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PTC Unveils Cohesive and Grand IoT Vision

References Cited

PTC, Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

This last Thursday, up in Boston, PTC hosted an event where they shared their vision behind their multitude of acquisitions. Let’s jump in.

The Vision

PTC has always been good at delivering a clean message with powerful examples of their technology, sometimes to dramatic effect. They are very good at telling their story. But in this event, they took it up a notch. It was organized like the taping of a TV show while it was broadcasted out to up to 14,000 internet viewers. There was the stage and auditorium, but there was also a studio that hosted two real world examples that hammered the points home behind their vision.

Kudos to PTC for all that pizzazz. Yet, it can be hard to discern coherent takeaways amidst all that buzz. So what’s the story? Here’s my distilled version.

  • The digital definition of the product is now really big. It includes 3D models and animated instructions. It includes text information in enterprise systems like part numbers, service data and costs. It includes streams of big data from sensors like temperature, chemical levels and more. It also includes conclusions and logic drawn from all this information, both manually developed and those created through machine learning algorithms. Collectively, PTC calls this the Digital Twin (their term, not mine).
  • This expanded digital definition is incredibly valuable across the lifecycle. Engineers can reverse engineer product failures in incredible granularity. Manufacturing can do root cause analysis to find the real problem with quality. Maintenance technicians can service products proactively.
  • The best means is realize this value is to deliver it on demand through augmented reality. All this rich information is presented in context. It reduces the chances of misinterpretation. It doesn’t require too much preparation. It is there in an unmistakeable form when you need it.
  • To deliver that information, you need to build out the right apps. You need the right technologies to connect them to this mountain of data, which might exist in a multitude of locations. You need to provide those apps through the right augmented reality enabled tablets and glasses. And, by the way, the standards and technology upon which those apps and augmented reality devices work will be changing. Fast.

In short, PTC’s objective is to enable that. Like, all of it.

Therein lies the drive behind their $700 millions worth of acquisition. ThingWorx for app development, connecting to enterprise systems and collecting big data from sensors. Coldlight for machine learning algorithms. Kepware for IoT connectivity to industrial automation. Vuforia for augmented reality. And many more to come, most likely.

Want more specifics? I suggest going to PTC’s Thing Event site and watching some of the replay. There is just too much to cover.

The Enabling Technology

OK. Interesting vision. But how will they deliver? Well, interestingly enough, there is a role for practically every software product in their offering.

  • Creo and Arbortext: Provides technology to create the 3D models, which is a primary component for the augmented reality overlay. It also offers a tool to build 3D animated procedures for service and other applications.
  • Windchill,  Integrity and Servigistics: Each house important definition and development information about products which can be pulled and delivered to augmented reality apps.
  • ThingWorx: It actually fills a couple roles in these scenarios.
    • This platform allows teams to create the software that connects to products and collects sensor data from them.
    • It also allows teams to create the apps that deliver all this information back to the user, which might be a animated procedure to replace a component.
  • Kepware: Connects to smart industrial components on the shop floor, contributing big data about the product and manufacturing process.
  • Coldlight: This machine learning software acts on the sensor data, and other information, collected by ThingWorx for stuff like predictive analytics. It might, for example, predict the mean time to failure for a specific product based on its sensor data.
  • Vuforia: This is the software solution that presents all this information through augmented reality devices.

Overall, the story hangs together in terms of their products supporting the vision.

My Take

So, what is my take?

The vision is grand. There is no doubt about that. It is wide ranging. It requires a lot of solution components, which they have acquired. It affects a lot of industries, roles in manufacturing and aspects of the development cycle. Its scale rivals that of Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE, which is massive in its own right.

The vision is unique. Let me be frank: I’m no IoT buff. However, I know of no other company that is taking a slant on IoT that is focused on development, manufacturing and service. Add to that fact that it is being delivered through augmented reality, and PTC is off in its own little space. Furthermore, while this vision and the 3DEXPERIENCE might both be grand, they are very different from one another.

The vision is speculative. Depending on your perspective, this could be good or bad. Service as a profit-center is real. IoT has legs, the question is when will it begin to pay off. Augmented reality is futuristic. In one sense, PTC is definitely ahead of the curve and will be well positioned when (and if) this vision gains traction. On the other hand, PTC is far ahead of the curve, on their own with few others to educate and drive market growth.

Recap and Conclusion

  • Last week, PTC painted a picture where stakeholders across the lifecycle could utilize information through augmented reality.
  • They are positioned to enable most of this vision. PTC spend of over $700 million in acquisitions actually hangs well together in the context of that vision.
  • The vision is grand, unique but speculative. If it takes off, they’ll do extremely well.

Alright folks. That’s my take! Leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

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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