PTC’s LiveWorx 2015: Strategic acquisitions announced at the Boston IoT Party

Revolutionary puns aside, an unseasonably warm and sunny Boston played host to around 2,300 developers and decision makers at PTC’s annual get-together this week, as Alun Lewis reports.

There was a huge expansion in numbers on last year’s 350 attendees and – with an attached exhibition that showed the breadth of the company’s ecosystem – it was an event that drew people from 30 different countries around the globe. For those unable to attend, the event was also being watched live in 91 countries as well, at http://liveworx.thingworx.com.

A series of thought-provoking keynotes from senior executives across the PTC organisation brought the audience up to speed with the company’s recent history of strategic acquisitions such as Axeda and ThingWorx and set the scene for the future with more acquisitions announced at the show. A heavy emphasis was placed on how the 3D data used to design and build products – PTC’s heritage having started in the CAD/CAE space – was now going to tied to data coming in live from the products themselves, creating what the company calls a ‘digital twin’. In this new virtual space, both product development and customer satisfaction could be critically enhanced, linking the real world and the digital world in near real-time.

PTCComplementing this – and supported by a presentation from Harvard Business School guru Michael Porter – was a forensic examination of how enterprises must change their own structures to respond to this data-centric manufacturing model. On one hand, analytics disciplines must include four key functions – descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive. On the other, there’s a need for companies to appoint a chief data officer to manage the growing ‘Data Lake’, fed by numerous information streams and tributaries coming from both inside and outside the corporation. Finally, to pull all this together, the need for greater cross-department synchronisation was explored, with a number of different models proposed. For full details, read September’s Harvard Business Review.

PTC’s business widens and grows

On the commercial side, PTC used the event to announce a number of further acquisitions. Firstly, it released news that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire ColdLight, a big data machine learning and predictive analytics specialist, for approximately US$105 million. ColdLight is intended to serve as PTC’s core data analytics platform across manufacturing, healthcare, media and retail and drive growth across new markets.

Jim Heppelmann
PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann

The challenges ColdLight’s Neuron product will address include detecting failure patterns from data, modelling correlations, predicting failures, prescribing remedies and prioritising recommendations against cost constraints. The platform uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to automatically and continuously learn from data, discover patterns, build validated predictive models and send information to virtually any type of application or technology.

“Our business strategy has been centered on helping companies transform how they create, connect, operate and service products,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC. “Sensor data by itself creates value, but that value is magnified dramatically when companies use predictive analytics to process that data into many forms of actionable knowledge that can transform the way they do business.”

Partnering for service

PTC also used the event to announce a partnership with ServiceMax, a field service management solutions company. The collaboration consists of jointly marketing, selling, and developing integrations between the companies’ respective products, with PTC and its customers gaining access to ServiceMax’s cloud-based field service management, execution, and mobile delivery capabilities.

Upon integration, service organisations will be able to access a complete range of service management applications, consisting of contract entitlements; scheduling and workforce optimisation; inventory management, parts planning, and logistics; contextual-enabled service information; and diagnostics.

“Our mission at ServiceMax has been to empower every field service technician in the world to deliver flawless field service and to enable every organisation to unleash the untapped growth potential of service,” stated Dave Yarnold, CEO, ServiceMax. PTC and ServiceMax intend to target original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with service organisations, third-party service providers, as well as companies with in-house service functions.

ThingWorx reaches version 6.0

News about developments of its own product line came with release of version 6.0 of ThingWorx, its IoT platform for building and deploying enterprise IoT applications. Russ Fadel, president, ThingWorx, commented, “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 maximise availability, compliance with regulatory requirements and performance.”

Specifically, ThingWorx version 6.0 features:

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.

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.

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 add new capabilities for encryption of data in flight and data at rest, enabling users to build and deploy secure IoT applications.

Faster time to market with Converge

Finally, the company also announced its Converge IoT offering for connectivity, device management and rapid application development, extending 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.

Author is Alun Lewis, editor of M2M Now magazine.

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