PTC's industrial IoT platform ThingWorx gets new apps, more AR support

By folding more AR capabilities into its platform, PTC is aiming to keep its edge in a crowded IoT space.

PTC on Tuesday is introducing the latest version of ThingWorx, its Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, with a stronger focus on augmented reality and new apps to deliver fast benefits for customers.

About a year and a half after PTC added AR capabilities to ThingWorx, the platform will now support native authoring and publishing of AR experiences for Microsoft HoloLens. And after success with its first purpose-built application, the platform will support three more role-specific applications for engineering and manufacturing. Additionally, ThingWorx 8 includes new capabilities like cloud support and new service offerings. Unveiled at the LiveWorx17 conference, ThingWorx 8 will be available on June 8.

ThingWorx supports AR via ThingWorx Studio, a codeless authoring environment that lets content creators create AR experiences from existing 3D assets and CAD models. Without writing any code, a user can create an AR dashboard that shows, for instance, physical data on their product or augmented work instructions. Now those experiences will run on HoloLens -- without the weeks or months of work it typically takes to author HoloLens experiences.

ThingWorx was designed to help businesses thrive in IoT, in part by "presenting people with information so they can make better decisions," Mike Campbell, executive VP of ThingWorx, said to ZDNet. "Largely that engagement happens on a desktop. More and more, it's happening with an AR experience."

For AR experiences that are still based on desktop or mobile, ThingWorx Studio has a new feature called 3D Content Touch. It lets users touch a 3D animation to prompt an action (such as touching the handle of a coffee pot to pour it) rather than stepping through buttons on a screen.

By folding AR capabilities into its platform -- after acquiring Vuforia from Qualcomm -- PTC is aiming to keep its edge in a crowded IoT space. Forrester recently evaluated 11 leading vendors in the IoT platform space and named PTC a leader in the market, along with IBM, GE and Microsoft. In 2016, PTC's IoT business grew by 53 percent, Campbell noted, with strong growth in industrial enteprise areas like automotive and high-tech.

Meanwhile, PTC sees its new purpose-built applications -- which can be downloaded for free and deployed in under an hour -- as a way to introduce new customers to the ThingWorx platform. The applications are a "pre-packaged offering that adds value right away... making it easier for people to do their job," Campbell said, while also "exposing people to the technology we have."

The new apps include ThingWorx Controls Advisor, to remotely monitor and troubleshoot machine connectivity; ThingWorx Asset Advisor, for real-time monitoring of physical assets; and ThingWorx Production Advisor, forreal-time visibility and insight into production line performance.

PTC already has one app, ThingWorx Navigate, which has been purchased by 137,000 people after five quarters on the market. About half of those customers, 65,000, have purchased the ThingWorx platform in conjunction with the app.

ThingWorx 8 also comes with deeper cloud support, with integration with AWS and a beta integration with Microsoft Azure. It also comes with improved industrial connectivity, native anomaly detection and the option of getting professional support services.