BOSTON–Amid all the hype over the Internet of Things (IoT), CAD/CAM and PLM software developer PTC (Needham, MA) has slowly created an IoT infrastructure that aims to offer manufacturing operations a platform for building the connected future factory. At the LiveWorx 2016 conference held in Boston June 6–9, PTC unveiled an expanded IoT platform with solutions for collecting, aggregating and analyzing the wealth of machine operational data coming from the shop floor.
The LiveWorx 2016 show attracted a record 5000-plus attendees, who saw not only the latest in IoT software developments but were also entertained by the likes of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, hosts of the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” show, and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
PTC’s IoT offering features a mix of data collection and aggregation, predictive analytics, and augmented reality (AR) capabilities that has been gradually built up through a series of key acquisitions, with the company acquiring IoT technology by buying ThingWorx in 2014 and its purchase last year of predictive analytics developer ColdLight and AR technology developer Vuforia.
At the show, PTC introduced an expanded IoT platform as well as its new Vuforia Studio Enterprise tools for authoring and publishing AR experiences, and its new PTC AgileWorx solution for speeding product engineering developments. LiveWorx 2016 featured some of PTCs’ key customers, including heavy-equipment builder Caterpillar Inc. (Peoria, IL) and Flowserve Corp. (Irving, TX), presenting some of the applications they’ve put to practical uses on the manufacturing shop floor.
“Twenty years from now we will look back and say we were part of something of special,” said Jim Heppelmann, PTC president and CEO. “There’s no question that the IoT is one of the biggest game-changers of all time.”
The sharing of IoT data throughout manufacturing between shop-floor systems and enterprise-wide IT systems will greatly impact the industry over time, he added. “This concept completely changes engineering, manufacturing and many other areas,” said Heppelmann, noting the convergence between the physical and digital aspects of manufacturing ultimately creates value. “It’s clear to me that the IoT is evolving.”
Customers like Caterpillar are helping lead the way, said Heppelmann while showing a generator application at CAT that uses the AR and virtual reality (VR) capabilities in Vuforia Studio Enterprise to add a whole new dimension to the shop floor. “It’s not about apps anymore, it’s about experiences,” Heppelmann added. Similarly, a pump application from pump manufacturer Flowserve shows how manufacturers can integrate AR and VR capabilities into a single package, he said.
Originally announced as Project ThingX, Vuforia Studio Enterprise is said to seamlessly integrate PTC’s Creo 3D CAD visualization and illustration software with the ThingWorx IoT platform for users to quickly add augmented reality experiences to connected “things” in the manufacturing enterprise. The AR offering also includes PTC’s VuMark, introduced earlier this year, which the company said is the next-generation barcode that will help users easily add in new elements into their IoT systems.
PTC’s expanded IoT platform incorporates another PTC acquisition with the recent addition this year of communications software technology from Kepware, freeing up the manufacturing customers to concentrate on their core business, said Rob Gremley, PTC group president, Technology Platform Group (TPG). Gremley noted that Kepware’s solutions speak over 150 different industrial languages, or protocols, that are used in manufacturing communications. “We focus on the tough stuff, so you can create solutions,” Gremley said.
Accelerating product developments will be key to creating smart, connected products, and at LiveWorx PTC also unveiled its new AgileWorx solution for speeding product developments. The goal for users of AgileWorx is to speed their development of smart products, accelerating product developments by up to 80% with agile practices.
“The pace of innovation around IoT is simply amazing, with applications in engineering, manufacturing and service,” said Craig Hayman, PTC group president, IoT Solutions Group. “The next step is to understand the data that you have.”
Applications in agile engineering, manufacturing and service will accelerate, Hayman added, noting that within five years 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet and eight billion people. “The relationship between suppliers is changing,” he said, “and agility is the optimized response to those changes.”