Why Use HMI/SCADA, Six Examples

Ignition Firebrand Award Implementations

I attended the annual Inductive Automation conference in Folsom, California with an inquiring mind regarding HMI/SCADA. What are people (and companies) doing with Ignition, its flagship software platform? Why after 20 years are customers still lining up to use the platform? I did the very beginnings of what is now called digital transformation 45 years ago. Why are we still so far from implementing it?

Two brief answers. First, there are always problems to solve. The problems solved here are providing information to people who need it in order to better operate whatever program or operation they work at. Second, the tools just keep improving enabling more problems to be solved.

Inductive Automation sponsors a competition among users culminating in the annual Firebrand Awards. Following are short takes on the projects that won. The link takes you to the overview page for deeper information. These are really cool projects that should fire your imagination for problems you could tackle.


Room in the Inn exists to provide programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home. 

Room in the Inn (RITI) was using four disparate software packages, Excel, and email to run their operations, but there were still too many gaps and the logistics were too complex for the existing solutions. Vertech offered to build an Ignition application that combined all their software packages for their existing operations and included additional logistics features. And Vertech offered to do it for free. Over 150 volunteers from around the world participated in this two-and-a-half-year project to provide RITI with the solution they need to help serve the homeless community in Nashville, TN.

In what Chris McLaughlin from Vertech describes as “stupidity or altruism,” he offered to build RITI one cohesive software platform that would encompass all the existing functionality and add the missing features required to scale their service for the homeless. Whether it was the offer to build a multi-million-dollar solution for free, or Chris’ “charm,” RITI trusted Vertech, Chris, and his community of engineers to make a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) despite having never made one before. Ignition wasn’t the obvious software platform for a HMIS that doesn’t have any I/O or industrial equipment, but it was the platform Vertech knew, and it came with a community of volunteers willing to help.

After two-and-a-half long years and over 150 volunteers, the new Ignition HMIS system went live and was named Discovery by RITI (just a coincidence that it is being submitted to the Discover Gallery). Now over 40 people per day use Ignition to run shelters, manage operations, provide services to the homeless, and generate KPIs for continuous improvement. They are already using it as a foundation to add additional reports, auto-task generation, and features to improve the service of the homeless.


ESM Australia was founded in 1996, originally to provide a repair service in the fields of industrial electronics for industry in Queensland and later around Australia. Today we have become recognized leaders in Industry 4.0, leading companies through the process of digitalization, allowing them to realize the potential gains that automation and data promises.

Creature Technology Co. produces the most technologically sophisticated, creatively inspired and life-like animatronics for area spectaculars, theme parks, exhibitions, stage shows and events around the world. Founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2006, Creature Technology revolutionized animatronic entertainment through the production of Walking with Dinosaurs ‐ The Arena Spectacular. With a vision to emotionally connect an audience to a cast of prehistoric beasts, we used never‐before‐seen technology to set a new benchmark in storytelling through animatronics. Since then, our work has spanned the globe and the many genres of live entertainment.

Creature Technology Company developed and implemented the C-Tech 2 system with support from ESM Automation Systems (AKA ESM Australia) and Inductive Automation. The system provides theatrical technicians and operators with simple visual tools to modify or create interaction and motion of complex animatronics figures without needing to access or be experts in PLC, motion, or SCADA programming.

The drag-and-drop interface offers a friendly and familiar way to pull dynamic functions from a palette to a workspace and draw links between them to create complex relationships. For this project, the data structures, functions, variables, relationships, and even screen layouts and tabbed views are linked to a PostgreSQL database.

Beckhoff industrial controllers, connected to the same database, interpret configurations in the database into logic and motion control settings. The logic and motion control settings are used in conjunction with motion profiles generated by studio animation tools to create fluid, lifelike movements, and interaction of animatronic creatures. 

 After surveying potential solutions, Creature Technology Company determined that a custom Ignition module using a React library to create a custom Perspective component would yield the best results. With the help of Inductive Automation’s Travis Cox, a custom module was built using the React Library’s React Flow Chart. The module contains two components: the draggable node and the chart. Both components utilize Perspective’s embedded views for visualization on the chart. This enables full integration and use of Ignition’s features, e.g., pop-ups, tag bindings, etc.

