“If you have a smart streetlight, do you have a smart city? If you have a smart parking system, do you have a smart city? Our language is, I would say, still very marketing-orientated,” says Links. The jargon-heavy, non-technical language is a sign of the IoT’s immaturity, he claims, and not suited for something with such wide potential.
“Everything we had previously known about how companies design, manufacture, service and operate products was going to change,” says PTC general manager Howard Heppelmann in Barcelona. “If you could have a real feedback loop from the product back to engineering, it would change all the key business processes that were in place.”
According to analysts at Gartner, there are 8.4bn connected ‘things’ in the world – more devices than humans. That number is set to skyrocket, with 20.4bn predicted by 2020.
However, the technology is still “very, very immature,” says Links, with all the attendant issues that come with that. So how will the techhnology become the driver for the all-encompassing, frictionless techno-utopia promised by the smart-city thinkers, and how will it secure its position at the heart of Industry 4.0?
About 10 years ago, technology company PTC noticed a change in the market. After 22 years designing, and later servicing, products for manufacturers, it noticed its customers starting to value software over physical products. More and more devices were getting IP addresses and connecting to the internet, and the company realised that the dawn of widespread and accessible IoT applications would herald huge changes in manufacturing.
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