2017 Ignition Conference – Expanding Ecosystem & Edge IoT Drive Enthusiasm

2017 Ignition Conference – Expanding Ecosystem & Edge IoT Drive Enthusiasm

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

With another sell-out crowd in attendance, the Inductive Automation 2017 Ignition Conference was buzzing with system integrators and enthusiastic users of Inductive’s software offerings. Taking place from September 18 - 20 in Folsom, California, the packed event put a spotlight on Inductive’s Ignition Edge software, a web based and open architecture running on Windows, MAC, or Linux.  Being an automation engineer I was skeptical about the software the first time I met the folks at Inductive Automation about 5 years ago.   Yet, after studying the software and interviewing many users, I concluded and continue to feel that the Ignition software platform is a significant step forward based on open and contemporary computer industry technology.

 

The Ignition Value Proposition

A hallmark of Ignition software is the unlimited point count, servers, and field devices that come right out of the box.  In addition, the company’s Inductive University provides free video-based training including testing to ensure competency, including over 600 training videos. 

I always make it a point to ask users if cost-efficiency was the major reason for using Ignition software. In some cases, the cost drove the first motivation to evaluate the software, but quite a few users told me they, over time, found significantly more value in the flexibility and ease of use.  Over the last few years, I have met several users who described how Inductive Automation software has lowered engineering hours, increased quality, and helped simplify integration with enterprise and systems. Many of these users experienced savings that were far more than the initial cost considerations.

Every year I attend the Ignition event, I hear a flood of excited comments from enthusiastic experienced industrial automation professionals all revolving around similar themes: Ignition is cost-effective, easy to use, and represents one of the most flexible and reliable HMI’s and industrial automation software offerings in the industry today.

 

A Commitment to Innovation

Suffice it to say, Inductive Automation is quite proud of its product. Steve Hechtman  the founder, president & CEO of Inductive Automation traced the 14 year history of the company and their path to  success. Since it's inception, the Inductive ecosystem boasts thousands of customers around the world and 1,500 system integrators partners.  “We supply 64% of the top 100 United States manufacturers and 56% of the top 100 global manufacturers and 48% of the Fortune 100.”  exuded Hechtman, but he gave much of the credit to the users. ““Ignition is a development platform and, as such, does nothing at all until you do something,” he explained, “But based on our success over the past 14 years, it’s a testament to the job that you’re doing with Ignition…This community is amazing”

Hechtman believes the future of this product and the company on the whole is very strong, and vowed to keep up the effort to deliver value to their customers.  “I will give you this promise,” Hechtman concluded, “We will stay the course, continue our orderly progress, keep improving Ignition, keep improving the company, and keep facilitating the ecosystem that’s rapidly growing up around us and most importantly will stay focused what we do best. We won’t stray out of our wheelhouse.” 

 

Powering IoT – Ignition Edge In-Depth

Inductive Automation’s Ignition Edge software, shown so prominently by partnersat the conference, is a line of lightweight, limited Ignition software products designed specifically for embedding into field and OEM devices at the edge of the network.   Ignition Edge products come with up to 500 tags and are equipped with OPC-UA, along with the Modbus, Siemens, and Allen-Bradley suite of drivers. Further, other drivers are supported by Ignition, and are available to add onto Ignition Edge.  This cross platform offering supports any version of Windows, and macOS, or Linux and supports ARM processors.  I found Linux to be the preferred server platform, with about 60% of users that I have interviewed choosing it for its stability and security.   Ignition Edge is designed to work with Ignition software to build scalable enterprise-wide systems. 

 

IT/OT Convergence

The convergence of IT and OT, to create more effective operations throughout the company, was evident throughout the conference presentations and discussions, and this reflects many of the recent trends in the manufacturing industry.

One such example was an enthusiastic and informative presentation by SugarCreek, an Inductive Automation Ignition user that is a private label bacon manufacturer and sous vide processor in the United States.  SugarCreek described how their organization has one person responsible for OT and one for IT, both reporting the Chief Information Officer.  The Ignition software, as they described in the presentation, helped improve organizational cooperation and thus has improved operations.  They used the software to create a system for six manufacturing sites, with over 15,000 tags, more than 100 devices - including Rockwell (Logix, CompactLogix, Micrologix, SLC), Modbus TCP, Siemens (S7-1500, S7-300) - and 35-45 clients open at any given time.

 

Bill’s Thoughts & Observations

In my view, Inductive Automation represents a refreshing new breed of industrial automation software company. It’s good to see the company leveraging the latest software, systems architecture technology and thinking.  Indeed, Inductive Automation appears to be laser-focused on providing the bestsoftware platform for industrial automation professionals.

Inductive’s efforts to evolve with the new technology and thinking is being reflected by the users as well. Ignition Edge is helping to provide users a way to efficiently create converged IT and OT systems and further enabling the user to implement IoT and IIoT applications in a familiar platform. If anything was clear at the Inductive Automation 2017 Ignition Conference, it’s that Inductive’s commitment to efficient integration remains very strong.

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