The element palette is a database-driven flex repeater that contains all available elements as draggable nodes which can be dragged onto the chart. There are three categories of nodes: inputs, functions, and outputs. Inputs and outputs are linked to static elements, while the functions contain dynamic elements such as adders or setpoint select nodes. Each node is uniquely identified and has dynamically created tags. Once a node is removed its tags are also removed. 

Nodes are displayed using a dynamic block template. Based on the database, a defined number of input and output ports, as well as custom local parameters, can either be exposed as an input or statically defined. Local parameters can be edited in a setting pop-up for each node. Ports can be linked using connectors to other nodes. Once a flow is completed from an input to an output element through any number of functions, a map is created to identify the order of execution for the Beckhoff controller. Lastly, for an improved user experience, tabbed workspaces and file operations were added to ensure operators can manage large animation programs more easily.

 The improved user experience has been lauded by end users, who express overwhelming appreciation for the new drag-and-drop view’s ease of use. Assessing the UI mockups next to the delivered system demonstrates that Perspective is the ideal environment to connect industrial hardware quickly into a web-based environment which can be accessed anywhere at any time.


Vantage Data Centers powers, cools, protects, and connects the technology of the world’s well-known hyperscalers, cloud providers, and large enterprises. Developing and operating across five continents in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific, Vantage has evolved data center design in innovative ways to deliver dramatic gains in reliability, efficiency, and sustainability in flexible environments that can scale as quickly as the market demands.

Vantage Data Centers’ goal for this project was to design and deploy an Ignition Perspective system for multiple data centers across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), used for both system control and monitoring, as well as supporting operational excellence and continuous improvement.

With Vantage Data Centers’ targets for rapid expansion in the EMEA region, they were challenged with “industrializing” SCADA deployments, namely building a framework and approach to deploying thousands of devices in short development and commissioning windows, all without compromising quality or ease of use.

The challenges Vantage Data Centers faced were all derived from the scale of the project:

  • How to build and configure this many tags and devices?
  • How to display thousands of different devices?
  • How to ensure the system is vendor and communication protocol agnostic?
  • How to create the above without compromising consistency and quality?
  • How to achieve this in the time frames required?
  • How to maintain a system so huge?

Vantage Data Centers focused on five critical areas while creating their Ignition solution.

Engineering Tools

To solve the issue of building tags and devices on a large scale, Vantage Data Centers developed a number of engineering tools. This allowed the deployment of tags and devices to remote I/O gateways from the project’s frontend, leveraging the redundant hub & spoke architecture and gateway network. These are fully configured, including the driver configurations.

Universal popup

Vantage Data Centers coined the phrase “universal pop-up” for the one pop-up they use for all devices. This pop-up evaluates the data structure of the UDT instance and displays the tag data accordingly. It is fully automated, works with any industrial protocols, and incorporates a number of features, including integrated trending, alarming, maintenance, and commissioning. This tag-centric approach to building graphical elements allows for high-speed deployment with excellent quality and consistency.


The operators and wider team use displays ranging from large wall-mounted monitors to tablets. Leveraging their library of icons, Vantage Data Centers is able to display each device in a simple format, with configuration of the template as simple as the UDT definition path. This allows for standardization across multiple-sized UIs throughout the region.

High-Performance Design

A modern, high-performance layout enables operators to access any device within four clicks. With a simple eight-color pallet, it is easy to identify issues with equipment.


Three layers of gateways have been deployed: I/O gateways collecting data from devices, frontend gateways where users interact with the data, and the regional management layer. Using the Enterprise Administration Module, Vantage Data Centers is able to monitor the health of all the systems from a single location, perform remote revision-controlled changes to projects and trend data, and monitor KPIs from anywhere in EMEA.

Since migrating to the Ignition Perspective system in 2022, Vantage Data Centers has reduced their development and deployment cycle from a few months to a few weeks. Commissioning of the new projects is now simpler while error and rework rates have been significantly reduced. Additionally, situational awareness has been dramatically improved by the end users. 


