PTC Buys Qualcomm’s Vuforia to Add Augmented Reality to IoT Biz

In a day where EMC’s $67 billion sale to Dell dominated headlines, another New England company made a less attention-grabbing acquisition that advances its move into the “Internet of Things.”

PTC (NASDAQ: PTC), a Needham, MA-based company best known for its computer-aided design and product development software, said it’s buying Vuforia, Qualcomm’s vision-based augmented reality technology, for $65 million.

San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) has been developing Vuforia since 2010. As Qualcomm Vice President Jay Wright explained in 2011, Vuforia combines augmented reality software and hardware technologies so that 3-D virtual images and video content can be superimposed over the real world as it is viewed in real time through the camera of a smartphone or tablet.

At that time, Wright said Qualcomm was encouraging developers to create apps that could use Vuforia in mobile games, media and advertising, education, facial recognition, and navigation.

PTC sees Vuforia as the industry’s most advanced and widely adopted augmented reality platform. Mobile app developers in 130 countries support Vuforia, and have created more than 20,000 apps that have been downloaded more than 200 million times worldwide.

For all that effort, however, there have been precious few examples of mobile games or advertisements that became a runaway success because of the way they used augmented reality technology. In announcing the deal, Qualcomm and PTC highlighted how augmented reality would be coupled with PTC’s expertise in the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics platforms.

While PTC has traditionally focused on developing 2-D and 3-D product design software and services to manage those products, the company has lately been emphasizing its role in the development of IoT products and services.

“Vuforia unlocks a world of possibilities for creating new ways to design products, to monitor and control products, and to instruct operators and technicians in the appropriate methods of use and service,” PTC says in a press release.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm has been looking for businesses it can shed as it tries to reorganize its operations following years of unrestrained growth. The wireless giant announced in mid-July that it would cut about 15 percent of its global workforce, or as many as 4,700 employees, as part of an initiative intended to shave about $1.1 billion in costs.

The deal is expected to close before the end of the year. Wright plans to move to PTC and continue running the Vuforia business, the companies said.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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