PTC Expands Their Industrial Automation via the Internet of Things
Shawn Wasserman posted on January 01, 2016 | | 11491 views
PTC IoT Industry offerings have grown since this October image to include Kepware and four new internal software offerings for systems engineering and ALM. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

PTC IoT Industry offerings have grown since this October image to include Kepware and four new internal software offerings for systems engineering and ALM. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

PTC has experienced a busy year with the Internet of Things (IoT). Only seven months ago they invested at least half a billion dollars into integrating third-party software and big data analytics for IoT.

Now, that investment has grown to about $750 million dollars thanks to their ongoing acquisition efforts. The latest IoT companies added to the PTC family appear to be the augmented reality software company Qualcomm and industrial automation software company Kepware.

This investment growth doesn’t include the internal investments involved in PTC’s four new systems engineering and application lifecycle management (ALM) IoT software packages which PTC announced less than two weeks ago.

Clearly, PTC is aiming to become the leader for engineering applications of the IoT. But the question is: Where do these new acquisitions fit in?

How Industrial Automation Can Fit into PTC’s IoT Portfolio

KEPServerEX product features. (Image courtesy of Kepware.)

KEPServerEX product features. (Image courtesy of Kepware.)

Where PTC’s Axeda connects IoT data to a secure, scalable cloud, Kepware’s  KEPServerEX technology allows for communication between industrial automated environments.

As such, KEPServerEX will be PTC’s foot in the industrial IoT (IIoT) door. The idea is to give industrial users the ability to connect their various control systems and  third-party equipment into a single industrial data source.

Once all of this production data is collected into one location, it can be brought into ThingWorx. From there, PTC’s Coldlight technology will be able to perform predictive analytics based on the data that will better predict failures, cost, bottlenecks, correlations and more.

These predictions can be made available to the plant manager through a ThingWorx “mashup” which will create dashboards to better organize the information, such as for a production or maintenance schedule.

“The digital world is opening up new opportunities for organizations to access their manufacturing operations and use the data to achieve new potential and influence business performance. The factory of the future requires manufacturers to shift their focus and mindset toward improving network-wide manufacturing capabilities,” said principal analyst Simon Jacobson and research director Rick Franzosa, both from Gartner.

PTC reports that Kepware currently assists companies in more than 120 countries connect their automated manufacturing equipment from various industries including: manufacturing, oil and gas, building automation, and utilities.

PTC also reports that many of these customers overlap with their own, which may allow for considerable customer upgrade potential. These Kepware customers might soon be able to access the PTC ThingWorx IoT platform while ThingWorx customers might gain access to Kepware’s heterogeneous equipment connection software.

“PTC is committed to helping manufacturers, infrastructure operators and others realize the enormous value inherent in the Internet of Things,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO of PTC. “With this acquisition, we will gain entry into heterogeneous factory and operating environments with robust technology, an impressive list of customers and a high-quality, profitable company with incredibly talented employees.”

PTC’s IoT is Entering the Augmented Reality Scene

PTC Augmented reality example with the digital twin. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

PTC Augmented reality example with the digital twin. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

With Qualcomm’s Vuforia, PTC users will be able to produce applications for mobile devices that connect the physical world with digital information.

These applications allow for the end user of the device to gain insight into information that might otherwise be hidden with the help of augmented reality and the digital twin.

Combining Vuforia with PTC’s Coldlight predictive analytics software and ThingWorx platform, users will be able to create many opportunities for engineers looking to design, monitor, control and teach the proper use of their products.

For instance, the designers can display information about the use of their products in the field using augmented reality to offer a better visual understanding of where points of interest might be for the next design upgrade. The end user in a production facility could use the augmented reality information along with the data collected by KEPServerEX to achieve a better visual understanding of how their plant is operating or to help train new employees.

Programs created by Vuforia are compatible with multiple operating systems including iOS, Android, tablets and mobile eyewear. It also supports multiple development tools from Eclypse, xCode and Unity. To learn more about Vuforia watch this video.

"As part of PTC, Vuforia will allow developers to realize this potential through integration with PTC's industry leading applications and ThingWorx IoT platform," said Jay Wright, Vice President of Vuforia, Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc.

"PTC continues to pursue a strategy of providing an incredibly innovative technology platform that customers can use to capitalize on the emerging Internet of Things," said Heppelmann. "Because of what IoT is enabling, more and more products are now a mixture of digital and part physical content. So naturally, the ways in which we interact with these products will evolve toward a mixed-reality model that blends physical and digital interactions."

With all of these IoT investments, do you think PTC is moving too fast or spending too much? Is this a risk worth taking given the growth of IoT, or is CEO Jim Heppelmann Playing with Fire? Give your comments below.