The industrial software market has changed dramatically over the past 13 years. One market disruptor hails from just outside Sacramento, California. I still remember meeting Steve Hechtman at an ISA show probably in 2003. He talked about developing HMI/SCADA industrial software in an entirely new way.

He told me that Inductive Automation was developing software written in Java and using IT-friendly technologies. Not only that, he would have a business model that totally disrupted the prevalent licensing by seats.

steve-hechtman-at-icc-2016Hechtman greeted a capacity audience at the 2016 Ignition Customer Conference Sept. 19. The 430+ attendees exhausted the capacity of the Harris Center in Folsom, CA. The company has experienced double-digit growth every year since it started. It has been profitable every quarter since the launch of its flagship product, Ignition, in 2010. Privately held, it has no debt and no investors.

The company’s mission has been to reduce friction. Reduce friction to use the product, to buy the product, to develop using the product. Or, to quote from the presentation, “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.”

The technology allows for a 3-minute installation. It is scalable from a Raspberry Pi to enterprise servers.

Rather than calling Ignition HMI/SCADA software, Hechtman refers to it as a platform. Not only does Inductive Automation build modules to sit on it, the company makes it easy for customers to build, and even sell, modules, too. Part of that removing friction thing.

Hechtman brought up the IIoT and the hype surrounding it. The Gartner Hype Cycle plots a curve from early thoughts to euphoria plummeting to the trough of disillusionment to a partial recovery where 20%-30% of companies use and gain benefit from the technology. He suggested that Ignition builds a bridge over the trough of disillusionment to beneficial application of the IIoT.

don-pearson-at-icc-2016Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson followed with the other theme of the week—IT/OT convergence. ”We’ve been doing that from the beginning,” he stated.

Most people have talked about driving convergence from the IT side. That’s all backwards according to Pearson. The OT side should drive the convergence partly through adopting IT-friendly technology and learning from IT folks about their strengths such as security.

One last sign of growth—the number of partners exhibiting in the foyer. More than I can list, but start with Opto 22, Bedrock Automation, Cirrus-Link, Seeq. The company has vision and drive. And financial stability.

Summary

Here is a link to an interview I recorded with two of the original developers–Colby Clegg and Carl Gould. Owner/President Steve Hechtman was in the room, but I don’t recall that he said anything. I threw a digital audio recorder on the conference room table in early 2011. The company has grown into new offices and is now looking for more office space since then.

There was a lot of buzz at the conference. There were people from many countries, but many also were from large manufacturing companies. Several large systems integrators brought several engineers. The organizers asked if I would lead a “meet up” or round-table discussion on Monday before the actual kickoff. Wow–there were several really smart people in attendance. It was a great geek discussion.

If you are involved with developing applications with industrial software, you should check out next year’s conference. Even if you are not a customer, it’s worth it just to learn from others who come.

 

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