2Gi Technologie is one of the oldest Ignition integrators in the world. As a Premier Integrator, 2Gi Technology has specialized in the digitalization of industrial processes for over 20 years. It is involved in SCADA, MES, and IoT, and can offer full turnkey solutions, including hosting and telecoms. Over the years, 2Gi Technologie has successfully implemented solutions in the manufacturing industry, chemical industry, and water and wastewater management. Thanks to its recognized expertise, including in large groups, 2Gi Technologie is occasionally active in Europe, French-speaking Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Worldwide leader in light and sustainable construction, Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and services for the construction and industrial markets. As part of this vast group (€51.2 billion turnover in 2022, 168,000 employees, present in 75 countries), Saint-Gobain PAM has been the leading expert in water supply pipelines for more than 150 years and equips more than 100 capitals and 1,000 towns worldwide each year with its range of ductile iron pipes, fittings, joints and accessories. It also supplies equipment for the municipal casting and building sectors, such as fire hydrants, manhole covers, valves, gully grates, and flange adaptors.

Saint-Gobain PAM has launched a business modernization program to remain at the highest level of competitiveness, and digital technology plays a key role. Saint-Gobain PAM chose the 150-year-old reference plant to demonstrate that leveraging Ignition as an enterprise platform could cover every need and that a team of 6 experts could successfully manage the entire transformation, including SCADA, MES, track and trace, quality control, and many other functions.

Saint-Gobain PAM has chosen to: 

  • Use Ignition with an adapted economic model that natively embeds numerous technical capabilities.
  • To build a team of experts: Three in the Saint-Gobain PAM digital team and three in an Ignition integration team.
  • To rely on the expert integration team at 2Gi Technologie, which has been using the Platform for 15 years.

Ignition’s Hub & Spoke architecture met every challenge, including security, performance, real-time data transmission, and scalability. 

Ignition’s open standards made it possible to easily interface with third-party systems, including SAP and VAX architectures (designed in 1977).

Saint-Gobain PAM uses Vision, Perspective, and Perspective Mobile at the same time to keep HMIs adapted to use at the foot of the production line, in a “responsive” office environment, and in mobility

Saint-Gobain PAM achieved tracking by combining an RFID tag placed in the surface of the pipe and capable of withstanding high temperatures developed by its R&D teams  and Ignition’s ability to collect and aggregate data in real time from various points on the production line.

This unique traceability allows Saint-Gobain PAM, after 15 years of various attempts, to track the detailed production of each pipe manufactured in real time.

Vision has improved quality control with simple and ergonomic HMIs with tactile input for operators permanently wearing protective gloves. 

The strategy of building a team of experts to leverage the full power of the Ignition Platform has paid off.

In a few months and with optimized costs, Saint-Gobain PAM has a modern and open Enterprise Platform covering all of its digital needs in a manufacturing environment. The plant put an end to costly and imperfect paper-based information collection processes.


For over 40 years, top manufacturers in food & beverage, CPG, and life sciences/pharmaceuticals have called upon Grantek to solve their most complex business and manufacturing challenges. Grantek automates pharmaceutical and food & beverage manufacturing operations, including integration with business systems for seamless solutions. Grantek helps customers meet the stringent requirements and challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Grantek is a system integrator and solution provider with a specialization in smart manufacturing solutions, manufacturing automation solutions, industrial IT/cybersecurity solutions and manufacturing consulting services.

For more than 130 years, Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck) has brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines. Merck aspires to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world — and today, Merck is at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. Merck fosters a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operates responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all people and communities.

Merck & Co., Inc., the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world, requested Grantek’s assistance in building an alarm management system with the Ignition SCADA platform for its facility in West Point, PA. This solution provides alarm monitoring, historization, and a management interface for 10,000+ points while also delivering ad hoc and scheduled reporting tools to aid in the rationalization of up to 30,000 alarm events per day. Grantek’s solution, built with Ignition Perspective, also provides point change management and tracking tools to assist site administrators in maintaining the associated point metadata.

The system needed the ability to add various alarm data from existing Siemens PLCs and through OPC tags for different systems on site. To keep the configuration setup as simple as possible, all data was mapped through the existing Matrikon OPC Server. This eliminated the need to verify all tags back to the PLCs or other systems while also simplifying the overall tag verification for the existing system. Tags connecting to Siemens controllers were connected through the Ignition OPC Server.

