The Future of Mobile & HPC

The future of mobile and HPC are inextricably linked.

Jamie Gooch The future of mobile could be described as simply “the future,” because just about everything is becoming a mobile data capture and communication device—from wristwatches to cars to eyeglasses. Even objects that are decidedly fixed in one location, such as your front door lock or the factory assembly line, are borrowing design elements from mobile devices, including sensors, radios, antennas and batteries.

At its most basic level, the ubiquity of mobile technologies has two ramifications for design engineers: 1. They need to employ specific design, simulation and testing techniques to create mobile products; and 2. They can do so by tapping into an increasing number of high-performance computing (HPC) resources—from HPC servers they can now access remotely, to HPC mobile workstations. The computing resources engineers need to usher in smaller, connected devices are always at their fingertips.

Designing for Mobile

Our connected lifestyles have already had a huge impact on design technologies and design cycles. More products are downsized for mobility and packed with technologies that require specialized engineering skills, multiphysics simulations and more powerful computing hardware to design. Electronic and software engineers need to collaborate with mechanical engineers to ensure connected products perform as specified, leading many design software developers to make collaboration a cornerstone of their applications. And data being collected by connected devices, some of which already comprise the early stages of the Internet of Things (IoT), needs to be stored, filtered and turned into actionable information that can be used to improve product designs.

According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2018. The company expects there to be an 11-fold increase in global mobile data traffic between 2013 and 2018. That represents a lot of people already using a lot of mobile products—7 billion connected devices by some counts. And even though the number of people connected to the internet has grown by more than 600% since 2000, more than half the population isn’t online yet. Add the number of future connected products to the number of people soon to be connected, and it’s easy to see we’re just getting started.

To respond to the need for increasingly complicated mobile products, design engineers must have access to increasingly powerful computers. They also need to develop or specify the specialized, embedded systems that will enable future smaller, low-power mobile devices. The future of mobility and HPC are inextricably linked.

Mobile Engineering

Fortunately, HPC choices abound. From workstations, both virtualized and local, to private and public cloud resources to clusters and data centers—innovations in engineering computing are enabling mobility, just as more advanced embedded systems are meeting engineering design needs. The adoption of advanced computing solutions by design engineers has led to an exponential increase in the rate of innovation.

Breakthroughs are happening at breakneck speed, which means design cycles are further compressed. Here again, mobility and computing are merging to allow engineers to work more productively, no matter where they are.

Engineers aren’t just the designers, developers, testers and analysts of mobile technologies, they’re also its users. Mobile engineering is quickly evolving from its roots in hauling workstations to the boardroom or reviewing designs via a tablet with offsite clients. It’s now possible to use mobile devices to manipulate large CAD files and run complex simulation via virtual machines and the cloud, not to mention the previously unheard of power and speed now commonplace in mobile workstations.

As the muscle of supercomputers that fill entire buildings is being democratized and brought to bear on creating smaller, lighter, always-connected products, a final challenge remains the user interface. Many engineering tasks—from collecting test data to 3D scanning to collaborating on designs are already mobile. Actual design and simulation work, however, is still best accomplished with a keyboard and mouse, often on large screens or multiple monitors. Early attempts to port the design experience to tablets and phones have not been widely accepted. But as mobile devices become more ubiquitous, expect to see more specialized apps that allow more design engineering tasks to be completed—not just on phones and tablets, but via a number of mobile devices that work together to take advantage of each one’s user interface strengths, whether that is touch, voice, motion tracking or a heads-up display.

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About the Author

Jamie Gooch's avatar
Jamie Gooch

Jamie Gooch is the former editorial director of Digital Engineering.

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