Arguably the biggest excitement to come out of this year’s LiveWorx event, going on this week in Boston, has been PTC’s announcement of ThingWorx 8, the newest version of its Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform. But one thing that PTC execs have taken pains to make clear: It’s no longer just a platform. In addition to expanded platform capabilities, ThingWorx 8 includes role-specific apps, an ecosystem of partners and customers, more expansive educational programs, and a new collection of service offerings.
But the platform itself has taken on a lot more native functionality, including support for industrial connectivity, deeper cloud support for leading cloud providers, and anomaly detection. “It brings together the acquisitions that we’ve made over the last several years into one platform,” said Kathleen Mitford, executive vice president of product and market strategy for PTC.
PTC has been busy acquiring companies to gain important technologies and capabilities, some of which are key to the latest edition of ThingWorx. ThingWorx itself was acquired back in late 2013, positioning PTC as a major player in the emerging IIoT market. Technology from Axeda, which PTC bought in July 2014, securely connects machines and sensors to the cloud. ColdLight, acquired in May 2015, contributes Big Data machine learning and predictive analytics to the offering.
The most recent acquisition—Kepware Technologies—was completed at the beginning of 2016. ThingWorx 8 is the first time that Kepware has become an integral part of the platform, providing the native support for industrial connectivity, Mitford noted.
Though Kepware technology will continue to be sold separately in the market, the launch of ThingWorx industrial connectivity will make the platform much easier from a functionality standpoint, said Rob Patterson, vice president of strategic marketing for PTC.
Anomaly detection—a result of the ColdLight acquisition—is not new to the ThingWorx platform, but the ease with which it can be deployed is. “We’ve made it very, very easy for any developer to place anomaly detection on a data stream coming into ThingWorx,” Patterson said. “What we’ve done now is made this a simple checkbox, and then that data stream has anomaly detection. We’re able to use some pretty sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to understand the data stream and what that normal heartbeat looks like. Then we channel the anomalies back to users. It builds a model of what that heartbeat looks like for every individual data stream.”
The augmented reality (AR) technology from Vuforia, acquired in late 2015, also plays a significant role in ThingWorx 8. It’s the core of ThingWorx Studio, which now supports native authoring and publishing of AR experiences for Microsoft HoloLens. ThingWorx Studio is a codeless authoring environment that enables content creators to quickly create, deploy and consume AR experiences. With ThingWorx Studio in ThingWorx 8, content creators and developers can use the codeless AR development capabilities of ThingWorx Studio to quickly create experiences for the Microsoft HoloLens.
AR has been a hot topic at LiveWorx this week, with several use cases presented for manufacturing. “We’re one of the top players in the AR game right now,” Patterson said. “It continues to be of great interest for any number of companies.”
An important aspect of ThingWorx moving beyond its core platform capabilities is the introduction of role-based apps for manufacturing, which help companies find value quickly in their IIoT investments. “Our whole goal with apps is to help our customers get to value faster,” Mitford said.
As Howard Heppelmann, divisional general manager for manufacturing solutions at PTC, noted, the apps were built around three roles: the control engineer, plant manager and maintenance engineer. “We look at use cases to see what manufacturers customize,” Mitford explained. “Then we take those common customization areas and build them into high-value apps.”
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 deployed in production in under an hour. The ThingWorx Controls Advisor is for remotely monitoring and troubleshooting machine connectivity; ThingWorx Asset Advisor is aimed at remotely monitoring physical assets in real time, automatically detecting anomalies, and triggering alerts to improve efficiency and quality; ThingWorx Production Advisor provides real-time visibility and insight into production line performance and status.
ThingWorx 8 will be commercially available on June 8. As part of the release, PTC Customer Success has introduced new services, available now, to help companies onboard and rapidly deploy ThingWorx. These services are part of the Customer Success organization’s comprehensive portfolio of advisory, implementation, adoption, support and success management services to accelerate value from ThingWorx.