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Device market disruptors

AR, VR, smart speakers and AI chips are part of the digital transformation story

New technologies have driven growth in the consumer device market. Smart speakers are ubiquitous, and adoption of these devices has grown faster than for any new product since smartphones. AR and VR adoption is growing more slowly but the technology is important in entertainment and gaming. Most new smartphones include specialized AI chips. TBR believes all of these technologies are beginning to affect the enterprise and that their influence is growing. Join Ezra Gottheil as he discusses how these new technologies are playing an evolving and growing role in the commercial market.

  Don’t miss:

  • How the conversational interface of smart speakers will drive data utilization          
  • How AR and VR will improve training and performance
  • How new AI chips will spread machine learning in business

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

PTC’s innovative outlook, robust solution toolbox, and legacy in CAD and PLM make it a valuable IoT partner

Strategic findings

Shift in focus to AR/VR

In our 2018 LiveWorx EP we suggested a shift from an emphasis on PTC’s ThingWorx IoT platform to PTC being more vocal about Vuforia, its AR/VR solution, and its wider product portfolio. TBR believes that shift has continued with much of the messaging centered on the business implications of augmented reality as well as how its entire product base works in symphony, and less focus on ThingWorx as its tip of the spear into digital transformation.

This shift makes sense. The IoT platform space is saturated with established vendors, along with several smaller entrants, offering some shape of IoT platform. PTC has the key components for an IoT platform, but so do others, including the giants Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Google, and OT stalwarts such as Bosch and Siemens. It is hard for PTC to stand out by messaging its IoT platform alone, despite a robust offering, as the IoT platform market is busy. TBR believes the shift could also indicate IoT is not growing quite as fast as PTC hoped.

Instead, PTC has increased its messaging around AR/VR. TBR believes PTC is positioning AR as a new differentiated niche to bring customers into its wider ecosystem, positioning it as a “wow” factor and distinct from peers’ offerings, as well as enhancing the value of other products such as Creo, Windchill, and ThingWorx. Based on the compelling presentations, messaging, and customer lineup using Vuforia, TBR believes PTC has a competitive AR/VR product.

PTC’s pitch is that AR helps customers add the human element to an IoT solution — instead of getting insight from dashboards in the board room, insight is delivered in real time on the factory floor. Conversely, in PTC’s view, AR/VR helps feed data into the IoT solution. Information around what workers see, such as a fire, a faulty part, parts that need to be replaced as well as unsafe conditions, can be fed into a centralized IoT platform, much like a sensor inside a machine. Ultimately, PTC seeks to “decorate” the industrial world with real-time information, and extend the value of IoT data through AR. It remains to be seen how well AR contributes to feeding data into an IoT solution. TBR believes AR is not there yet, but believes PTC did a good job of showing how AR can provide an actionable UI and lead an IoT solution to be more operationally effective.

Key outcomes PTC messages around AR/VR include reducing complexity by allowing workers to always have information on parts and machines; ensuring quality control and compliance using step-by-step checklists; and improving efficiency through gamification. It also offers a drastic reduction in training time as the Vuforia Expert Capture (formerly Vuforia Waypoint) solution allows expert employees to transition knowledge to novice workers or a machine or solution vendor to train a new customers’ IT or OT team.

PTC has a lineup of customers leveraging its Vuforia technology as proof points. Customers seem to adopt in two ways: by leveraging PTC’s polished tools Vuforia Expert Capture and Vuforia Studio, such as Howden and Aggreko, or by building upon PTC’s foundation, such as Fujitsu and Caterpillar, which are leveraging Vuforia Engine to build a proprietary solution.

How well Vuforia is performing monetarily is still questionable to TBR. TBR expects many Vuforia customers are in the pilot and proof-of-concept stages, which could indicate Vuforia is not yet being fully monetized while in multiple trials. However, in speaking about PTC’s strategic partnership with Rockwell Automation, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann noted 40% of Rockwell Automation’s IoT wins have included AR with joint customers particularly interested in Vuforia Expert Capture. According to Heppelmann, Vuforia contributes 7% of PTC’s current software revenue, a respectable amount compared to its larger legacy PLM and CAD businesses, with growth of 80% year-to-year (TBR expects from a very small base). He also noted the AR-IoT combo is a core growth business for the company and expects the combination to contribute one-third of its sales moving forward, with continued growth of nearly 40% year-to-year.    

An interesting thread we have not seen PTC talk about, publicly or privately, is offshoots of Vuforia to the consumer market and leveraging Vuforia Expert Capture for consumer self-help applications, e.g., instead of a YouTube video on how to tie a complicated knot, a VR experience guiding people on how to tie a knot could be more impactful. This could be expanded to cooking guides, exercise guides, or sewing guides as examples within a huge pool of opportunity. Microsoft and the HoloLens team could be a good partner for these applications, such as leveraging the Xbox install base to reach consumers (if Microsoft is not already moving in this direction alone), and could help foster a content creator network. It could also be leveraged by consumer-focused businesses to educate its end customers, such as sporting goods company Coleman delivering a VR walkthrough of setting up a tent.   

