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Today, PTC kicked off their PTCLive event here in Boston, and Aberdeen Group’s Manufacturing Practice analysts were in attendance. This morning’s keynote delivered by CEO James Heppelmann offered insight into PTC’s focus on helping manufacturers evolve and connect to the Internet of Things (which is really a euphemism for the effort they’re making to drag companies kicking and screaming into the connected age.) The content of Heppelmann’s keynote left me with three takeaways to share with our manufacturing readers:

 1.   The Internet of Things is not new.

PTC is takes great strides to align their brand with the Internet of Things, but why the heck would a PLM company care? At its core, the Internet of Things is simply a parallel course in connected things – but it is not a new concept.  Companies have been working through challenges related to the connected enterprise for a decade at least.  I was personally involved in GPS connected harvesters 15 years ago that worked. This morning’s IoT demo by Russ Fadel, President of ThingWorx, on manufacturing and mine equipment management looked just like a demo I saw from Wonderware in 1992.  The truth is, the technology and infrastructure has always been there, but not at a viable economic point to scale it to the possibilities introduced by the internet. While the IoT in theory is not new, the manufacturing industry is at a transformational inflection point – one that PTC is taking advantage of. 

2.   Manufacturers continue to struggle with systems engineering.

Most traditional manufacturing companies struggle with software development.  Specifically, they face challenges managing their products as a system. The catch is that Leading companies are 50% more likely than their peers to credit their success to effective systems engineering. Read more in the Aberdeen Group report, “The Strategic Role of Systems Engineering: Ensure the Future Success of Your Products” (August, 2012). We also have recently published systems engineering best practices. See “The Systems Engineering Closed Loop Process: The Key for Validation” (April, 2014).

Today’s event proves that PTC wants to provide the tools needed to manage the struggle with software development, but the big takeaway is that they intend to school their customers on what it means to be a system developer, not just a metal bender. Another theme heard loud and clear today was a focus on service. Once you tie these together, Voila! You have the internet of your things. Add the late-2013 ThingWorx acquisition to help develop the applications and software platforms to manage said things and you can see clearly the vision to build a commercial platform for the Internet of Things.

3.   From systems engineering to service, IoT (or whatever you call it) is inevitable.

Personally, I wish this moniker of “Internet of Things” wasn’t so prevalent. To me, it’s just another buzzword that is easily overblown and misunderstood. Other companies like Dassault and Siemens, for example, have similar tools for system and software development. The difference is that these organizations have yet to market them in one thread that ties it together, and all under the umbrella of Internet of Things. Today’s keynote demonstrated a focus from PTC on service that is an especially unique addition to the storyline.

For manufacturers, the IoT is starting to encompass everything in our traditional wheelhouse, forcing companies to re-consider business as usual. Regardless of whether we call it the Internet of Things or not, IoT is coming or has already come to you.

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