Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology provider PTC held its annual LiveWorx 16 IoT conference in Boston last week amid over 4500 attendees. Supply Chain Matters in the person of this industry analyst was invited to once again attend this annual event and walked away with varying impressions regarding the state of IoT adoption and on some shifts among PTC’s ongoing product strategies. Unlike last year’s LiveWorx conference, this year’s audience messaging was much more focused on broader and more succinct strategies and actual technology users seemed to outnumber prospective technology providers looking to cash in on a new wave of technology.

In the opening keynote address referencing the current state of IoT adoption, PTC President and CEO Jim Heppelmann established this year’s conference themes, namely that IoT is the defining technology of our times and that it has the potential, more than any other technology, to enable journeys of business transformation. He cited researcher and scientist Roy Amara and what has since been known as Amara’s Law:

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

Heppelmann went on to describe his ongoing collaboration with Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter in outlining both the immediate and longer-term business impacts of this technology along with current barriers of adoption. We should point out to our readers that Professor Porter is a member of the board of directors at PTC.

The remainder of the opening CEO keynote reinforced in onstage and live software demonstrations somewhat of what we believe is a shift in PTC’s product strategies concerning IoT. There is now for more emphasis on leveraging both augmented and virtual reality technology to IoT and PLM focused applications. Stated was the belief that the combination of AR and VR, aligned with forms of analytics, is game changing to IoT, and is a capability that will differentiate PTC in the broader IoT spectrum.

We learned later that PTC has garnered 700 IoT focused customers, more than half of which have begun migrating from a PLM software installed base perspective. To springboard this journey going forward, PTC has developed a series of business process journey roadmaps for customers addressing both engineering and manufacturing process migration needs. That stated, the vision and journey for IoT must come from higher C-level executive sponsorship and a broader buyer audience.  PTC has adjusted its sales prospecting strategy to target C-level executives via the joint research efforts with Professor Porter.

A second broad keynote focusing on overall platform strategy, anchored by Group President Rob Gremley addressed 30 months of ongoing development and acquisitions that now make-up what was described as a  PTC integrated platform of applications:

  • PTC kepware to support industrial network connectivity.
  • PTC ThingWorx supporting applications and advanced analytics
  • PTC Vuforia Suite supporting augmented reality applications.

Noted was that there are two general paths for enabling IoT, one being the deployment of applications and solutions to business needs, the other being deployment and leveraging of an IoT platform. PTC intends to support both of these needs,

Regarding the latter platform, announced at this conference was a new partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide industrial network infrastructure support for customers. AWS executive Mark Relph noted for the audience that Amazon has been supporting IoT and more complex industrial network needs for quite some time. Further announced was that AWS would be one of four other Cloud platform partners for PTC. At a later senior executive level news conference, I queried Gremley on potential names of the three other network partnerships. They apparently include Microsoft and its Azure platform, SAP and its HANA platform, and perhaps Salesforce. Another mention was that of the potential of General Electric’s Predix industrial platform. Gremley further indicated that PTC will not necessarily cap these network partnerships, that such partnerships will be based on specific customer needs and desires. However, he clarified that network partners are not going to be unlimited.

One obvious takeaway for our readers is this analyst’s impression that PTC has now taken a more open system approach to IoT platform technology deployment, which is good for customers.

As our readers are very aware, data and network security is one of the fundamental concerns related to broader deployment of IoT business process models. Thus we had anticipated that this year’s LiveWorx would feature a keynote addressing this area.  That did not occur for various reasons.

However, we did attend a breakout session titled: Facing the Real Security Challenges of IoT, and delivered by PTC Senior Director Rob Black. By our view, this was a session that should have been featured as a main stage keynote. It was informative and addressed current vulnerabilities in older industrial network data protocols, how IoT Cloud based security is different than standard applications, and what organizations are responsible for information security. Attendees had to walk away much more informed and much more aware of security needs.  By our lens, such sessions need to be incorporated in any and all IoT focused conferences. Teams need to be aware and must be prepared to address the realities of information security. At last fall’s Oracle Open World conference, we were pleased to observe Oracle founder and senior executive Larry Ellison address the need for information security directly in an on-stage keynote.

In Part Two of our Supply Chain Matters LiveWorx attendance commentary, we will some other impressions and takeaways, including highlights of a panel of PTC partners who addressed current IoT customer initiatives and how they are being approached. We found quite a number of learnings from this session that need to be shared.

Bob Ferrari

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