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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 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 … More »

Thingworx 8 Takes Center Stage At LiveWorx17

June 1st, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

PTC’s user conference in Boston last week (LiveWorx17 ) covered a lot of ground — everything from Creo to Windchill to augmented reality (AR), but the focus of the event was PTC announcing the launch of its newest version of  ThingWorx Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) platform – ThingWorx 8. According to the company, with this update, ThingWorx evolves into a more robust, comprehensive industrial IoT (IIoT) technology offering. PTC also announced a new lineup of ThingWorx-powered apps for the manufacturing environment, as well as ThingWorx Studio support for native authoring and publishing of AR experiences for Microsoft HoloLens.

Interestingly, PTC’s VP of Corporate Communications, Jack McAvoy said that two of this year’s three main messages for LiveWorx17 revolved around ThingWorx as more than a platform and the evolving ThingWorx ecosystem through physical/digital convergence.

PTC’s foray into IoT got a big boost about four years ago when it  acquired ThingWorx, creators of a platform for building and running applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), for about $112 million. The acquisition of ThingWorx immediately positioned PTC as a major player in the emerging Internet of Things era.

According to a research report, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy  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. For example, with increasingly sophisticated Internet of Things technologies becoming available, companies can not only track the flow of products or keep track of physical assets, but they can also manage the performance of individual machines and systems.

In the IoT era, PTC has enabled customers to develop increasingly smart and connected products that can generate value in new ways as streams of real-time operational data are captured, analyzed, and shared to deepen a company’s understanding of its products’ performance, use, and reliability. PTC has used ThingWorx platform to speed the development of IoT applications that support manufacturers’ service strategies, such as predictive maintenance and system monitoring, that complements PTC Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and extended PTC Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) portfolio.

At the time, PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann said, “All aspects of our strategy to date have centered on helping manufacturing companies transform how they create and service smart, connected products. 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.”

Actually, if you follow PTC’s historical business strategy, the acquisition was no surprise, as IoT had become one of the most hyped technology concepts. The idea of providing increasingly software-controlled products and systems with sensors and connecting them via the internet , in other words, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) was starting to enjoy wider acceptance.

PTC also invested heavily in technologies for the closely related SLM area, and with the purchase of ThingWorx, PTC took another step that signaled their commitment to be one of the leading players in the fast-growing IoT market.

Still this was only a hint as compared to what has come with an exponential growth curve. For example, IoT services are estimated to grow to nearly $ 200 billion this year, and in 2020 Gartner forecasts that 30 billion devices (“things”) will be connected.

These growth forecasts are staggering numbers. And these numbers support Heppelmann’s insistent prognostication that IoT would revolutionize not only product development, but even what is meant by the term “product,” and how it is operated, maintained and upgraded. According to Heppleman, consumers now tend to be more interested in the function and the services we can get out of a product. We don’t have to own the physical object. Product delivery is tipping towards what Heppelmann has called, “Product as a Service .”

It’s no secret that IoT has huge potential for growth, and it’s not surprising that the big industry players continue to formulate comprehensive plans for investments that will give product developers a plethora of new solutions to design for IoT, as well as a good ROI.

“All aspects of our strategy to date have centered on helping manufacturing companies transform how they create and service smart, connected products,” said Jim Heppelmann. “For manufacturers, 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, that has allowed us to accelerate how we help our customers capitalize on the market opportunity that the IoT presents.”

Based on my interest on the traditional design side of things, how does ThingWorx interact with Creo? It turns out that in Creo 4.0, Creo Product Insight provides a mechanism for getting data out of ThingWorx into Creo for validating assumptions made during the design process. In other words, Creo Product Insight lets engineers replace assumptions in the design process with facts, bringing usage data back into engineering and connecting it with the original CAD model – its digital twin. Creo Product Insight also helps optimize product sensor strategy and provides secure, custom data streams needed by integrating sensors into the design process.

Thingworx 8

ThingWorx is the purpose-built IoT platform for rapidly creating complete applications for the connected world. Its unique Thing Model framework allows it to integrate with other technologies, including Augmented Reality (ThingWorx Studio) and Industrial Connectivity (Kepware).

The ThingWorx platform is comprised of the following components:

ThingWorx Foundation — connects to all of the ThingWorx components, providing a simplified approach for developers to create comprehensive IoT solutions.

ThingWorx Studio — includes technologies for incorporating Augmented Reality development for developers of IoT solutions.

ThingWorx Utilities — comprehensive set of tools for business users to define, monitor, manage, and optimize the performance of their connected products.

ThingWorx Analytics — enables IoT developers to add real-time pattern and anomaly detection, predictive analytics, and simulation to the solutions they build.

ThingWorx Connectivity — enables robust connectivity between ThingWorx and industrial equipment and applications.

Admittedly, there’s a lot more to it, but I just wanted to provide a simple overview of the components and not necessarily all that they are and can do.

The ThingWorx Platform

Some of the generalized features in ThingWorx 8 include:

  • Enhanced platform capabilities
  • Role-specific applications for engineering and manufacturing
  • A substantial ecosystem of partners and customers
  • Expansive educational programs
  • A new collection of service offerings designed for IIoT customers
  • Native industrial connectivity, anomaly detection, and deeper cloud support for leading cloud providers

In addition to these capabilities, ThingWorx Studio now supports native authoring and publishing of AR experiences for Microsoft HoloLens. Now, content creators and developers can use ThingWorx Studio to create AR experiences from existing 3D assets and CAD models and run their AR experiences on HoloLens.

New ThingWorx Manufacturing Apps

Building off of the ThingWorx Navigate app (the first PTC ThingWorx app), PTC also introduced a new lineup of ThingWorx-powered apps for manufacturing. The ThingWorx manufacturing apps are fast to deploy, offer role-based intelligence for proactive, faster decision making, allow for codeless app extensibility for continued innovation, and can be downloaded for free and upgraded over time. The ThingWorx manufacturing apps consist of:

  • ThingWorx Controls Advisor – Remotely monitor and troubleshoot machine connectivity.
  • ThingWorx Production Advisor – Real-time visibility and insight into production line performance and status.
  • ThingWorx Asset Advisor – Remotely monitor physical assets in real-time, automatically detect anomalies, and trigger alerts to improve efficiency and quality.

According to PTC, these apps can be extended to meet specific needs, and they also say this can be accomplished by those with a technical bent, and not necessarily app experts.

In just a few years, ThingWorx has become probably the most widely-used platform leveraging the Industrial IoT to create smart, connected products, operations, and software. The comprehensive ThingWorx Platform includes modules that provide the functionality, flexibility, and agility for developing and deploying IIoT apps and AR experiences, including industrial connectivity, analytics, application enablement, orchestration, and codeless AR authoring.

While I’ll admit there’s a long way to go, including some major security issues that need to be addressed, PTC has made and continues to make big strides in IoT with each release of ThingWorx and ThingWorx 8 looks to be another big step in the right direction. As I’ve said in the past, PTC is betting the farm on the success of IoT, and that bet seems to be looking better and better with each succeeding year.

Editor’s Note: ThingWorx 8 will be commercially available on June 8, 2017.

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