I’m still pondering the whole HMI/SCADA market and technologies. I’m still getting a few updates after the Inductive Automation conference I attended in California and the Wonderware conference in Dallas that I missed.

The two have traditionally been referred to in trade publications together.

Today, I think three or four things are blending. Things are getting interesting.

SCADA is “supervisory control and data acquisition.” The supervisory control part has blended into the higher ends of human-machine interface. Data Acquisition software technology is a key platform for what we are today calling the “Industrial Internet of Things.” I’ve heard one technologist predict that soon we’ll just say “Internet.”

Data acquisition itself is a system that involves a variety of inputs including sensors, signal analyzers, and networks. The software part brings it all under control and provides a format for passing data to the next level.

HMI also involves a system these days. Evolving from operator interface into sophisticated software that includes the “supervisory control” part of the system.

Some applications also blend in MES and Manufacturing Intelligence. These applications, often engineered solutions atop the software platforms, strive to make sense of the data moving from HMI/SCADA either using it for manufacturing control or as a feed to enterprise systems.

Wonderware has been an historical force in these areas. Its original competitor was Intellution which is now subsumed into GE’s Proficy suite. The other strong competitor is Rockwell Automation. All three sell on a traditional sales model of “seats” and/or “tags.”

Inductive Automation built from enterprise grade database technology and has a completely different sales model. It is driving the cost of HMI/SCADA, and in some ways MES, down.

Competitors can meet that competition by either pursuing a race to the bottom or through redefining a higher niche. The winner of the race to the bottom becomes the company built from the ground up for low individual sales price.

Wonderware announcements

All of that was just an analyst prologue to a couple of items that have popped up from Schneider Electric Software (Wonderware) over the past couple of days.

timSowellTo my mind, Tim Sowell is addressing how some customers are taking these platforms to a new level.   Writing in his blog last weekend, Sowell notes, “For the last couple of years we have seen the changing supervisory solutions emerging, that will require a rethink of the underlying systems, and how they implemented and the traditional HMI, Control architectures will not satisfy! Certainly in upstream Oil and Gas, Power, Mining, Water and Smart Cities we have seen a significant growth in the Integrated Operational Center (IOC) concept. Where multiple sites control comes back into one room, where planning and operations can collaborate in real-time.”

I have seen examples of this Integrated Operations Center featuring such roles as operations, planning, engineering, and maintenance. But this is more than technology—it requires organizing, training, and equipping humans.

Sowell, “When you start peeling back the ‘day in the life of operations’ the IOC is only the ‘quarterback’ in a flexible operational team of different roles, contributing different levels of operational. Combined with dynamic operational landscape, where the operational span of control of operational assets, is dynamically changing all the time. The question is what does the system look like, do the traditional approaches apply?”

Tying things together, Sowell writes, “Traditionally companies have used isolated (siloed) HMI, DCS workstation controls at the facilities, and then others at the regional operational centers and then others at the central IOC, and stitched them together. Now you add the dynamic nature of the business with changing assets, and now a mobile workforce we have addition operational stations that of the mobile (roaming worker). All must see the same state, with scope to their span of control, and accountability to control.”

The initial conclusion, “We need one system, but multiple operational points, and layouts, awareness so the OPERATIONAL TEAM can operate in unison, enabling effective operational work.”


Here is a little more detail about the latest revision of Wonderware Intelligence to which I referred last week and above.The newest version collects, calculates and contextualizes data and metrics from multiple sources across the manufacturing operation, puts it into a centralized storage and updates it all in near-real time. Because it is optimized for retrieval, the information can then be used to monitor KPIs via customizable dashboards, as well as for drill-down analysis and insights into operating and overall business performance.

“Wonderware Intelligence is an easy-to-use, non-disruptive solution that improves how our customers visualize and analyze industrial Big Data,” said Graeme Welton, director of Advansys (Pty) Ltd., a South African company that provides specialized industrial automation, manufacturing systems and business intelligence consulting and project implementation services. “It allows our customers to build their own interactive dashboards that can capture, visualize and analyze key performance indicators and other operating data. Not only is it more user-friendly, it has better query cycle times, it’s faster and it has simpler administration rights. It’s an innovative tool that continues to drive quality and value.”

Wonderware Intelligence visual analytics and dashboards allow everyone in the operation to see the same version of the truth drawn from a single data warehouse. The interactive and visual nature of the dashboards significantly increases the speed and confidence of the users’ decision making.

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