Cost of ‘intelligent connectivity’ must decline significantly for intelligent world to unfold

TBR perspective

Realizing the intelligent world presented by the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019 (MWC19) will require a fundamental change in how networks are architected, including a radical reduction in the cost of providing connectivity. It will also require business transformation for companies tied to the old world, namely communications service providers (CSPs) and their incumbent vendors.

It was readily apparent at the event that technology is advancing at a much faster pace than the establishment of business cases that economically justify deployment of the technology. The reality for the mobile industry is that the cost of building, owning and operating networks is too high and networks are too inflexible to support the business realities of the digital era, whereby connectivity is relegated to a commodity service and the value lies in the platforms and applications that run over the network. The industry has known this for years, but changes have been minimal, until maybe now.

The entrance of Rakuten to the mobile industry could be a game changer and provides a glimpse into what a digital service provider will look like. In what could arguably be the most important takeaway from the entire event, Rakuten’s approach to building and operating a network could signify a paradigm shift in the industry. Not only will Rakuten’s network be agile, flexible and dynamic to provide digital services, it will also enable a dramatic reduction in the cost of connectivity.

The theme of MWC19 was “intelligent connectivity” and centered on how 5G, IoT, AI and big data are coming together to enable the intelligent world. Against this backdrop, Rakuten stole the show with the evangelization of its end-to-end virtualized and cloud-native network, which is being deployed across Japan this year. Rakuten’s network provides a glimpse into what the intelligent network of the future will look like.

The makings of the telecom edge compute market

Insights from TBR’s 2Q19 Telecom Edge Compute Market Landscape

Edge compute will be required to enable and support new use cases of the network, such as augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) and autonomous transportation, as well as will provide significant benefits, such as cost savings, for communication service providers (CSP). The build-out of these edge compute environments will create opportunities for the vendor ecosystem. Join Telecom Principal Analyst Chris Antlitz for an in-depth review of TBR’s first edition of the Telecom Edge Compute Market Landscape.

Don’t miss:

  • The key reasons CSPs will build out edge compute environments
  • How much CSPs will invest to build out edge compute environments
  • Which vendors are likely to outperform in this nascent market

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

It’s time to stop calling IoT a technology

Yes, we all do it. Every analyst, vendor and customer has referred to Internet of Things (IoT) as a technology. I have done it countless times, and so have my extremely talented and informed peers. However, it’s a misnomer, a shortcut, and a cop out, and if we actually think of IoT as a technology, it’s ultimately harmful to the adoption of IoT. IoT is actually a technique for solving business problems using a combination of technology components and services, rather than a technology in and of itself.

No one vendor does IoT alone ― it’s not a deliverable, self-contained technology solution. Rather, it often involves a “leader” company, generally a consulting company or an ISV, assembling a solution sourced from software, services and hardware components from partner companies. My colleague Ezra Gottheil likes to use a construction analogy. A general contractor will shop at Home Depot (the wide and increasingly saturated IoT marketplace) for all the components he or she needs to build a structure. The general contractor will also hire subcontractors (partners and specialized vertical ISVs) who have certain expertise. Even as we move closer to prepackaged IoT or shrink-wrapped solutions, multiple vendors will continue to be involved in delivery.

Some of these components can be grouped into the “new technology” bucket. As TBR closely monitors use cases and fills our use-case database, which currently has more than 360 entries, IoT projects are increasingly linked with augmented reality/virtual reality, blockchain and analytics. All of these new components, including IoT, are enhanced when used in cohesion.

But many of the components, such as servers, routers, mobile devices, sensors, connectivity, IT services and business consulting, have existed for decades. IoT is a new shiny label slapped on a technique IT companies have been using for decades: pulling together IT components to build solutions and help customers achieve their goals.

TBR believes when a vendor tells a customer “you should adopt this new transformational technology,” it is usually met with eye-rolling. IoT is no different. As soon as the “new technology” discussion comes to the table, customers instinctively rock back on their heels. It sounds like a large and long-lasting commitment, which leads to rip-and-replace cost fears, technology lock-in consternation due to a rapidly evolving market, and a general lack of understanding about the benefits.

TBR believes vendors should change the message. Begin with discovering what a customer’s business problems are, then suggest using the technique of IoT to begin strategically solving them in a stepwise manner. It’s not a rip-and-replace approach; it’s seeing where improvements can be gradually made to increase connectivity throughout an organization and ultimately deliver improved insight. It might mean adding sensors to legacy equipment, using IoT components and new analytic tools to tie together legacy data and create new insight, or implementing tangential technologies such as blockchain to better inform customers on their supply chain. Eventually, it could mean all of these combined.

At a recent vendor event, the CEO of a Boston-based IoT solution vendor asserted that IoT is now passe. True customer evolution, including problem solving comes from the bigger picture ― using the technique of IoT, tangential technologies, and internal and external data sources to supercharge efficiency and gain insight.

IoT as a technology is a lazy oversimplification. Let’s start messaging how the technique of IoT ―a new way of thinking about and applying technology ― can help solve current business challenges in an agile and cost-effective manner.