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IBM Rational helps manufacturers kill bugs

If you're building a smart heart, an airplane, or even a shoe with software in it, that software must not fail because it cannot be updated. "90 percent of the innovation in today's automobile industry is in software," said Scott Hebner , IBM Rational's vice president of marketing and strategy, to InternetNews.com. "Planes fly themselves now. Even in treadmills, buyers' biggest criteria is often the software, not the mechanics."

That's the issue attacked by IBM's (NYSE:IBM) Rational family of products this week, which "provide capabilities that support collaboration and help reduce the cost and risk of bringing more intelligent, instrumented, and interconnected products to market," the company said in a statement.

IBM announced a full suite of products that help companies design smart products from the specification stage to actual manufacture. Along the way, companies need to track how mechanical, electrical, and software components relate to each other and make sure that any one change doesn't break the product.

Teams are often composed of a mixture of disciplines, Hebner said. IBM Rational Team Concert helps coders, architects, and electrical, mechanical, and software teams collaborate. IBM Rational Team Webtop helps managers track data using information from multiple applicatons.

IBM Rational DOORS is for the start of the process. It gathers the specification data and then later in the process feed the specifications to other applications.

IBM Rational Change tracks change requests during the design process and IBM Rational Synergy manages the interrelations of software.

IBM Rational Rhapsody brings it all together so that companies can model their product before they build it. "It's not CAD," Hebner said. "It doesn't design what the car looks like. A hybrid car is a very software-intensive thing and in order to get fuel efficiency, the software has to interact with the brakes, transmission and gas tank. CAD is about designing the look of the car and Rhapsody is about managing the software components."

Of course, IBM's software often comes with a consulting initiative, and that's true in the case of IBM Rational. The company opened its first Solutions Experience Lab for Systems Engineering and Embedded Software at the IBM Innovation Center (IIC) in Waltham, Mass. and plans to offer similar capabilities at all of IBM's 40 IICs worldwide.

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