- By Bill Lydon
- October 13, 2020
The Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference 2020 (ICC2020) has become an important event for automation professionals, and this year’s virtual event due to the pandemic was no exception.
The Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference 2020 (ICC2020) has become an important event for automation professionals and this year’s virtual event due to the pandemic was no exception. The theme this year was ENVISION.
Don Pearson kicked off the first ever virtual ICC event: “We started this conference in 2013 as a place for all you brilliant industrial professionals who use Ignition to assemble and share your knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm with one another," he said. “I believe the ignition community is the strongest most innovative group of industrial professionals in the world. This community is made up of engineers, integrators, plant managers, IT professionals, C level executives and many more hard-working folks in the world of industrial automation. Our community extends to virtually every industry.” He noted there are Ignition installations and integrators in over 100 countries throughout the world.
Steve Hechtman, CEO and founder, discussed the company’s rapid transition to remote work, including ordering a large quantity of laptops before California’s stay at home order. The transition was accomplished in one weekend. “But we never expected that many of our staff would be so much more efficient working remotely, so the option to work remotely will become normal for many of our staff moving forward even after the pandemic," Hechtman said. “Throughout this ordeal, we have been very fortunate because our company has not only stayed strong but has continued robust expansion.” He noted another positive aspect of working remotely: it mandated reevaluation and refinement of many internal systems and procedures that have made Inductive Automation significantly more efficient. In addition, online training has been improved and expanded: “50% of trainees say they prefer remote education," he said.
Hechtman emphasized Inductive Automation’s commitment and the importance of industry supporting University and trade schools to increase awareness of controls & automation value and attract talent to the industry.
The company released Ignition Maker Edition, which is for noncommercial use as a completely free tool for hobbyists, students and individuals wanting to familiarize themselves with the platform. Hechtman noted, “This is a free personal use version of Ignition to enable people to do fun projects to learn and innovate in new ways; it fosters the next generation of controls professionals.”
Ignition's Version 8.1
Ignition Version 8.1 software was a big highlight at the conference, adding a number of features, including enhanced support for mobile devices, dynamic and data-driven symbols and charting.
“Ignition 8.1 is a milestone for Inductive Automation and for Ignition," Hectman commented. "It represents our full vision of what The New SCADA could be and is the platform that all of our customers will want to leverage for their next-generation solutions."
Docker-hub support provides users the ability to quickly develop on the Ignition platform. Quickly spin up multiple instances of Ignition and develop right away without the need for installation. Multiple instances can interact with each other to develop a multi-gateway architecture without the need to run multiple servers or be at multiple locations.
The Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference 2020 (ICC2020) featured a number of informative sessions and these are couple that I found very interesting.
Virtualization at the edge
Advantech’s Mike Fahrion, CTO, IIoT Solutions gave an informative presentation about virtualization at the edge using open platforms for control and automation rather than proprietary devices such as PLCs for greater efficiency and flexibility. Benefits include:
Reduces vendor lock-in
Opens massive ecosystem of hardware and software providers
Maximizes utilization of compute resources, reducing required hardware footprint
Scalable for growth and flexible to adapt to yet undiscovered use cases
Linux containers now provide the ability to have multiple applications in embedded computers to host multiple functions. Containers provide a lower-overhead virtualization solution that are much leaner than Virtual Machines is done enterprise servers. Each container holds the application and its dependencies, libraries and settings, decoupling it from the physical hardware. Containers are isolated from each other and the outside world , interconnections can be made over a virtual network within the computer. Portability is achieved across hardware platforms since containers contain the application and resources required. An application can be rapidly deployed across varying platforms because it is decoupled from Harvard dependencies. There is a security advantage since each container gets its own virtual network stack with no access to sockets or another container other than connections specifically configured for that container. Managed correctly, this can significantly reduce the number of attack vectors.
Fahrion described an edge application to monitor a manufacturing cell of 5 machines with Modbus TCP communications provide, alarms and reports, and machine learning inference capability. This was accomplished using the Advantech UNO Industrial PC running Ubuntu LINUX, Docker, Ignition, InfluxDB time series database, PostgreSQL Relational Database, Node-Red, Tensorflow and an AI engine.
Docker is the dominant container technology with massive adoption since 2014 and is part of the Linux Foundations Open Container Project, so even other container technology supports Docker images. Fahrion noted there beginning to see the ability to run Docker containers as a requirement in hardware RFP’s as customers embrace open architectures and containerized solutions.
Utilizing Ignition & MQTT for auto-discovery of data modeling and time series data in AWS cloud
Arlen Nipper, president & CTO, Cirrus Link Solutions gave a presentation describing how to use Ignition & MQTT for Auto-Discovery of Data Modeling and Time Series Data in AWS (Amazon Web Services) Cloud. Nipper described how users with an Ignition Gateway can start building data models for assets in the AWS Cloud Services without writing one line of code, minimal AWS services expertise, and 100% configuration driven from the Ignition Gateway. Leveraging AWS IoT SiteWise data is collected via MQTT Sparkplug or OPC-UA to provides a Data Model representation of assets. The data is stored in the SiteWise Time Series Database and is available for cloud applications including condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, quality analysis, and digital twins. Making implementation easy Cirrus Link developed the Sparkplug SiteWise Bridge with these features:
- Leverages native Sparkplug binary messaging for bandwidth efficiency
- Service consuming MQTT Sparkplug Messages(Data Models, Assets and Tags)
- Auto-Creates Data Model in AWS IoT SiteWise based on Ignition UDT definitions
- Auto-Creates Assets in SiteWise based on Ignition UDT instances
- Using RBE, Efficiently Pushes Ignition Tags into AWS SiteWise Time Series DB –
- Tag Value/Time Stamp/Quality
SiteWise architecture enables easy implementation.
Inductive Automation has video archives of many of these presentations available on demand in their library of resources.
Discovery Gallery & Firebrand Awards
The Ignition Firebrand Awards are presented every year at ICC recognizing system integrators and industrial organizations that use the Ignition software platform to create innovative new projects. The award-winning projects are selected from the ICC Discover Gallery, which features the best 18 Ignition projects submitted by integrators and industrial organizations. There are always interesting projects to learn from and year it is a virtual Discovery Gallery with videos that can be viewed here.
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