The life around us is changing fast. Consumerization. BYOD. Cloud. Social. We are in the middle of the biggest technological change that happens in front of our eyes. What does it mean for engineers? Apparently engineering needs are no much different from what it was 10 years ago. The fundamental need to work together (avoid word "collaboration"), exchange design (files, data?) and see the history of changes actually remain the same for a very long period of time. However, the life and environment around us are a bit different these days. The consumer behavior influenced our mind and push us to explore new opportunities.
I was reading SolidSmack’s blog post – GrabCAD Revamps to Push Out CAD Project Possibilities. This is not the first time I’m referencing GrabCAD on my blog. The dynamic and growing startup initially focused on creating of "Facebook for Engineers" recently shifted gears toward CAD collaboration. It looks to me the idea of collaboration and usage of 3DViewer, CAD history (versions) is a way to re-think the reality of cloud work for engineers? I found the following conclusion made by Josh Mings interesting:
Where could it go from here? Competition is heatin’ up in the web-based 3D collaboration scene, and it’s likely not going to slow down. GrabCAD has huge user base, the web presence and the combination of CAD library, 3D file viewing and private sharing, which makes it a very good resource for a project space–limited to an extent, but simple to use. There is no version tracking yet, but viewing at the ‘Files’ tab shows how it’s being pushed toward more organization and file options. But is version tracking really needed?
Josh is speaking about competition. So, I decided to take a look – who is around to do a similar type of job. I found few products and technologies.
Autodesk 360. New cloud tool coming from Autodesk. The idea behind Autodesk 360 is to provide unified cloud experience to people using CAD and other design tools. You can upload files to Autodesk 360, preview them and use basic collaboration.
BuzzSaw. Another product from Autodesk. BuzzSaw is focusing on collaboration around projects (mostly use in AEC and construction domains). The idea of project space and ability to upload files and make them available is a dominant one in BuzzSaw.
AutoCAD WS. This is another paradigm shift product coming from Autodesk (the WS stays for Web Services). In a nutshell, AutoCAD WS is Google Docs just working with CAD (DWG) files. It is on the cloud, and you can upload and download files. Mobile clients convert AutoCAD WS in a popular tool you can use when "on go".
n!Fuze. This is a relatively new product from Dassault Systems. Focus of n!Fuze is how to make SolidWorks CAD (but not only) files available and shareable between people.
3DVia. Online community created by Dassault System. People can upload CAD files and share them. Dassault sees 3DVia as a part of their future broad consumer strategy 3DSwYm (See what you mean). 3DVia is probably more useful when you work with CATIA. However, I’m not aware about limitations in working with other CAD systems as well.
In addition to these specific tools, I’d be mentioning few "generic purpose" technologies and products that can provide cloud, community and file sharing capabilities – DropBox, Google Drive, Sky Drive, Office 365.
What is my conclusion? I think, software for engineering industry is ready for the biggest "rethink impossible" moment these days. Challenge fundamentals. Achieve impossible by making things simple again. Will it be done by large companies or small startups? It really doesn’t matter. Winners will be companies that can adapt faster to new technological and business realities. Just my thoughts.