IoT devices, guiding them or inciting certain actions in response to what’s happening in a given space. In consumer applications, this may look like lights switching on as someone enters a room. But commercial applications carry more disruptive potential.

Together, these technologies can bring far more visibility and efficiency to engineering and design. Here’s a closer look at how.

Designing Digital Structures in Real Space

CAD and similar technologies disrupted design by introducing digital data into the equation, providing more speed and accuracy. Spatial computing and the IoT build on that innovation. Using technologies like augmented reality, these systems let designers work on digital models in real-world physical environments.

IoT-connected sensors like laser measuring tools, which provide millimeter-accurate readings, can provide highly detailed and accurate data. Spatial computing platforms can then use this data to display precise digital models in AR over physical spaces. This would enable workers to see first-hand how their designs fit into the real-world environments they’ll eventually inhabit.

With this level of visibility, designers could create bespoke products far more easily than with traditional methods. Seeing digital models in real space removes any uncertainty about how the final product will fit its intended environment. Since workers could make any needed adjustments in the digital model, it also reduces costs from redesigning.

Hands-Free Design

IoT-powered spatial computing would also let designers work without holding any input devices. Using a mouse and keyboard or stylus and tablet could become a thing of the past. Cameras and other IoT-connected sensors could instead interpret workers’ movements, gestures, and voice commands as inputs.

The primary advantage of this hands-free approach to design is that it renders the user interface virtually invisible. With no noticeable hardware between a designer and their model, it’s easier to focus on the design itself. Removing physical input devices brings designers closer to their work, enabling higher focus and more attention to detail.

Technology will have to progress before these applications become a viable reality, as motion and voice recognition must be near-perfect. Since research suggests the spatial computing market could grow from $22.22 billion in 2019 to $196.21 billion in 2026, that may not take long.

Remote Collaboration

Spatial computing, aided by IoT technologies, could also improve remote collaboration. Many companies already use digital design programs that allow easy sharing through the cloud. The next step is to let remote colleagues work on a design together in real time through AR.

Just as IoT-enabled sensors and cameras let individual workers interact with digital models in physical spaces, it could do the same for groups. An advisor or colleague could work on the same model in a separate space, updating in real time as the other worker makes adjustments. AR digital twins of each collaborator would let them see each other as they work on the design as if they were in the same room.

Systems like this would let workers collaborate with leading experts regardless of how far away they are. Replicating the experience of being in the same room would also remove errors from miscommunication.

Spatial Computing and IoT Could Revolutionize Design

Some of these applications still require further technological advancement, but they’re likely not far off. As investments in spatial computing and IoT technologies rise, new innovations and possibilities will emerge. Within just a few years, spatial computing could replace CAD and related systems as the design standard.

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Shannon Flynn is a technology blogger who writes about AI and IT trends. She's also the Managing Editor of Follow her on Medium or MuckRack to read more tech news.

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