Internet of Things (IoT)

ThingWorx 8.5 Simplifies Multi-Site Deployment of IIoT Solutions

26 Sep, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

Latest version of PTC’s industrial IoT (IIoT) platform also features tighter integration with Microsoft Azure cloud computing services.

In June, during the LiveWorx conference, PTC announced version 8.5 of its ThingWorx industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform. This week, ThingWorx 8.5 was released, and PTC touted its new and enhanced capabilities including enhanced integration with Microsoft Azure IoT and tools to simplify the configuration and deployment of applications.

In a webinar introducing the new version, Joseph Biron, chief technology officer, Internet of Things (IoT) technology at PTC, highlighted the following areas of advancement:

  • Enhanced pre-built functionality for industrial operations
  • Expanded connectivity to IT systems and Microsoft cloud services, including Microsoft Azure IoT Hub (a cloud platform that helps users connect, monitor, provision, and configure IoT devices)
  • Modernized usability and design, including updates to the widgets on ThingWorx Mashup pages “with a mind toward future interoperability with the latest emerging web trends,” Biron said.
  • Enterprise management “to help you manage your solution with complex deployments across your enterprise,” he explained.

Drilling down into the new features and enhancements, Biron touched on a variety of highlights, including the following.

Production Advisor features a new ability to create key performance indicators (KPIs) “that understand work order status and the work team — your operator’s team schedule. This is critical for capturing KPIs so you can manage your production process, and very important in the context of industrial IoT and industrial operations,” Biron explained.

With Asset Advisor, users now can create flexible hierarchies and groupings “so that you can see your assets and your fleet in the way that makes the most sense for your team,” Biron said. This ability is important, he explained, because “with Asset Advisor, a fundamental use of IoT is to manage fleets of assets, and those fleets are organized in arbitrary ways depending on how you manage your business.”

The Software Content Management feature “allows you to create packages of content that would be sent to your assets — to the products in the field,” Biron said. That content could be software updates for code or for firmware that runs on the product, or possibly calibration profiles, said Biron. With the 8.5 update, these capabilities — long supported through a native protocol built into ThingWorx — are now available to customers using Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Edge. “It’s very, very exciting — it allows you to take advantage of the powerful cloud technologies from Microsoft with state-of-the-art, best-in-class security, scalability, and manageability through Azure IoT Edge,” Biron enthused.

Operator Advisor was originally introduced into ThingWorx brand “in order to give functional use cases for the folks who are on the operational floor … the folks who are doing the work,” Biron said. Now, it can provide work instructions in the context of the IoT data.“It’s very, very powerful and useful for the operators of the machinery, so they can see what they need to do, how it’s affecting the machinery, how the work is progressing, and it gives them a full 360-degree view of what they’re doing,” he explained.

ThingWorx Flow, a visual environment that helps users understand flows of information and create flow templates, was first launched earlier this year. “Since then, the response has been incredible,” Biron reported. Flow is a great way to connect to IT systems, OT systems, and orchestrate the events from IoT data in collaboration with those systems, he said. In 8.5, “we’ve updated Flow with connectors that allow us to invoke very interesting services from Microsoft Azure” including Azure functions, logic apps, and serverless computing functions, he continued.

Solution Central, which Biron termed “a giant piece of innovation,” enables users to create, test, and deploy IIoT solutions across multiple sites and environments, such as factories in different locations. “The reality is, you may have dozens or hundreds of such solution implementations,” said Biron. “You can configure your projects, package up their dependencies and artifacts, create a deployment of your solution, publish that to Solution Central, which runs as a pure [software as a service], running in the PTC cloud.” Then users can publish solution packages to different on-premise locations.

Solution Central also speaks to a trend, Biron said: “digital transformation initiatives, sponsored by your enterprises, are requiring you to be more expansive in the way you think about your IIoT footprint and more professional in the way you manage those deployments.”

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