Thanks to the Industrial Internet, rugged and complex industrial machines are now beginning to follow the same user experience (UX) principles that guide product development in the consumer world.

Whether you look at it from the persepective of influence or profitability, UX is fast emerging as the "new black" in business culture. You can no longer get away with software that merely augments capability and speed of industrial machines. Software platforms in rugged industrial settings now need to make machines easy to navigate and seamlessly integrated into their users’ work environment.

The need to don new friendly interfaces can redefine the way companies plan, develop, design, and market industrial hardware. Take shipping, for instance. Engineers still have to deliver equipment loaded with advanced and feature-rich software. Now, they also need to ensure that mariners can easily use them without delving into the technology deployed. To create an advanced marine dynamic positioning system that feels like a nautical instrument, software developers and UX designers engage with ship operators, trainers, masters, consultants, shipyard representatives, and owners to get a deep understanding of their work environments. Engineers in all industrial settings, from windmills to powerplants to logistics, are discovering that it is critical to make the human interaction pleasant.

Know Your User
First and foremost, UX designers strive to understand users and how they interact with products. To comprehend what users want, companies conduct audits and capture the sequence of human interactions required to complete basic tasks with machines. Interviews and guided conversations in the user environment can explain their expectations at each touch point. To get a deeper perspective of behavior patterns, preferences, and attitudes, UX designers use research techniques such as job shadowing and understanding a day in a typical user’s life.

Once they get the users’ value nugget right, industrial machines need to seamlessly integrate into the user environment to provide the maximum results with minimum effort. UX design obviously needs to embrace a huge array of connected digital devices, from tablets and smartphones to wearable gadgets to embedded smart devices.

Understand the Situation
As they engage with a plethora of devices, industrial machines are becoming increasingly aware of the context. Platforms being developed to monitor and streamline industrial machines will not only need to bring the esoteric and complicated hardware in sync with enterprise software in the cloud, but will need to be aware of the environment where they are installed and the devices being carried by engineers in the vicinity. Cloud-connected, contextually-aware software to streamline maintenance and monitoring of equipment could mean jet engines that repair themselves or at least inform engineers when they need repairs along with instructions to repair them.

As more and more millenials join the workforce, they will expect industrial equipment to offer the ease of navigation and intuitive interface similar to the smartphones and tablets they have grown up with. In the era of ubiquitous sensors and miniaturized mobile computing, a hassle-free UX design and contextual awareness will be the glue binding together the Industrial Internet.

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