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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

PTC ThingWorx Converges On IoT

May 14th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

Last week at LiveWorx 2015, PTC made several major product and strategic announcements around the Internet of Things (IoT) and their implications for the future of PTC. A couple of the most prominent of these product announcements were ThingWorx 6.0 and ThingWorx Converge.

Before being acquired by PTC about 18 months ago, ThingWorx realized that making IoT a reality required an ecosystem of complementary technologies that enable “things” to be created, connected, operated, and serviced. With the ecosystem established, applications that capitalize on the data these “things” generate can be developed.

According to Russ Fadal, President & General Manager, ThingWorx, a PTC business, it’s estimated that in 2010 there were approximately 7 billion connected smart devices in the world. That number is expected to be in the neighborhood of 1 trillion by 2035. That’s explosive growth, to say the least!

He said that today IoT is challenged because 80% of resources are dedicated to infrastructure and 20% for applications, and he would like to see those percentages reversed. Other issues that he, PTC, and the IoT industry as a whole are trying to resolve include security, predictable performance, 10X+ faster production and implementation, and what to do with the mountains of data generated by IoT devices. Security is especially important because it is not an event, but an ongoing process that will never go away. No small concerns here, therefore the evolution of the platform ecosystem — ThingWorx.

The IoT market today is admittedly fragmented with incomplete solutions and an inability to execute. PTC is working to address these and other issues. PTC has got its work cut out for itself.

Fadal said his biggest goal is to foster ThingWorx into a platform that makes the easy stuff easier and the hard stuff possible.

Why ThingWorx Was Founded

ThingWorx provides an IoT platform designed to build and run connected applications.

The model-based design and search-based intelligence of the ThingWorx IoT Platform simplifies application development efforts by minimizing cost, and risk while accelerating time to value. The platform also combines the key functionality of Web 2.0, search, and social collaboration, and applies it to the world of “things”, including connected products, machines, sensors, systems, and industrial equipment.

Customers use the ThingWorx platform to develop applications and connected solutions across markets ranging from manufacturing, energy, and food, to Machine-to-Machine (M2M) remote monitoring and service, as well as in emerging Internet of Things applications, including smart cities, smart grid, agriculture, and transportation.

One of the biggest benefits of the ThingWorx IoT platform is that it provides reusable components for apps and products. IoT could potentially reduce a lot of waste through better utilization of resources. Think of it as a new offshoot of “lean” manufacturing. It encourages a new collaboration between IT and R&D, and may ultimately require a new corporate executive role – chief data officer (CDO).

With IoT, physical product complexity if going down because embedded digital components are rising, Product companies will have product data, but so will customers, making the producer more accountable. IoT will provide a major transition for traditional industrial companies becoming more like software companies. IoT will also transform service organizations, as well as broaden industry definitions and boundaries.

Applications powered by ThingWorx are starting to proliferate, starting with a ThingWorx Marketplace that currently has about 150 ThingWorx apps.

ThingWorx Pre- and Post-PTC Acquisition

In late December 2013, PTC announced it had acquired ThingWorx, creators of a platform for building and running applications for IoT, for approximately $112 million. The acquisition of ThingWorx immediately positioned PTC as a major player in the emerging Internet of Things era.

The ThingWorx acquisition extended PTC’s strategy by accelerating its ability to support manufacturers seeking competitive advantage as they create and service smart, connected products. As part of PTC, ThingWorx continuse to help customers in a wide range of industries seeking to leverage the IoT, including telecommunications, utilities, medical devices, agriculture, and transportation, as well as an emerging partner network of IoT-enabled service providers.

According to a recent research report Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy (May, 2013) from the McKinsey Global Institute, the Internet of Things has the potential to create economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025. The firm believes perhaps 80 to 100 percent of all manufacturing could be using Internet of Things applications by then, leading to potential economic impact of $900 billion to $2.3 trillion, largely from productivity gains.

A Little Historical Perspective on ThingWorx (Pre-PTC)

PTC is using the ThingWorx platform to speed the creation of high-value IoT applications that support manufacturers’ service strategies, such as predictive maintenance and system monitoring, that complements PTC’s existing service lifecycle management (SLM) and extended product lifecycle management (PLM) portfolio. With ThingWorx, PTC can also offer its customers a means to establish a secure, reliable connection to their products as well as a platform to rapidly develop applications for maintaining and operating them – and ultimately for finding ways to create new value from them.

“All aspects of our strategy to date have centered on helping manufacturing companies transform how they create and service smart, connected products,” said PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann. “For manufacturers today, it is clear to us that improved service strategies and service delivery is the near-term ‘killer app’ for the Internet of Things and this opportunity has guided our strategy for some time. With this acquisition, PTC now possesses an innovation platform that will allow us to accelerate how we help our customers capitalize on the market opportunity that the IoT presents.”

