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Four Contemplative Takeaways from LiveWorx

References Cited


Yes. Yes. I know. It has been a solid six weeks since PTC’s LiveWorx. The wave of posts and articles on the event has come and gone. So why publish my thoughts on it now? Well, I try not to leap onto the bandwagon for the latest technology trend unless it is truly warranted. So I wanted to give myself some time to stew on it a bit and see what percolated to the top. Here are my four takeaways.

The Change Imperative

A new wave of Smart Connected Products (SCP), enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), truly has disruptive potential for practically all manufacturers in all industries.

At the event, there were companies after companies showing how they developed impressive new features in their products. But more impressively, most of them talked about what those new features enabled in their business. For some, it was driving new sales off innovation or a new line of revenue from service. For others, it was changing their operating model with serious financial implications. For yet others, it was a means of controlling costs, which in turn dramatically changed their profit equation.

This concept of SCPs enabled by the IoT is a disruptive threat or opportunity.

Exploration Required, but its Not All Techy

The other analysts that attended the event and I had a lot of conversations about whether not manufacturers had to do something with SCP and IoT. Opinions varied dramatically, but I’ve come to this conclusion.

Companies must explore the possibilities of SCPs enabled by the IoT.

Obviously, organizations need to figure out what product features are even possible. Right now, so many executives don’t even realize what is possible. So, yes, there needs to be due diligence there. However, I would add in one caveat. Don’t stick that exploration and experimentation down into some skunkworks or R&D team. Why? Because understanding the implications on the business is just as important. You might have brilliant engineers coming up with breakthrough new product features. Yet, if you don’t have someone involved that can understand the implication on the business, you might was well not invest.

If you’re going to explore SCPs enabled by the IoT, make sure that a business executive is involved as well.

Is ThingWorx Groundbreaking?

PTC’s ThingWorx is a technology enabler with significant competitive advantages that impact an organization’s ability to develop SCPs enabled by the IoT.

Why? Well, developing SCPs enabled by the IoT requires a lot of technology and intellectual know-how. The underlying infrastructure, both from a hardware and software perspective, has changed quickly and will continue to change quickly. We’re in a time of drastic and continuous change. Organizations could invest and re-invest in personnel specializing in low level enabling technology continuously for years to come. Obviously, that could be a serious barrier for some organizations. Many customers at the event professed that their internal efforts to try to keep up with this changing landscape of technology kept them from finding success.

Therein lies one value proposition of ThingWorx. You see, ThingWorx isn’t just one software application. It consists of many interconnected tools to develop on-product applications, cloud-based applications and logic engine applications. It includes capabilities to stream data from the product to a database in the cloud. These tools are compliant with the latest standards, protocols and hardware. All of this is presented in a simple and easy SCP development environment that is accessible to non-coders. That’s why ThingWorx is a platform, not a single application.

I have yet to come across an offering that can be considered a real competitor. Hopefully that will change soon. Competition is good for customers.

The ROI of SCP is Non-Standard

Another conversation between Jim Brown and I, this one carried out on twitter, focused on the return on investment of SCPs enabled by the IoT.

To be honest, I’m still conflicted about this topic.

I do believe that the ROI for SCPs enabled by the IoT is non-standard. Early adopters will dive in, figure out what it means to their business and take advantage. The thing that bothers me is twofold.

  1. The ROI of PLM, from the early days until now, is still fairly non-standard. That stands in stark contrast to parametric feature-based CAD, whose value proposition was associativity for propagating change from a 3D model to the drawing and back. Parametric feature-based CAD exploded in terms of adoption and is now essentially pervasive. PLM is not. I think the difference in having a standard value proposition is a heavy contributor to that reality.
  2. Per my first and second points, I truly believe that most every company needs to figure out what SCPs enabled by the IoT means for their business. It truly represents a disruptive opportunity or threat. Action is warranted. But the lack of a standard ROI, for both the initiative and the technology, makes that an extremely difficult proposition.

Final Thoughts

Over the next five years, a lot of development budget will be dumped into efforts to experiment and explore with SCPs enabled by the IoT. This is almost a forced action by most organizations. Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re entering an age of disruption that will lead to big changes in many different industries. Strap in. This is going to get interesting.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.



Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.

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