We are once again in the high point of this spring’s industry conference season and this author finds himself mostly mobile, attending and checking-in on the major important conferences that we believe have context to the broad supply chain management, manufacturing and product management community that represents Supply Chain Matters. Since we are quickly getting backlogged on content, we are going to provide our readers brief summary impressions and takeaways from such conferences to be followed by more detailed and retrospective observations and commentaries in the coming weeks.

We have previous highlighted our impressions of the JDA Software FOCUS 2015 conference held last week in Orlando.  This week, SAP is conducting its annual Sapphire and ASUG customer conference in Orlando and next week, Gartner will be hosting its annual SCM Executive Conference in Phoenix. We are planning to provide commentary related to each.

The Internet of Things is becoming a very hot topic, and this week, we were invited to attend the LiveWorx 2015 conference in Boston, sponsored by PLM, SLM and IoT technology provider PTC.  If you have been following our Supply Chain Matters coverage of PTC, this vendor has been on an acquisition spree directed at gaining market influence in both the Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology enablement segments. In the latter, PTC previously invested a collective sum of $300 million by acquiring providers ThingWorx and Axeda.

LiveWorx 2015 was PTC’s effort in bringing a conference together that had a sole focus on its IoT market strategies moving forward. The topic and the interest levels are high, and PTC managed to attract over 2000 attendees, having to add an additional meeting venue.

LiveWorx 2015 in one respect, reminded this author of the very early days of the vast hype associated with the introduction of RFID technology incorporated within various industry supply chains. My observations at that time, which seem so long ago, reflected on vendor and systems integrators in hyper-ventilation mode, thinking about the vast amounts of money to be made in implementing IoT. And so it seemed with LiveWorx sponsors, presenters and attendees among this community. Also in attendance were companies and service providers trying to figure out what business processes could most benefit from IoT and whether they should consider adoption, but they seemed to be overwhelmed by mostly partner attendees.

Regardless, the takeaway from LiveWorx was the added profound context that was provided in the potential game-changing implications related to industry, product and value-chain competitiveness.   That was articulated by Professor Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School who in his address, demonstrated a perceptive understanding of the impacts IoT will have on many firm’s value-chains, and indeed, how they will compete in the technology wave.  Porter’s message was that it is not a question of whether firms evaluate the impact of IoT on their industry, but rather how long does one wait before the industry is disrupted by those who exploit these strategies.

Returning to our analogy, while RFID had tactical business process connotations, IoT has far broader business related connotations.  While RFID vendors and service providers tended to not want to openly talk about needs for industry standards, bullet-proof security and organizational change management connotations, the IoT community assembled this week in Boston seemed to be willing to be more up-front and proactive in acknowledging such concerns and beginning dialogues and efforts. History has indeed provided important learning, as we noted in our most recent commentary related to RFID.

There were a number of important announcements made in conjunction with LiveWork15. PTC signed a definitive agreement to acquire ColdLight, a termed big data machine learning and predictive analytics technology provider, for approximately $105 million. According to the announcement, the acquisition of Cold Light’s Neuron automated predictive analytics platform will enrich PTC’s IoT technology portfolio. This author had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation delivered by ColdLight’s CEO regarding its capabilities and it certainly has interesting possibilities when applied to IoT.

Another important announcement was ThingWorx Converge™ an application that leverages the ThingWorx® platform for connectivity, device management and rapid application development. This application supports pre-built capabilities for companies who create, operate and service manufactured products as well as application developers and system integrators who deliver solutions. It serves as evidence that PTC wants to be the tools provider, providing its rapidly evolving partner network a more streamlined tool to develop a mass of industry specific applications.

As noted, Supply Chain Matters will feature additional observations related to PTC ThingWorx in the days to come.

Bob Ferrari