Moving from Axeda to ThingWorx

Adding Voice and Permission-Based Remote Support to ThingWorx

As most of you know, I founded Axeda over 15 years ago and hold quite a few patents on the topic of IoT and Remote Service.   Over that time, I have seen many IoT based remote support programs.   In large part, remote support for complex machines and devices has stayed pretty consistent and work something like this:

  1. A machine operator leaves the machine, goes to a quiet location, and calls for support
  2. The machine operator then navigates the call center until they get the right person to help them
  3. That person opens a remote session and starts troubleshooting
  4. All the while, the machine operator is still far away from the machine, tethered to the phone…

Can you spot the problems with this scenario?  Not only does the operator have to leave the machine to ask for help, but also, remote access can happen without their permission and without their physical proximity to the machine.   In today’s hyper threat world – definitely not an optimal security model.   Furthermore, what happens if the operator provides  a phone number?  Is it their cell phone or the number in a conference room?   What happens when the operator goes home?  For many types of machines this poses a real quandary.

This was the problem that INSTRON faced when they decided to update their existing, Axeda-based, remote support program to ThingWorx.   On one hand, Instron wanted the same remote troubleshooting capability that they enjoyed with their Axeda system, yet, at the same time, they wanted to create a process that dramatically improved the user experience, all while improving site security.

RevTwo provided both.

The new and improved Instron Connect uses ThingWorx to capture machine data and perform cloud-based rules and analytics, while using RevTwo to provide secure remote access and VoIP based machine communication.

The combination delivers a much-improved customer workflow, experience, and security.   The Instron support scenario now looks like this.

  1. Customer requests help right from the machine
  2. The help request gets routed to a support tech who can help them.
  3. The support tech places a “Machine-based” support call using RevTwo’s built-in VoIP technology.  No operator cell phone numbers are necessary.2
  4. The operator must accept the support request call and grant permission for a remote troubleshooting session to occur.IC_Image1-1
  5. The operator and support person are now able to talk with each other while the support agent troubleshoots the machine, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

The new workflow is much improved for both Instron and their customers.  The support agent is now able to talk to the operator during troubleshooting sessions using the built-in RevTwo-powered VoIP communication.   The operator controls when and if remote sessions occur, improving site security, while the support agent gains a valuable set of eyes and ears improving troubleshooting and safety.

The RevTwo stack seamlessly integrates with all IoT cloud or edge-based data pipes, such as ThingWorx, as well as with the Amazon IoT Platform, the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, and the EdgeX Foundry.

RevTwo will  attend PTC’s LiveWorx event this  week (May 23-25)..  We will be glad to discuss how RevTwo can be easily added to your remote support program.

EdgeX Foundry – The Rosetta Stone of IoT

As a pioneer of the IoT industry, I am afforded somewhat of a unique perspective.   Over the past 20 years, I have seen IoT go from the “Why Would We Ever Do That?” stage, when no one understood the benefits of connecting the physical world to the digital, to now, when every company on the face of the earth fancies themselves Google and wants to be the “on-ramp for the digital transformation of the physical world.”   Pick your number, but 50 billion has probably been the most popular, and there is a lot of value to be unlocked by connecting that many things.

However, with every company making their own claim to this bonanza, cooperation between competing standards, approaches, and companies, has been VERY limited – VERY VERY LIMITED.   So, when Dell approached us about a new initiative to drive IoT interoperability through open sourcing via the Linux Foundation, I was intrigued.

The EdgeX Foundry provides a “Rosetta Stone” approach to the disparate approaches around IoT.   Think of it as

A gateway that can talk to anything on one side, do interesting things with those things it talks to, and then send the results and data to any cloud destination.

The best part?  By being an open sourced and a standards-based initiative, companies are incented to add their special brand of connectivity or cloud-service to it, or risk being left out.

EdgeX Foundry
EdgeX Foundry

I was involved in a standard in the mid-90’s called OPC (OLE for Process Control), for those who actually remember Microsoft’s push for an interconnectivity standard for Windows (called OLE at one time).   OPC was and still is the most successful approach for connecting the myriads of different industrial communication standards.   It was a hugely successful initiative with every company in the industrial space supporting it, and it solved a fundamental problem.   Connectivity to the real-world for everything is expensive and hard to do – and most companies make their money on capitalizing on that connectivity – and most end-users accrue benefit only from that capitalization.   So, everyone was incented to cooperate – and cooperate they did.

I see the EdgeX Foundry as a very similar initiative.   The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a very messy space.   There are sensors, controllers, gizmos of all shapes and sizes. I have never seen a factory with stuff from just one vendor – it is a HETEROGENEOUS soup of connectedness.    If the actual users of those things are going to benefit from the promise of IIoT, it is going to be from high level coordination – FROM MANY VENDORS.    With open connectivity on both sides and open processing in the middle – the EdgeX Foundry is the best approach to this.

Now you may ask, why does RevTwo care about this initiative – aren’t we a support platform?   Well the answer is simple – with millions of EdgeX gateways operating in the wild, there will be the need to securely provide and syndicate support between multiple vendors (Box and Component Vendors) and users.   That is RevTwo’s bread-and-butter.   So, we are in!

Now onto making that 50 billion connected devices and sensors and the value it promises a reality.