The five-minute CIO: Dr Chris Watson, PTC

16 Mar 2017

Dr Chris Watson, technical vice-president at the office of the CTO, PTC. Image: Connor McKenna

“It is about making data more easily accessible to people,” said Dr Chris Watson of PTC.

Dr Chris Watson, technical vice-president at PTC’s office of the CTO, talked with’s Jenny Darmody at Career Zoo’s spring event in Dublin.

Boston-headquartered PTC was founded in 1985 and is a major player in the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) spaces.

Future Human

In 2016, PTC announced it was to establish a new office in Dublin to serve the IoT space, with plans to employ 50 people by the end of 2018.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology roll-out across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

We’re a software organisation; we write software for people to buy and to use. We work in the manufacturing space and sell to companies who manufacture everything from planes and ships to cell phones – anything really.

What we roll out is for them to use and improve their product development process and their IoT process, and gain an understanding of what they are doing.

We have a big picture around IoT; around how people can take data from what they have built, their end-user equipment. We make use of it for analytics and service, and get an understanding of what happens to their stuff once it is built, taking it beyond the manufacturing stage.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

We have a large in-house IT team. We have a couple of thousand developers.

For the actual IT infrastructure that is provided to support the business, we have a small team of IT professionals, and a lot of it is subcontracted out.

Overall, we are an IT organisation – most of what we do is IT.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

Really, the challenge is the cloud. How do we leverage the cloud for our own benefit, and how do we improve our processes, our velocity and our systems to make better use of what’s available out there?

Companies such as AWS are already selling a really good product that we can help our customers make better use out of, but it is also how we help our customers to take all this great stuff that is available, to improve their bottom line and improve their margins.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

The big thing we are doing this year is VR and AR; how we can take data and visualise it for people, so they can see it in a way that they can understand.

They can see it in a three-dimensional (3D) space. That really helps companies to see what they can do with their data, what’s happening in real time – and historically – and take a device and say this is what happened to that generator, what occurred to it in the past and see it in a 3D space, where it makes sense.

It is not just a graph that is nice – you have to learn how to read it.

It is about making data more easily accessible to people and allowing people to see it and play with it and visualise it in a more real sense.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years