Last month I wrote an article about whether SCADA is the future industrial technology given its enabling of the Industrial Internet of Things.
Then I wrote a piece that I hoped would stir up some controversy over SCADA suppliers and business models. Didn’t get much response, though.
This week I had an opportunity to discuss and learn more about these topics. I’ve been in Folsom, CA at the Inductive Automation “Build” Conference. I could have gone to the Profibus meeting in Phoenix as I’ve done for 12 or more years. But I had already committed to Inductive before I received notification of that event.
Schneider Electric Software (Wonderware) only informed me of its conference, also this week, a few weeks ago. Once again, I was committed to this trip. I’m trying to learn what is going on there. I’ve seen a couple of news releases. I thought there was going to be a “show daily” but I’ve seen nothing.
This is the third Inductive Automation user conference. I had heard good things about the last two. About 400 people attended this year. Conference sessions were packed—maybe because they limit the number of sessions. Some conferences are so broad and have so many sessions that it is unusual for a session to have more than 20 attendees. Not so here, where sessions were lively and packed with 100 or more.
Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering, highlighted the many applications publicized at the conference using the company’s Ignition software. The company has long held training sessions at its Sacramento and now Folsom headquarters. Answering demand for training that did not require a week’s missed work and travel expenses, Inductive built the online Inductive University. This site had 4,000 new users during past year. It has also initiated global training centers–run by integrators.
Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson discussed the company vision of empowering people through unlimited connections.
Unlimited connections thoughts lead to thoughts of the Industrial Internet of Things. Pearson acknowledged hype on IoT. He dubbed it “a network of intelligent computers, devices, and objects that collect and share data, aggregated in the Cloud, and sent to users. But he noted that raw data is of low value. Analysis is needed for making decisions and providing solutions. A four-step chart became the meme of the conference—data, information, knowledge, wisdom/innovation. “At the end of the day, some human must be empowered,” he concluded.
Taking a poke at existing HMI/SCADA suppliers, Pearson noted in 2003 when Inductive started competitors said it’s a mature industry and there is no innovation left. But they innovated. Competitors said there was no way to get growth out of SCADA (see my blog posts referenced above). But Inductive Automation has been growing consistently since its founding now numbering 100 people.
Steve Hechtman, founder and president, said IIoT seems to be about data acquisition. Ignition is an enabling technology. The three parts of an IIoT system include open connectivity, unlimited storage, agile applications. Of the three, the last one is vital. And not just development but also deployment. Open connectivity in Ignition includes MQTT and OPC UA at the core. As for the store part, “Ignition is the king” working well with such standard databases as MySQL, PostgreSQL, IBM db2, Microsoft SQLServer, Oracle, and MariaDB. “Ignition doesn’t care if you use Oracle or Amazon or Azure.”
Regarding agile, Hechtman referred to Metcalfe’s Law—Network Value=the square of connected users. Ignition’s technology and pricing model reflect the company mantra of three 10s—10 times as much for one tenth of the resource, and ten times as fast.
Hechtman concluded, “Our mission is to create industrial software that empowers our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles.” And executing that, Inductive is the “fastest growing SCADA company in the world.”