The real power of ThingWorx comes from its ability to pull data from disparate sources into a single application to gain new insights and drive new actions. Plan how you will integrate and connect to the necessary systems and data sources to achieve your use case.
Before you begin, complete these steps:
The first step: Understand exactly what information you need. Use the initial design of your application to identify the data required for your use case.
Your requirements should include:
Understanding what data you need and why you need it will help you have more effective conversations when you’re trying to determine how your organization will actually go about retrieving that data. The requirements you lay out will likely be negotiated and reworked as those conversations continue. ThingWorx collects data in 2 ways:
When it comes to integration, ThingWorx has a number of integration connectors built in and ready to use but custom-built options could also be needed depending on what kind of integrations are required.
To decide on the best approach for your organization and selected use case, we recommend having a detailed conversation with your solution architect (who has extensive ThingWorx knowledge) and IT and OT experts. Include any others who have deep understanding of the specific data and systems with which you’re trying to connect.
To understand how to gather data from the edge, work with a solution architect and technical subject matter experts. Get understanding and agreement on:
It is critical to your success to create a strong plan for your edge. We recommend working with PTC or an experienced partner to find the best edge strategy for your organization.
There are numerous ways to get product data to your edge agent. To understand your best option, find out if it’s possible to either influence the product design to help you collect data directly, or if you’ll need to rely on using logs, files, or databases to which your product sends data.
Consult with the team responsible for making the product, typically Research and Design (R&D). If R&D is open to incorporating software required for your edge within or on top of the product, decide if it’s more efficient to pull or push the data. Either 1) have the agent pull data from the product through something like a REST API or 2) have the product push data to the agent through a web service.
Decide if your data will be processed at the edge or at the ThingWorx platform, then determine when and how the data will be sent to the platform. PTC recommends processing data and incorporating business logic at the edge, if possible, in addition to these best practices:
An edge agent collects data from products in the field and then sends the required data to the ThingWorx Platform. Customers typically choose from 3 edge agent options:
To choose the edge agent that’s best for your organization, consider:
Customers typically choose from 3 options to decide where the edge agent will live:
Once you know where the agent will live, consider how you will monitor the health of the computer hosing your edge agent. You can do this through Windows or Linux calls to check on things like memory and CPU.
The power of ThingWorx comes from its ability to aggregate disparate data into a single place. Structure that data in a way that your ThingWorx applications can use it. Your data model architecture will be a digital representation of everything that provides data in ThingWorx and the relationships between those things.
Your ThingWorx data model is comprised of these entities:
While ThingWorx allows your data model to evolve, spend time determining how to structure your data early in the project. The best place to start: compile a list of Things required for your use case. From there, start to understand the relationships between those Things.
When planning your data model, meet with the developers who will be building the application in ThingWorx. Create standard naming conventions together. These naming conventions should be consistent throughout your organization. They will help keep the information in the ThingWorx platform clean and easy to find. Changing names of items in ThingWorx as an afterthought is challenging and time consuming, so making these decisions early on is important.
This is just a brief introduction to the ThingWorx data model. Use the recommended resources below to learn more and prepare to design your data model. We recommend working with a system integrator, programmer, or developer with object-oriented programming experience.
You’ve decided what agents you need, where they’ll live, and what functionality they’ll have. Now, determine how your agents will be distributed and connected in the field.
If the agent is part of or tethered to the product itself, we recommend partnering with R&D to have the agent creation and custom configurations, such as serial number, built into the manufacturing process.
If the agent can’t be included in the manufacturing process, consider who will be responsible for the installation—a field technician or the end customer. Provide clear documentation or training to help get the agent properly installed and connected.
To combine data from many disparate sources into a coherent and compatible data model in ThingWorx, understand the current relationships between the data in existing sources. This is critical to understanding if the data will need to be translated, linked, or manipulated to meet the requirements of your ThingWorx application. For example, ERP may have an asset “ABC” defined but that same asset may be defined as “ABC1” in the EAM system.
Now that you know which data sources you need to connect to and how you plan to connect to them, compile this information in a documented integration support strategy. This document will help inform other decisions that need to be made. It will help you make any changes to your infrastructure and create a timeline for your ThingWorx project.
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