Implementing value at the agile edge with PTC

Many organisations struggle to adopt and then effectively use edge technology as part of their IoT strategies. PTC is building on Microsoft technologies to address these challenges

Joe Biron
By Joe Biron on 25 May 2021
Implementing value at the agile edge with PTC

Every successful industrial internet of things (IIoT) program, whether in the plant or connecting to equipment deployed in the field, includes a thoughtful “edge” strategy, requiring decisions around how much of which data, acceptable latency and an approach to distributed computing.  

Implementing the strategy is often constrained by uneven and insufficient capabilities among the fleet of assets being connected and is made worse as product designs change. Then, having constructed the best strategy and using the most thorough forward-looking analysis, changes in underlying technology components make maintenance incredibly difficult, particularly if the edge was developed in-house by a team that is no longer employed or an integration partner whose documentation was not as complete as hoped. 

PTC’s approach to integration with the Microsoft Azure Industrial IoT Platform addresses those concerns for companies managing industrial equipment, in the plant or in the field, particularly those that use programmable logic controllers (PLCs), follow a cloud-first approach and find value in an edge strategy that enables remote upgrading and configuration. 

PTC’s KEPServerEX and ThingWorx Kepware Edge are the industry’s leading industrial connectivity platforms, providing a single source of industrial automation data from the PLC to all other applications and enabling connectivity at the site of the machine, device or sensor. Both solutions communicate directly via OPC Unified Architecture to Microsoft IoT Edge Hub for scale ingest to the Azure Cloud. 

IoT Edge Hub then communicates seamlessly with IoT Hub, connecting to PTC’s analyst-recognised ThingWorx IIoT solutions platform, the wide variety of databases supported by ThingWorx and with the datasets and systems to which ThingWorx easily integrates. With ThingWorx deployed in the cloud, this architecture simply and securely accesses the services native to Azure.   

This architecture using IoT Edge allows for an open edge strategy in which the specific edge design can be defined as circumstances require and as they change and for new features to be built and deployed in brownfield equipment populations. It also enables custom edge development and deployment by the user, the user’s development partners and by Microsoft and PTC, all simultaneously and with little risk around forward migration.  

The deep integration of the PTC and Microsoft technology stacks enables the construction of today’s edge, accepting future modifications and enabling use of the entire Azure services library, along with Azure’s global reach, scale and world-class security. Most importantly, this integration speeds time to first value and minimises total cost of ownership. 

Joe Biron is divisional general manager of IoT at PTC 

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This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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