The opportunity, however, goes well beyond this immediate pragmatic application. Industries of all types are poised to see disruption from the Internet of Things and the expanding networks of connected sensors and devices, and a growing ecosystem of ThingWorx partners is forming to capitalize on this growth. As part of PTC, ThingWorx intends to continue serving this diverse market.

ThingWorx 6.0

At LiveWorx 2015, PTC announced the release of version 6.0 of the ThingWorx platform, the latest release of its secure and scalable IoT platform for building and deploying enterprise IoT applications.

In the IoT market, companies are facing the need to securely scale their enterprise-grade IoT solutions to connect millions of devices, supporting hundreds of thousands of transactions per second. ThingWorx version 6.0 provides the tools and capabilities that allow enterprises to scale their solutions beyond what was previously available and allows secure solutions to be deployed and scaled appropriately.

“ThingWorx version 6.0 sets new standards in IoT scalability, security and platform extensibility,” said Russ Fadel, president, ThingWorx, a PTC Business. “By combining the powerful federation capabilities of the ThingWorx platform and the new data storage engine, customers are able to implement geo-distribution of data allowing them to maximize availability, compliance with regulatory requirements, and performance.”

New features in ThingWorx v 6.0 include:

  • A Pluggable Data Store Model. The new data store software development kit enables a pluggable model, allowing ThingWorx and partners to natively integrate new data stores to meet specific performance, scale, security and infrastructure requirements. ThingWorx is using this model to deliver Apache Cassandra for hyperscale runtime data, as well as future data stores to support a variety of deployment scenarios, both large and small.
  • A High-Volume Runtime Data Store Provider. The new runtime data store uses DataStax Enterprise powered by Apache Cassandra as the runtime data store to deliver a database platform purpose built for the performance and availability demands of IoT, web and mobile applications. Cassandra’s architecture enables greater scalability to address the potential issues faced under dynamic workloads, high-volume data and new business requirements with relational databases. DataStax Enterprise offers customers a fully tested and validated Cassandra deployment with improved administration and monitoring tools and built-in integration with Apache Solr for indexing and search.
  • Productivity Enhancements. New styling options in the Mashup environment have been added and the ThingWorx Help Center Integration provides full search capability on topics and API documentation. Users will benefit from performance improvements made to value streams and data tables, as well as enhanced support for custom authentication modules.
  • Security Enhancements. Extensive security features have been added, including improved vulnerability protection, FIPS-140-2 compliance at the edge devices, and improved certificate and encryption support. These new features extend the ThingWorx position in end-to-end security, adding new capabilities for encryption of data in flight and data at rest, enabling users to build and deploy secure IoT applications.


ThingWorx Functional Overview

ThingWorx Converge

At LiveWorx 2015, PTC also announced ThingWorx Converge, an IoT offering that leverages the ThingWorx platform for connectivity, device management and rapid application development. ThingWorx Converge extends the ThingWorx platform with pre-built capabilities for companies who create, operate and service manufactured products as well as application developers and system integrators who deliver solutions for these companies.

In a nutshell, ThingWorx Converge is an extension of the ThingWorx platform that acts as a centralized integration hub for IoT.

“Companies need a consistent framework for application developers, system integrators and technology providers to develop modular and sustainable IoT applications for smart products,” said Howard Heppelmann, general manager, connected product management, PTC. “The ThingWorx Converge offering leverages a common data model and connects all the people who need access to the IoT hub for a more efficient process.”

ThingWorx Converge features include:

  • Centralized Hub for Real Time Product Data. Gives organizations the opportunity to IoT-enable existing enterprise systems and business processes to deliver new value throughout the manufacturing value chain.
  • Best Practices-Based Data Model. Out-of-the-box data model for manufactured things, with standard integrations and ready to deploy management utilities developed from thousands of industry engagements and built on the ThingWorx platform.
  • Enhanced Out-of-the-Box Capabilities. Improve the customer experience by enhancing customer service, customer support and product usability with easy to use OOTB capabilities to remotely monitor, manage, access and control products and assets.

It’s pretty obvious that ThingWorx is the crux of the entire notion of IoT, not only for integration into PTC’s world, but also in the bigger IoT universe. What was at first an enigma when PTC acquired ThingWorx is becoming more clear for the future direction of PTC.

Today there is no standard definition for an IoT platform, but PTC is at the forefront for establishing that definition and expanding the IoT marketplace far from its current place in business and in life.

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