BOSTON – A sprawling convention show-floor – densely populated with booths featuring augmented reality headsets, 3D printers, drones and a minigolf course, an introductory presentation held in a hall the size of an aircraft hanger, and a grandiose concert featuring a double platinum artist country star – all served to communicate one thing during PTC’s week-long LiveWorx conference in Boston: “PTC is a big deal, and you should know it.”
In case you don’t know it.
To the average person, “PTC” doesn’t ring any bells, nor does it come to mind when asked to name a leading hi-tech company with a dominant grip on its corner of the market. To many engineers, manufacturers and designers around the world, however, PTC is an integral part of their daily operations.
While PTC may not be a household name among the less tech-oriented consumer, it’s certainly worth acknowledging the enormous impact that it has had and continues to have on the future of innovation – and on our daily lives in the process.
PTC is a global software company that offers a range of technology solutions and services aimed at driving digital transformation and enabling companies to create, operate and service their products in a smart, connected world. PTC’s solutions primarily focus on the areas of the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), product life-cycle management, and computer-aided design (CAD).
Though the company may not be a household name to many, PTC is responsible for the development and engineering behind a plethora of well-known companies’ products, from cars to shoes to jet engines to speakers. Its clients include Radeon, NASA, Lockheed Martin, the US Army and Navy, Volvo, Toyota, Deckers and hundreds more. As a rule of thumb, you probably interact with something that PTC has touched on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
The company’s annual event, PTC LiveWorx, is a technology conference that brings together industry leaders, technology experts, and innovators from various sectors to discuss and showcase the latest trends, advancements, and applications in digital transformation. LiveWorx provides a platform for attendees to explore emerging technologies, network with peers, attend educational sessions, participate in hands-on workshops and learn from industry thought leaders.
PTC’s Israeli DNA
During the conference, a conversation with a group of Israeli PTC executives revealed that Israel and Israeli engineers have played a huge role in the foundation and development of the company and its many successes.
While PTC is based in Boston, it carries out a majority of its research and development in Israel, where it operates from hubs in Haifa and Herzliya. The company’s relationship with its Israeli branch has grown dramatically since its foundation in the 1990s, even culminating in the establishment of a partnership between PTC and Israel’s leading tech university, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which includes research and innovation collaboration, talent development and recruitment and a PTC academic program at the Haifa-based university.
Through its collaboration with the Technion, PTC can stay connected to cutting-edge research, technological advancements, and industry trends. By engaging with a leading academic institution like the Technion, PTC gains insights into the latest developments in engineering, computer science and related fields. This knowledge informs PTC’s product development strategies and helps shape the direction of their offerings to meet evolving market needs.
According to executives at PTC, there may be more potential for collaborations with Israeli facilities in the future. Already several academic organizations have approached PTC, but the company is so far treading lightly.
“Our cooperation with the Technion has generated interest from other universities. They want to collaborate in research, but right now we’re mainly focusing on the Technion,” said Alex Shakevsky, senior vice-president of R&D.
Creo+ is the new hotness for 3D engineering
One of the headlining announcements from the conference is the launch of Creo+, a cloud-based version of one of PTC’s leading products, Creo.
Creo is a CAD software suite that provides a range of tools for 3D modeling, simulation, visualization and manufacturing preparation, helping engineers and designers create and iterate upon their product designs efficiently.
According to PTC’s CEO, Jim Heppelmann, Creo+ will offer the same functionality as the traditional product, but will run on a cloud-based model. This will enable a lot more versatile work-flow opportunities for engineering teams, and essentially transforms the product into Google Docs, but for 3D modeling and design: demos showcased Creo+’s ability to allow several users to simultaneously work on the same project at the same time, with real-time updates reflected on each user’s instance of the program.
Creo+ is part of a multifaceted business strategy being carried out by PTC to launch a cloud-based version of each of its platforms. By doing so, the company aims to ensure better accessibility and scalability for its products. Heppelmann explained that the company’s cloud-based offerings will run on a platform dubbed “PTC Atlas.”
“We chose the name Atlas because like in mythology, our Atlas is designed to carry the entire PTC [cloud application] world on its shoulders,” he said.
“We chose the name Atlas because like in mythology, our Atlas is designed to carry the entire PTC [cloud application] world on its shoulders.”
Having all of the company’s products run on a single platform offers a host of benefits, including a more universal approach to updates and maintenance. PTC has frequently reiterated its goal of creating a “closed-loop” suite of development and engineering tools that would position it as a one-stop shop for any company’s needs.
At the same time, however, having everything running from one place exposes the company to a decent level of risk, since a vulnerability in the core Atlas platform could lead to disaster if left unchecked.
As well, several facets of PTC’s product suite offer their own unique threats that they must address. For example, its developments in the IoT space open up the opportunity for breaches, unless carefully monitored. According to Curtis Simpson, the chief information security officer of Armis Security, keeping IoT devices secure is of the utmost importance.
“There is a serious difference between the pace at which we’re deploying tech and the pace at which we can secure that tech,” he said. “If you look at these types of devices as a bad actor, you look at them as stepping stones. It’s not about having everything connected to the Internet; it’s about having something connected to the Internet that’s easy enough to break into. And then I’m able to hop to the other things that you haven’t really secured well enough, such that I can get into them and then do whatever I need to through them.”
To that end, PTC has established a cybersecurity council to ensure that the company is up to date on the industry’s latest threats and vulnerabilities, and security patches can be quickly and universally implemented once any issues have been discovered.
“We’re fully aware of the need to secure this stuff. We follow all the best practices; we take [IoT security] very, very seriously,” Heppelmann said. “We also know it’s a never-ending battle; cybersecurity, for every software company, is the number one existential risk.”
A peek into the future: Generative 3D
Looking to the future of PTC, one of the main topics on everyone’s mind is Artificial Intelligence. The technology has seen a massive leap forward in the past few months, primarily in the field of “Generative” AI, such as that seen in platforms like ChatGPT and DALLe. These use training datasets to generate new content based on patterns and examples it has learned from a training dataset.
When asked about PTC’s intentions to capitalize on recent AI developments, Heppelmann made the impromptu announcement that Onshape, one of PTC’s CAD programs used to create 3D models, will soon feature “Generative 3D.”
“We’re going to put Generative 3D in the free version of Onshape, to allow people to get a more viral experience and try it out,” he said, explaining that the program will enable users to generate 3D models based on their input prompts, similar to AI art generators seen today.
“We’re going to make that available in Onshape,” he said, “with the hope of raising everybody’s understanding [of Generative 3D] in general, because it’s super powerful technology.”