Q&A: PTC Channel Chief Kerry Grimes Details Internet Of Things Opportunities For The Channel

IoT Opportunities For Channel Partners

PTC is diving deeper into the Internet of Things and creating more opportunities for its channel partners with new virtual reality products, according to Worldwide Channel Chief Kerry Grimes.

At its LiveWorx conference last week, PTC announced the availability of Vuforia Studio Enterprise, which promotes augmented experiences for businesses, as part of an expansion of PTC's IoT technology platform. That platform provides a pre-integrated edge ’solution stack’ that collects and aggregates data from sensors, performs predictive analytics for enterprises, and supports augmented reality experiences.

According to Grimes, there are ample opportunities for PTC partners selling CAD (computer aided design) software to hook into the Internet of Things. Following are edited excerpts of CRN's conversation with Grimes.

What has PTC done in the past few years to round out its IoT portfolio?

[When I joined PTC], IoT was just kind of starting, we were just starting our acquisition of IoT companies. ThingWorx was the first we acquired and that happened just a few months after I joined the company. … Then right around the corner we had acquired Axeda, acquired ColdLight for analytics, acquired Kepware for connectivity, and now recently Vuforia for augmented reality.

We're really doing a good job putting all of those pieces together to not just create a platform that we're taking to market through larger companies, but really to augment our portfolio.

How will IoT impact PTC's portfolio overall?

The real news is not just that we have IoT technology, but I believe we'll really re-invent how CAD is used. If you go back early on, there were waves of technology where ERP (enterprise resource planning) came to light and CRM (customer relationship management) systems came to light, and all of this software helped companies improve by automating their processes. But it really didn't change any of their processes. You had CAD software that was there to help people create products, but it didn't really help change the way products were manufactured or how they were manufactured, it just made processes more efficient. The first change then happened in the second wave of IT technology changes, when the internet came. And now changes in distribution occurred. And as those changes occurred, it was very disruptive. So now you have things like Salesforce.com, disruptive technologies that are starting to change the processes.

What about now?

So now, as the third wave of the evolution starts, products are getting smart. But in addition to getting smart, they're getting connected. And so we have those technologies because it's the core of our business to help companies create products. But now, they need to create smart and connected products.

If you look at the product side with CAD, CAD still hasn't changed. We put more bells and whistles on CAD, but it's toward the end of its product life cycle now, and it's very commoditized. The price of CAD is probably a quarter of what it was 20 years ago, it runs on a Windows OS like everything else, and it's very scaled down … and commoditized.

So how will IoT specifically impact CAD?

Now with the whole advent of smart products, we're going to significantly help change how products are thought of. With those first two waves of technology evolution, products were the same… now they are changing. Most CAD companies aren't talking about having libraries of sensor information to help you design a smart connected product. They don't have products like we have with application life cycle [capabilities] that's actually now tracking lines of code you have in certain products. And products are now more complex and integrated.

What opportunities are being opened for PTC's channel partners?

We have a whole series of partners that have sold our CAD products for a long time. What's neat about that is the Vuforia Studio, which I think is going to be a great piece and will change how CAD is used. Now CAD's not just being created to help design products, [they can] close the loop because now products can talk back to us and help people design them better -- but now those same CAD files created for [product] design can be leveraged and used for service in a very creative way using augmented reality.

What's cool to me is that if we were just selling this augmented reality tool to our CAD companies, we'd be reaching our share of the CAD market. But we've made it agnostic to the CAD files it's using, so we're able to sell [Vuforia] to customers who use AutoDesk and Vuforia Studios will work with those CAD files and be able to [provide] the same service experience.

What other opportunities is IoT opening for PTC and its channel?

What's neat about this from a channel perspective is that partners that may have sold [competitor] Autodesk's product, I can now talk to those partners … I'd like to work with partners outside of our ecosystem that sell other CAD products, because now they can leverage Vuforia Studio to their customers… it will help to reignite a CAD product that's been growing in the single digits and give those partners selling CAD and PLM [product lifecycle management] a new path into something different in their customer base. It's a simple hook into IOT for partners today.

Are there opportunities for partners specializing in ERP software?

We have all kinds of partners selling ERP software [from such vendors as Oracle or SAP] that have customers with ERP systems with all this data in it, and [that] can be leveraged into virtual reality venues. Were excited to bring AR [augmented reality] and VR into the enterprise where it hasn't been taken before. This allows us to reinvent [ourselves] as a company, and accelerate to a new level where we're creating new technologies that will help leverage what we have sold in the past to our existing customer base.

How are you enabling partners interested in IoT?

It's exciting. We have an advisory council with our top channel resellers and service providers that are really excited about their businesses because it's a reinvention of CAD, if you will. Now, this gives new vigor to what's happening in the market with CAD. Not just using CAD to design and then change the design. You can leverage the CAD files created in a different way. It's extending the life of CAD to go not just into design, but the use of CAD files can be used for service.

How are you working with other vendors (and their channel partners?)

Cisco is completely open to having us talk to their partners. There's nothing we're actually doing to compete with Cisco [in IoT]. It will sell more security hardware, routers, and infrastructure for IoT. What we have helps them accomplish their objectives for partners selling more. It's a good leverage of the partnership between us and Cisco. We're open to having Cisco partners call us…we can now take them to Vuforia studio, to ThingWorx Mashup Tool -- there's a number of tools that we have that are applicable to Cisco partners, applicable to competitive CAD partners, and to ERP partners.