Transforming Potential in Performance

PTC's LiveWorx 2019


PTC brings smart connected products to smart connected people.


Innovation to Value

LiveWorx 2019 featured dramatic and important themes — a cornucopia of powerful yet practical technology and ideas — that energized attendees and empowered them with the tools to innovate across the Innovation to Value Lifecycle.

Innovation at the Intersection — Jim Heppelmann Keynote

Source: Image by ChainLink Research

Transforming potential into energy — actual work — was the theme of PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann’s keynote address.

Today we need to innovate at a more rapid pace. In order to do that, we need to break down the barriers — lack of connectivity, lack of capturing human expertise, lack of awareness — then have the ability to blend all the resources — information, people and things. Breaking these barriers and bringing reality into focus — making it tactile — allows us to create new, innovative products and services.

That innovation, Jim said, happens at the intersection: “Marrying digital and the physical (machines), which is IoT — allows us to have — vastly more productive machines. That is what we mean by smart connected products … And when we marry digital with the human, which is Augmented Reality (AR), we get vastly more productive workers … That’s what we mean by smart connected people.”

“When we intersect the big ideas of smart connected people to smart connected products we get smart connected processes, which allows the biggest innovations of all.”

An important concept Jim focused on was that of the Digital Thread. As the name implies, this is the digital information created and used in one application that can weave its way across the information/value chain and be used by other applications, as well as adding new information and learning to constantly increase that information, and, ultimately, knowledge.

For example, Generative Design, which is AI-backed CAD, can assist engineers with design alternatives. When end-to-end platforms with IoT are connected to field-service data, they have a lot more information to assist engineers in understanding products in use. That, in turn, enables engineers to design the next product to ensure better use or to create an important new innovation.

Then there is the deceptively simple task of identifying objects. Deep learning on CAD models allows AR to identify new objects by pulling all the CAD information that might help identify them. Why would you need to identify objects? For example, how can you service a product if you don’t know what it is? How can you engineer a handcrafted model and create a product out of it? How can you digitalize an objective and add it to a document, a design, an instruction, unless you know what it is?1

Source: Image by PTC

One of the most powerful game-changing innovations is Expert Capture, one of the ways in which we make those smart connected people by codifying the knowledge of experience and expertise. This leverages AR and other digital information such as product standards, designs, purchase orders and any number of documents that might get used in a task, and leaps over traditional authoring tools to create rich and much more accurate training how-tos, capturing workers’ knowledge and muscle memory.2 Anyone who has ever tried to do this manually and/or with authoring tools knows that either the job never gets done, or it gets done inaccurately and incompletely. It usually is difficult for users to follow, and it takes a lot of time that workers generally don’t have. (And everyone knows that it’s out of date before you know it!3)

We did a research project by just identifying the various documents by role, by department/function, and by micro-verticals. The amount of documentation that is often passed from person to person to add, amend, or sign-off on was a bit overwhelming. It would truly increase productivity and understanding to make those documents available in training or have the expert’s commentary accompany the documents to explain to the recipients what to look for and how to understand the issues and nuances.

Expert Capture’s use of AR can use spatial coordinates and visualize the tools and objectives (which also can be identified through AI + CAD) with the expert’s visuals and voice.

As Jim pithily stated, “As IoT is for things, AR is for people.” Think about that!

Jim also had a much richer concept of Digital Twins than most people talk about. He used the analogy of human twins who have the same DNA — that is their starting point in life (the genotype). But as they go through life, their experiences are different — their phenotype. (Each twin’s phenotype would be different). The Digital Twin represents a thing virtually. It is a proxy, a mirror image of reality. With AR added to the mix, it is not just a static representation — you can see the thing in its actual environment and continue to capture information about the thing: its use in action.

From Enterprise to Inter-enterprise Foundation — PTC Today

In 2013, which seems an epoch ago, PTC acquired a few IoT companies. Many traditional customers wondered why. But today, it all seems so clear and essential. Going beyond a collection of interesting products in a portfolio, PTC has created an enterprise solution that covers the Innovation to Value Lifecycle.

And now they have taken that next step with AR. After having seen this a few times in action — not just demos by techies, but in real-life work environments — the utility and power of it becomes clear. As machines do more rote work, and at the same time we have access to more information and technology, we are able to do more. But with that, people’s work gets a lot more complicated. That makes it harder to teach someone how to do something or mentor someone on the best way to do something.

At the same time, we have a widening talent gap — not only is there a current shortage of engineers and other highly skilled professionals, the more mature of us are retiring en masse. Moreover, it looks like, often, there are no formal knowledge transfer/succession-planning programs in place. Even with them, the effort of writing down/documenting what you do is tedious at best.

When we intersect the big ideas of smart connected people to smart connected products we get smart connected processes, which allows the biggest innovations of all!

Jim Heppelmann

With this observation we predict that the AR market will grow a lot faster than was originally forecasted.4 PTC has taken the most mature and complete position in this market with a deep set of applications and growing use cases and a growing realization at all levels of industrial segments that some game-changing approaches are going to be needed to deal with the talent gap and any other potential crises.

PTC has created a foundation — one platform — that leverages a rich digital twin across the digital thread creating an end-to-end experience in which innovations can be created and, most importantly, shared, expanded, and acted upon. This is the Innovation to Value Lifecycle in action.

Jim went on to add, “This is what real digital transformation should be all about.” There are many who wax on about digital transformation, but Jim asserted, “I aspire to be the first person who takes this abstract and ambiguous notion of digital transformation and makes it tangle and actionable … ” What a relief — from abstract babbling to real and actionable!

For more on LiveWorx:


1 Think of identifying objects as a service that can be used by any number of applications. — Return to article text above
2 Vuforia Expert Capture Return to article text above
3 Even if you don’t need to do this on your job, you can understand how useful this is. What consumer today doesn’t consult the how-to videos online to decide what product to use, how to assemble the new stuff they bought, and how to use and repair it? Expert Capture takes that next step and captures information while the worker is doing the job, so even the things that expert no longer consciously thinks about get recorded. — Return to article text above
4 March issue of the brief, AR article. — Return to article text above

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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