We were able to meet the ThingWorx team at the 2017 edition of the IoT World in Paris (France, 22-23 March) for a demo of their IoT application development platform, and an update on their latest product news.
Available on the market since 2009, the ThingWorx solution is an integrated development environment intended to simplify and speed up the process for creating IoT solutions. The offer comprises a graphic development platform combined with a library of standard communication protocols and a host of application plugins accessible via a marketplace.
Designed to innovate faster
Fully aware of the difficulties inherent in creating a unique tool that can respond to the diversity of applications in the IoT universe, ThingWorx devised a modular, scalable platform in association with a vast ecosystem of partners, including suppliers of technological building blocks and services (professional services, integration, etc.), able to meet the needs of each industry. The solution proposed by ThingWorx is designed to reduce development time, whatever the IoT market addressed, by facilitating the prototyping process and the transition from the proof of concept stage to that of large-scale deployment.
|Integrated to PTC at the end of 2013, ThingWorx benefits from multiple acquisitions carried out by the group in recent years both in terms of technologies and expertise1. The pre-packaged modules available in the solution cover uses ranging from data acquisition (with, in particular, support for Kepware protocols for the industrial world) to the possibility of integrating, via the Vuforia technology, augmented reality data visualisation on connected devices, thereby facilitating on-site maintenance operations (troubleshooting, real-time measurements, etc.).||
An ambitious player:
In 2016, PTC posted revenues of more than $1 billion.
The IoT activity now accounts for 20% of sales achieved by the group, which aims to become the leader on the IoT platforms market.
ThingWorx opted to provide a development environment in the broadest sense of the term. The platform thus integrates or references all the necessary building blocks (technologies and services) to attain the stated aim, namely, developing an IoT application ten times faster than via a “conventional” approach (i.e. without the help of specialised IoT development tools).
In terms of its business model, PTC Regional Sales Manager Nicolas Delorme distinguishes two different contexts. On the one hand, in the industrial world, where the volumes of data exchanged are potentially huge, ThingWorx offers a price-per-factory rate that covers the software licence of the app generated via the platform, with no limits on the volume of data to process. On the other hand, for distributed or mobile IoT applications, the company authorises its solution to be used via a revenue model based on a per-message-sent pricing system. The cost of the licence also depends on the type of components used in the solution, where ThingWorx offers lots of value-added plugins (cloud, analytics, industrial protocols, etc.) via its marketplace interface.
A market worth €3 billion by 2021
Positioned on a market growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.8 percent and estimated to represent €3 billion by 2021 according to analyst firm Berg Insight, ThingWorx intends to address one of the main difficulties encountered by companies working on IoT projects, i.e. the complexity and necessary development time of a connected application.
But will simplifying this process really be sufficient to ensure that the IoT market will live up to the hype and finally take off?
Finding the right business model for IoT applications
According to Nicolas Delorme, IoT platforms play a major facilitating role for the market deployment of new connected solutions, however, there are still a number of stumbling blocks to overcome, including the key issue of the business model associated with these new applications:
“Many of our customers are still struggling to determine how to effectively monetise their IoT apps. Beyond the solution’s design and development, the problem is finding and validating a business model that will generate income. This is much easier in the industrial world, where the issue is to cut costs and optimise processes.”
Consequently, in order for the Internet of Things to move up a gear, it is vital for enterprises to devise and validate – by their customers – a sustainable business model for their IoT apps. Specialised development platforms like ThingWorx clearly participate in this process. By simplifying the creation of a proof of concept, they allow enterprises to quickly test their connected product/service with their future users and ensure, to a certain extent, the solution’s perceived (and genuinely created) value during the actual use phase.
Ultimately, once the technical difficulties have been surmounted, it is the solution’s acceptance by the market (customers and users) and the efficiency of the associated business model that will determine much of its success. In order to grow, IoT enterprises must overcome a twofold technical and marketing challenge. For the technical part, at least, they can count on the support of latest-generation IoT platforms…