PTC’s $500M IoT Investment Sees Big Data Analytics and Third-Party Integration
Shawn Wasserman posted on May 08, 2015 |
Video demos of ColdLight and ThingWorx Converge included!

LiveWorx 2015 Recap

PTC IoT ThingWorx Converge Platform

PTC IoT ThingWorx Converge platform.

At this year’s LiveWorx, PTC attempted to close the Internet of Things (loT) loop with a few big announcements. The first adds Big Data Analytic capabilities to ThingWorx, PTC’s IoT platform, thanks to the acquisition of ColdLight and its predictive analytics platform, Neuron.

Now that your IoT system can predict your customer’s failures, you will want to get the right service technician with the right equipment, training and inventory to their front door. This can be done thanks to PTC’s new partnership with ServiceMax.

PTC also announced ThingWorx Converge to help initiate this seamless integration of ThingWorx, ColdLight, ServiceMax and even third-party software. “Converge integrates business systems as a hub. It was something we stumbled upon while we were integrating our own systems,” joked Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC. A video demo of ThingWorx Converge and ColdLight Neuron are available below.

But this isn’t all a laughing matter; Heppelmann explains that PTC has invested half a billion dollars into their IoT initiative. In fact, $105 million was spent on the ColdLight acquisition alone.

“I think it’s natural that PTC would want to extend their portfolio and not just be an edge technology,” said Alan Atkins, vice president at Wipro Technologies. “They’ve gone with ServiceMax to try and complete the loop, bringing the predictive analytics to service their [users'] clients. It will be a seamless junction. You will have data coming in from ThingWorx, through the analytics, directly into ServiceMax and get the logistics sorted out for the service.”

ColdLight Brings Big Data Analytics to IoT

ColdLight’s predictive analytics platform, Neuron, will attempt to fill in that data analysis gap in PTC’s IoT portfolio. Some of Neuron’s capabilities include failure patterns, correlations, cost constraints and failure predictions. Though predictive analytics isn’t new in industry, connecting it to live IoT data and large databases is unique. This will allow producers to monitor their products while out in the field to allow for future product design improvements and customer maintenance predictions.

Neuron works by identifying the predictively relevant data and then uses data science techniques to make its predictions. It finds the patterns that humans are unable to catch. The decisions of which technique to use is based on which techniques are most likely to yield accurate results.

“ThingWorx provides the kind of data collected via sensors that is incredibly valuable,” said Chris MacDonald, vice president of sales and development at ColdLight. “We believe the true business value is in automated predictive intelligence. Being able to democratize the data science not readily available.”

In the above demo of ColdLight Neuron, MacDonald takes farm moisture data, weather data and two years of historical data from the IoT sensor to predict when to water the crops. Based on back-propagations, decision trees, linear regression and gradients, Neuron is able to take the Big Data and predict the soil moisture with almost 95 percent accuracy. What the app will automatically update and was created in only two days.

“The Internet of Things is growing much faster than people expect,” said Brad Holtz, president of Cyon Research Corporation. “It’s being driven by the needs of the suppliers and manufacturers to understand how their products work in the field. What we are seeing here at LiveWorx is that PTC’s solution set, including ThingWorx, are tools that are designed to make that happen.”

He added, “The role of analytics, and particularly predictive analytics, is absolutely crucial to fill the portfolio to get the value out of a massive amount of data. So we knew they were going to get predictive analytics somewhere along the way.”

It is worth noting that ColdLight Neuron will not replace data scientists. It will bring the data scientist to the people making decisions. ColdLight performs a similar role to COMSOL’s app builder, but instead of bringing an analyst’s multiphysics simulation knowhow to the team, Neuron will democratize predictive analysis. The idea is that everyone from sales, to management, to the production floor will have access to data analytics live. As such, you might wish to have a data scientist to create the IoT predictive analytic apps.

Service Management: PTC and ServiceMax Partnership

PTC announces ServiceMax partnership.

PTC announces ServiceMax partnership.

The partnership between PTC and ServiceMax will allow users to fill the service management role of PTC’s IoT platform.

“Once a trigger is alerted through ThingWorx, an automated error code is taken into ServiceMax to start the service request,” explained Bob Rouleau, product manager at PTC.

He added that ServiceMax will then be able to look into that customer’s contact, contract entitlements, and product information.

Using PTC’s service diagnostics, ServiceMax can then determine the best solution for the customer’s problem. Instructions, tools and parts can then be sent to the closest technician trained in the operation. Once dispatched, the technician can look into the ServiceMax system to review the problem and solution instructions in textual or video format.

“As our customers’ products increasingly become smart and connected, the model for service is fundamentally transforming,” said Heppelmann. “PTC and ServiceMax share a common vision for changing the relationship companies have with their customers by shifting service delivery from reactive to proactive and predictive.”

Integrate Tools into IoT Apps: ThingWorx Converge

PTC ThingWorx Converge capabilities.

PTC ThingWorx Converge capabilities.