The alarming system had to provide all levels of alarm management for the configured tags, and a variety of metadata type options. As part of the alarm system, the user needed the ability to enter comments for each active alarm that would be historized and available for review via reports and the alarm’s history. The alarm system will also work in conjunction with Active Directory to access a list of designated users and populate the given parameters that are made available. User profiles and characteristics also had to be created. Additionally, reports needed to be configured to be filterable by time (day/week/month), severity, category, and users.

Merck selected Ignition by Inductive Automation as the SCADA system for this solution. Grantek recommended Ignition Perspective, as it is uniquely positioned to deliver the results Merck wanted to achieve. The solution had a connection to 22,000 tags and 11,000 alarm points through an OPC/DA server architecture, while also providing a future avenue to connect 96 new Allen Bradley PLCs directly to the gateway. To ensure a user-friendly experience for Merck operators and managers, a real-time alarm management workflow was developed to allow operators to view, dispatch, acknowledge, and annotate unique alarm events through the life cycle of the event. Perspective views for high-density alarm summary and alarm history were also developed to let users perform advanced filtering of the alarm tables as needed. This feature also allows operators and management to view all relative metadata and response status in a conveniently docked pane.

This solution provided Merck with an application that enables well-defined management (dispatching, answering, annotating, and monitoring) of all alarms (up to 10,000 alarm events per day). Furthermore, the solution lets application administrators perform in-depth configuration updates to existing alarms points (and associated metadata including setpoints, sensor details, troubleshooting steps, owners, and various other details) and the ability to add and configure new alarms through the application’s frontend. Additional features included automatic notifications and report distribution, and a high-availability DB architecture allowing for historical retention of an immense amount of alarm information.

To provide more flexibility, the ad hoc and filterable reports let users view historical events in highly customized formats. This feature can also be helpful in the event of a regulatory review or audit. The UI tools allow authorized users to manage points from the system’s frontend. They will be able to change point metadata, alarm parameters, point owners, and specify users who will be notified by email or text if the point enters an alarm state. Alternatively, users can export point data to a CSV file from the Ignition Perspective application, make necessary edits, and re-import the CSV file into the application to modify points. 

UI tools were incorporated into this solution to provide workflow for users to request changes to points while allowing system administrators to track the progress of the changes and record annotation. Grantek’s solution also provides AD integration and workflow so that system administrators can approve or deny new users or role changes.


Skellig was founded in 2010 to experiment with the optimization of teams in the life sciences industry. Skellig clients experience a level of transparency and partnership that has not been seen in the industry until now. Skellig partners best with their clients by focusing first on being a place where great engineers can do great work. They built their business around solving for engineers, where engineers find fulfillment in the work they do and take part in opportunities that suit their goals, surrounded by great teammates.

Center for Breakthrough Medicines is a pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization focused on innovative cell and gene therapies. CBM’s integrated, comprehensive offering provides a one-source solution to accelerate speed to market for advanced therapies. CBM’s mission is to save lives by accelerating the development and manufacturing of advanced therapies. Services include drug substance and drug product for all phases of the product lifecycle at a single site. We provide many services including process and analytical development & testing as well as plasmid DNA, viral vector, and cell therapy manufacturing in an over 30 process suite, 700,000+ sq ft facility.

The objective of this project was to develop the Automation Infrastructure and Data Management System backbone for the world’s largest Cell and Gene Therapy Pharmaceutical (CDMO). Center for Breakthrough Medicines’ (CBM) primary aim was to automate data collection and contextualization while ensuring logical controls are in place to protect client data and proprietary information. The system will provide a platform for equipment deployment and integration, maximizes flexibility and redundancy while minimizing upkeep and maintenance, and incorporates cutting-edge automation and IT technology for expansion and future growth.

Development of the automation backbone is essential for efficient management of data, which, in turn, is crucial for business and organizational success across industries. CBM’s goal was to develop a robust Data Management System (DMS) and automation infrastructure to provide time-series and relational data archives as well as deploy process control capabilities for future needs.

