The Frontier of Innovation - Where the Physical and Digital Converge




For centuries the Ying Yang concept has been used to describe two opposite yet complementary forces that are both required to create a whole picture. Just as night needs day and hot needs cold, one piece cannot exist without the other. Today, this balance of complementary and interconnected forces also applies to the physical and digital things in the world. The critical insight for businesses is that the point of convergence between the physical and digital is now the frontier of innovation – i.e. how leading companies compete and win.

For example, the world’s largest digital companies like Google and Amazon move to create physical products and acquire physical retailers, while the world’s largest industrial companies like GE and ABB are reinventing themselves as digital companies and developing software solutions. Existing businesses are being disrupted and surprising new markets are being created through the innovative possibilities that are being unleashed.

For PTC, this relationship between physical and digital starts with its heritage in defining the digital definition (CAD) and lifecycle (PLM) of physical things. Today, that heritage of innovation is extended with the IoT, which brings data about those physical things to be stored and analyzed, and AR that superimposes that digital information back onto the physical things.

Informing the Digital World

IoT captures real-time information from sensors and control systems in the physical world and transports it to the digital world where it can be consumed, analyzed, and used to better inform the digital twin of the product. The rise of IoT created a bridge between the physical and digital, but created different experiences. Consider a car’s GPS system. The dashboard delivers digital information about the car’s location and driving directions, but that is separate from the view through the windshield of the physical world in which the car operates.

Augmenting the Physical World

AR serves as the perfect counterweight to IoT by taking the real-time information generated by the things in the physical world and transposing those insights directly back on the physical thing, enabling humans to intuitively interact with both simultaneously. For example, head-up displays in cars are allowing drivers to consume the digital information, traditionally displayed through dashboard GPS systems, directly in their field of view, eliminating the need for discrete experiences and creating a true convergence between the physical and digital worlds.

The convergence of the physical and digital worlds will have massive implication for all industries and the very nature of the companies themselves. Over the past year, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann presented a number of keynote addresses explaining the impact of the coming physical digital convergence.

LiveWorx 2017

LiveWorx is the premier global technology conference and marketplace for solutions engineered for a smart, connected world, hosted by PTC. Over 5,000 technology innovators and business decision makers converged on Boston to learn and hear from top technology innovators and thought leaders. In his keynote at LiveWorx17, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann demonstrated how close physical objects and their digital twins have become thanks to IoT and how AR is bringing the digital twin to life in the physical world. The keynote explores how Bosch Rexroth is leveraging PTC’s IoT and AR technologies across the entire value chain from engineering to after-sales service.

AWE 2017

Augmented World Expo (AWE) is the world's largest augmented reality and virtual reality event hosted each year in Santa Clara, Calif. With 5,000 attendees, over 350 speakers, and over 200 exhibitors, AWE showcased how AR is currently impacting the world and set the stage for AR innovation for many years to come. In his keynote, Jim outlined IoT and AR’s impact on the convergence of physical and digital worlds. Jim highlighted problems associated with maintaining bifurcated physical and digital experiences and explored a new framework of roadmap questions companies need to be aware of when developing and deploying AR experiences.

The Digital Factory

The Digital Factory, an event held at the MIT Media Lab, brought together manufacturing experts to explore the ways digital technologies like IoT, AR, and 3D printing are transforming the way products are designed and created. In his keynote, Jim outlined how the current landscape of manufacturing automation technologies (i.e. PLC, MES, SCADA) is highly complex and provides limited visibility in to the true operational performance of a factory. This can lead to costly unplanned downtime and reactive maintenance. These new physical digital convergence technologies, will, for the first time, enable true real-time visibility into the performance of the factory.