ThingWorx Converge connects all the important data connected through the IoT. For instance, everything from third party, PTC partner, and PTC internal software (like Salesforce, ServiceMax, and ColdLight) can become available on one database.

This gives users the power to produce business processes based on everything from distribution, employee’s information, inventory, customers and predictive analysis.

“ThingWorx Converge is an extension of our IoT platform,” said Michael Campbell, executive vice president at PTC. “We’ve recognized that many of our customers are interested in making smart connected products. We’ve extended the ThingWorx platform to provide some of the capabilities we know that they need in order to support the development and employment of smart connected products. It provides integrations with other PTC products and applications as well as a framework to manage the idea of individual products out there like an asset management tool that tracks how a smart connected product is being used.”

ThingWorx Converge contains the main capabilities of ThingWorx, as well as a:

  • Hub for real time product data to enable existing systems and processes
  • Product awareness extension
  • Partner-based ecosystem of apps and integrations into ThingWorx
  • Out-of-the-box capabilities to manage smart connected products

In the demo above, John Maloney, product management director, and Ryan Orwoll, product manager at PTC, walk us through how this IoT data convergence can be used to create a business process manager to:

  • Locate optimal distributors based on inventory location
  • Warn customers of needed maintenance
  • Open or close maintenance record based on equipment sensor data

ThingWorx Converge will be available as an early access release in June 2015 and as a full release by August 2015.

The Merge of PTC Creo and IoT with a Digital Twin

PTC Digital Twin features IoT data on Creo

PTC Digital Twin features IoT data on Creo.

In the same spirit of convergence, PTC announced the Digital Twin, which contextualizes the data off of the IoT.

The data twin allows users to match their IoT data onto their 3D models, marrying Creo and ThingWorx.

For instance, users can map the reactionary forces exposed to their products onto their CAD data. Alternatively, they can also add database information to the twin, such as maintenance history, environmental information, or any other IoT data.

“If there was a digital twin of you, your boss would have one point of view: your employment history, your benefits package. While your doctor would have another view: your heart rate, cholesterol, and other things,” explained Michael Campbell, executive vice president at PTC. “Collectively this would be the digital twin but different people will have different things about it they will care about.”

“As an engineer, when you design a product,” he added, “you get requirements from marketing and you design a product with the specifications to meet those requirements. However, the requirements are idealized. They are what we think will happen in the real world. But we don’t really know how the [product] is used until it gets used. The digital twin provides visibilities into real world conditions and usage that will allow you to better optimize your designs for future products.”

Is PTC’s IoT Ecosystem a One-Stop-Shop?

PTC IoT Platform ThingWorx

PTC IoT Platform ThingWorx.

With the PTC’s goal to merge everything on the cloud, it makes one wonder if the IoT is now “complete.” Is there anything missing from this great ecosystem?

Mark Winther, group vice president at IDC, joked that PTC is becoming a one-stop-shop. “For a company that wants to move into this digital transformation of smart connected things,” he said.
“One question you have to ask is, does this make multi-sourcing less attractive to customers when they can come to PTC and get it all. Or are there other reasons to multi-source, such as with publicly traded companies? So PTC needs to think about how to integrate easily into other vender products and I think they do that by pre-certifying and pre-programed libraries to be integrated easily.”

However, others feel that there are still gaps in the PTC IoT portfolio. For instance, Anthony Moffa, senior manager at Tyco Fire Protection Products noted a lack of reporting tools. “They look at reporting as an aggregate form at the top level, the entire database,” he said. “But when you have hundreds of thousands of customers, you need categorized reports. We are investing in our own tool for reporting. This isn’t something you need to care about when you start with IoT, but after seven years of integration we are at that point.”

Perhaps reporting is something we will see from PTC in the future as they expand their portfolio? It would follow their pattern. However with $500 million already invested, perhaps PTC will put a hold on their expansion for now.

One other thing that was often mentioned at LiveWorx that is lacking in the IoT space are proper industry standards. Industry analysts Keith Robinson and Lavanya Rammohan of Compass explain why PTC and other IoT enablers are dragging their heels on standardization, despite the industry need.

“Standards are lacking in the IoT industry, but no one is agreeing about it,” Robinson said. Rammohan goes further to suggest “it’s hard to make money off of standard protocols. In fact, customers pay specifically for proprietary IoT solutions.”

However, when dealing with cybersecurity and software integrations on the IoT, some semblance of standardization will likely be needed eventually.

ThingWorx 6.0? What’s New?

ThingWorx 6.0 key features.

ThingWorx 6.0 key features.

While at LiveWorx, a new version of PTC’s core IoT platform – ThingWorx – was announced.

“ThingWorx version 6.0 sets new standards in IoT scalability, security and platform extensibility,” said Russ Fadel, president of ThingWorx. “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.”

Some of the new ThingWorx 6.0 features that are of interest to engineers include:

  • Pluggable data store model to integrate data stores
  • High-Volume runtime data store provider for more scalability
  • Productivity enhancements like new mashup styling options and API documentation
  • Security enhancements such as vulnerability protection, FIPS-140-2 compliance and improved certification and encryption

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