The vast majority of manufacturers know about the potential benefits of adding Internet of Things (IoT) technology to their production lines and facilities, but finding the right scalable, timely, and cost-effective solution still can be challenging.

Even if you have IoT devices with cutting-edge capabilities, their ability to produce the outcomes you want, from collecting in-depth data to getting better productivity out of existing equipment, will be hampered if a solution’s hardware and software aren’t working together smoothly.

An end-to-end platform that optimizes hardware and software integration, in addition to easily managing data flow and communicating with devices and other systems is vital. The ThingWorx for Microsoft Azure platform from PTC is designed to do that for industrial IoT users while also reducing barriers that can slow down a company’s return on investment and deployment of a solution.

Advantages of joint ThingWorx, Azure IoT solutions

ThingWorx, named by IDC as a top industrial IoT platform, combines robust Azure IoT products and services with PTC’s deep industry expertise and innovation. ThingWorx has advanced development tools and templates for building custom apps that focus specifically on manufacturing uses. Its prebuilt applications include ThingWorx Navigate, Manufacturing Apps, and Asset Advisor. ThingWorx, in conjunction with Microsoft HoloLens, also provides industrial augmented- and mixed-reality capabilities that can provide highly visual, interactive information in the context of the physical environment.

The ThingWorx Azure IoT Hub Connector supports Azure IoT Edge devices, as well as IoT devices that connect to Azure IoT Hub, ensuring a seamless experience between the two. Together, ThingWorx and Azure can help manufacturers and companies in related industrial sectors simply IoT adoption and move toward industry 4.0 by addressing some key challenges that fact companies starting their IoT journey:

Comprehensive connectivity

The ThingWorx Industrial Connectivity is an industry-leading connectivity solution that provides a single source of industrial automation data across applications. This platform design enables users to connect, manage, monitor, and control diverse devices and software applications through one central, intuitive interface. When paired with Azure IoT Hub, ThingWorx can transfer data—including real-time telemetry—to and from the Azure cloud, where extensive analysis and machine learning can allow customers to predict trends and potential problems. That’s in addition to advanced analytics features from ThingWorx that can turn connectivity and workflow data into actionable insights.

Scalability and flexibility

ThingWorx and Azure jointly bring greater extensibility across edge and cloud technologies, with a wide range of IoT devices and services that can be deployed at an enterprise-grade scale. They also can provide horizontal scalability by adding instances of the ThingWorx Azure IoT Hub Connector and setting up partitions on each Azure IoT Hub to handle increased loads and redundancy. Additionally, ThingWorx and Azure support operations and processing with on-premise, edge, cloud, or hybrid approaches, with flexibility to shift as a customer’s demands change.

Implementation costs

Using ThingWorx and Azure for an end-to-end solution saves time compared to designing and assembling a fully customized IoT solution. Additionally, after initial deployment, using joint engineering, manufacturing, and service solutions that require less maintenance reduces the total cost of ownership. Both PTC and Microsoft have growing networks of partners that can provide specific solutions for a wide range of use cases in the manufacturing and industrial sectors.

Time to deployment

By removing technical barriers and emphasizing practical solutions that work in the real world, ThingWorx can help an IoT solution deliver value quickly. Similarly, the Azure IoT family of products and services are designed to help solution builders accelerate development. With ready-to-configure building blocks that simplify building, managing, and maintaining a solution, ThingWorx and Azure allow for faster time to deployment with minimal risk.

Data security and privacy

While technically not a barrier to adoption, security and data privacy are universal concerns with IoT technology, especially for sensitive manufacturing and industrial settings. The ThingWorx Security Management Tool manages secure information, and the platform offers secure connection tools between individual devices and the cloud. At the same time, Azure includes a robust set of best-in-class security tools, including Azure Sphere, a turnkey solution providing protection for both newly built and brownfield devices. Azure also offers multiple layers of defense and continuous device security monitoring.

Solutions in action to improve safety, efficiency

The combined capabilities of the ThingWorx and Azure platforms are being put to the test every day at sites around the world. A water treatment plant provides an ideal, critical example of what they can do together to maintain efficient, safe operations.

Azure IoT Hub and ThingWorx power role-based dashboards to give plant employees specific, real-time information about important assets. These include compressors that convert low-pressure gas and liquid to high pressure gases, often handling toxic or explosive gases in the process. Plant workers can view each of these compressors individually, with ThingWorx analytics providing predictive information about leaks or other problems. To arrive at such predictions, Its analytic models review past data for pressure, flow, speed, and power to predict what may go wrong.

If a potential problem is found, the joint ThingWorx and Azure platform can create a service ticket to dispatch a technician with the information needed for a preventative fix. Responding technicians can use augmented- or mixed-reality technology from ThingWorx and Microsoft can provide repair information in front of a technician’s eyes, improving the first-time fix rates. In the meantime, ThingWorx can automatically adjust load balancing between other compressors to allow for the fix without downtime.

Information collected, analyzed, and distributed by ThingWorx and Azure also can allow plant managers to see both individual and operational overviews. With that, they can see how even the smallest problems affect key performance indicators across the plant.

Learn more about ThingWorx and Azure

Building an effective, value-producing IoT solution requires decision-makers at manufacturing and industrial companies to venture into technology that often is out of their expertise. PTC’s ThingWorx platform, Azure IoT, and their combined ecosystem of partners can provide the knowledge necessary to navigate around potential barriers and create the right solution.

The ThingWorx platform and Azure IoT are successfully working for other manufacturers. Learn more today how these joint solutions are delivering operational efficiencies, lower costs, improved product quality, and more for manufacturing customers or talk to a sales representative.

Microsoft is a sponsor of LiveWorx: The Limited Series Episode Three. Tune into "Digital Transforms Physical" on June 24th to learn more about how industrial IoT and other leading technologies can deliver value to your organization and set you up for digital transformation success.

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