Connect and Collaborate with PLM and IoT

by Christine Easterfield

A very breezy Boston welcomed the Autodesk Accelerate 2017 conference in September. Accelerate is a relatively new show, being only in its 4th year, and this is reflected in the friendly atmosphere and comparatively small size of the show. It is billed as Autodesk’s Product Development Conference and centres on the use of Autodesk’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) offering, Fusion Lifecycle. Unusually, the majority of attendees appeared to be genuine users in varying stages of PLM implementation – from those still scouting out the market, to established users planning the next upgrade.


PLM is all about improving the product development process through a greater ability to collaborate between the design and development teams. The spirit of collaboration was alive and well even at breakfast, where I shared the table with an enthusiastic user and a fact-finding novice – the user immediately fired up a tablet and started demoing the latest incarnation of Fusion to illustrate the possibilities.

The formal sessions opened with Neil Barker from Advanced Oncotherapy describing how life-changing proton therapy centres are being realised at smaller scale to improve access to revolutionary cancer therapy tools. An inspiring story that involves Autodesk throughout, from product design and realisation using Inventor, Vault and Fusion Lifecycle, to managing the construction of new facilities with Revit and BIM 360.

This was first of fourteen customer-led sessions – and each one had a great story to share.

Attendees were encouraged to note their greatest challenges, resulting in this great illustration by Ink Factory, who were on hand throughout to capture the mood of the show.


I opted for the experience of Piaggio Fast Forward – learning from Rosie Kotelova and Amos Ambler how collaboration across multiple sites in the US and Italy brought the Piaggio GITA into being. The GITA is a curious creation – described by Piaggio as a ‘personal robotic vehicle’ but to my mind a kind of autonomous suitcase that carries your loads and follows you around – potentially offering greater independence to a huge community of users with mobility issues. And it looks cool.

As well as design excellence, Fusion also brings the collaborative tools needed by this distributed team – but as Ambler reported it is not without challenges. As with any organisation introducing new technology there are always those that prefer the tools and interfaces they have been used to in the past. Luckily in a small group like PFF, leading by example is proving to be one of the most effective tools of change management.


A strong thread running through the show was the adoption and deployment of IoT technologies to enhance product capabilities. Autodesk launched the IoT Discovery Toolkit, powered by Electric Imp, which supports organisations exploring the possibilities of IoT.  Hugo Fiennes from Electric Imp gave an inspiring keynote on the second day. He talked about his time as a designer at Apple and how his experiences there led him to develop the Electric Imp service platform for connecting devices to the internet with little or no other specialist equipment. Using Electric Imp, a company can even retro fit an internet connection to existing equipment, bringing older kit into the game with minimal effort.

Networking sessions and convivial receptions added to the opportunities to chat and learn from peers, experts and product specialists – this is a content rich show that deserves its place in the PLM calendar.

Have your say

Did you go to Autodesk Accelerate? If so, let us know what your personal highlights were.

Disclosure: Autodesk is a Cambashi client

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