• At LiveWorx 2019 PTC used the term Digital Thread to describe how its CAD, product lifecycle management, and IoT/AI/AR products are interconnected, providing a comprehensive end-to-end solution for manufacturers bringing a product to market and remaining connected to the buyer.
• PTC highlighted its AR functionality at the show, a unique capability in the markets where it plays. AR may be on the rise, but in need of a marketing boost; many PTC and partner demos showcased AR use cases.
PTC LiveWorx is always full of interesting presentations, exhibits and demonstrations, not only about PTC products but also about products and services from its key partners and the broader IoT ecosystem, from integrators to operators to technology start-ups. This year was different because rather than treat IoT as a silo, with a focus almost exclusively on ThingWorx and the IoT market at the show, its new positioning is to portray its entire product line from CAD (Creo) to product lifecycle management (Windchill) to ThingWorx IoT, analytics, and AR as connected by a “digital thread” that also aligns with the digital processes that a manufacturer goes through as it designs, manages and connects its products. This way of looking more holistically at its entire product line makes sense as PTC primarily sells IoT capabilities to its own installed base of over 35,000 manufacturers. It also enriched the show with more diverse demos and exhibits. PTC made about ten public announcements at the show, ranging from expanding its alliance with Microsoft to include WIndchill on Azure; winning partner of the year awards from Microsoft and HPE; touting and expanding its alliance with Rockwell Automation for digital transformation; and the launch of new ThingWorx tools that simplify the composition, configuration and deployment of IoT solutions.
PTC noted (in a session for analysts with CEO Jim Heppelmann) updates on a few recent acquisitions and alliances including:
• Acquisition of a 60 person Dutch AR services company called Twnkls (suggesting that the company is now helping customers with AR implementation).
• Acquisition of Factora, an SI partner with experience in Industry 4.0, boosting its capabilities in smart manufacturing.
• A new alliance with Matterport, a company that provides virtual tours for the real estate market, which also lets customers use software along with a 3D camera to visualize spaces such as factories and other facilities and convert the images into a usable 3D AR experience.
• A strategic alliance with Rockwell Automation announced at last year’s show was also discussed in this session, with the disclosure that the two are off to a good start (with 1,000 “conversations” so far with prospective joint customers but only a few dozen solid deals in the pipeline) and training of 1,500 people at Rockwell completed on PTC products.
The second most prominent area of focus at LiveWorx was “The Augmented Workforce” a marketing and positioning boost for AR. While PTC is unique in its ability to leverage its acquisition of Vuforia for not only IoT engagements per se, but for training, sales, and maintenance, it is not clear how many of its customers are using AR yet, due to corporate cultures that prefer on-site training or worries about the expense of HoloLens devices. While AR demos are indeed pretty exciting – taking a virtual tour of a factory or seeing a machine and all of its components remotely from a handset or tablet is a compelling if somewhat dizzying experience – AR is still considered something of a novelty by many manufacturers. PTC is convinced it will be huge and noted that IoT and AR are already one-third of sales so far in 2019.
A few interesting presentations on digital transformation acknowledged worrisome stats such as the fact that only 28% of companies are reaping rewards from digital transformation initiatives. The 72% that are not there yet may be stuck in “pilot purgatory”, and may view the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as too complex, or may be suffering from a skills gap in analytics. Accenture noted that manufacturing companies are still at the beginning of the digital journey, but ultimately connected products will reinvent the industry.
As usual, LiveWorx was a compelling showcase for digital transformation, augmented reality, the IIoT and the Digital Thread that connects both PTC software products and its customers’ manufacturing processes. While there remains skepticism about widespread use of some of these technologies, the overall message was positive, even if we’re not “there” yet was a common theme.