The primary objective of the project was to automate data collection and contextualization as much as possible and make data readily available to all end users, including clients, enabling scientists to focus on science and business developers to focus on business development by eliminating manual data collection activities. In line with this objective, the DMS aims to ensure logical controls are in place to protect client data and proprietary information while still providing a high-availability interface.

To facilitate quick and easy equipment deployment and integration, the system provides a platform from both functional and validation perspectives. The system’s flexibility and redundancy are maximized while minimizing system upkeep and maintenance to ensure maximum efficiency.

The DMS is designed utilizing cutting-edge automation open-source technologies, including Opto 22 hardware, Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA platform, Canary Historian, and utilizing MQTT protocol, providing CBM with the tools and platforms for expansion and future growth. This architecture was designed with scalability in mind, ensuring that it can accommodate the growing needs of CBM as the company expands not just site-wide, but globally. The system’s capabilities also allow CBM to collect, record, and distribute data more efficiently, reducing the potential for human error and freeing up scientists to focus on higher-level analysis and scientific research. By incorporating all data repository and collection systems under one global strategy based on their data model, CBM has a streamlined approach to data management, enabling efficient and effective data analysis, quicker decision-making, and minimizing the effort of system expansion.

CBM’s DMS architecture and automation infrastructure are the most advanced in the pharmaceutical industry, enabling CBM to provide more services and data availability to its clients and giving it a major advantage over its competitors.

Announcements from Inductive Automation’s Ignition Community Conference 2023

I brought two questions along to my visit to Folsom, California and the 11th Ignition Community Conference. How are people using HMI/SCADA software? Why, after all these years, do companies still need to pursue “digital transformation”?

I’ll have a few posts from the event. Plenty of news. And time to write since I wasn’t invited to the user group meeting in Anaheim starting today.

CEO Colby Clegg and CTO Carl Gould made several announcements about enhancements and changes to the existing Ignition 8.1 including expansion of the Ignition Cloud product and  simplifying pricing and SKUs for the Ignition Edge product drawing cheers from its user and integrator audience.

Ignition Cloud Edition Multi-Tenant Licensing

Earlier this year, Inductive Automation released Ignition Cloud Edition, which is a fully hosted enterprise solution deployed on the AWS and Azure cloud platforms. Today, the company announced it will remove the Ignition Cloud Edition license clause that prohibits multi-tenancy.

This change, which is planned to take effect during Q4 2023, will allow customers to use Ignition Cloud Edition to build reusable, commercially viable multi-tenant applications.

“For years, many customers have been interested in building commercial hosted applications on top of the Ignition platform. The flexibility and accessibility of the cloud makes it the most natural place to build these types of applications. Multi-tenancy provides a new economic model for developing exciting and scalable web applications in Ignition,” says Inductive Automation CEO Colby Clegg.

Ignition Edge Product Line Simplification

Inductive Automation announced that it is streamlining its Ignition Edge product offerings while expanding the products’ capabilities with unlimited data. In Q4 2023, the number of Ignition Edge products will be reduced from five to two, which are Ignition Edge IIoT and Ignition Edge Panel. Both Ignition Edge IIoT and Ignition Edge Panel will have no limits on tags or device connections, and both will include MQTT Transmission capabilities.

“Ignition Edge products provide the simplest, most cost-effective way to capture, process, and visualize critical data at the edge of the network. Ignition Edge has been a huge success and, for many of our customers, it has provided the missing piece to make IIoT a reality. Now we’re making Ignition Edge even better by removing limitations and making it easier for customers to choose the right Ignition Edge product for their needs,” says Inductive Automation Chief Technology Officer Carl Gould.

Two additional announcements of import

Inductive Automation Australia

For the first time, Inductive Automation will open an office outside of the United States. Inductive Automation has acquired the assets of its Australian distributor iControls and is opening Inductive Automation Australia PTY as a wholly owned subsidiary of Inductive Automation, LLC.

Brisbane-based iControls will ramp down its operations shortly, and most of its assets, operations, and staff will transfer over to Inductive Automation Australia, which will also hire additional staff in the region.

“The creation of Inductive Automation Australia is a major step toward our goal of providing direct support for Ignition around the world on a 24/7 basis. The team at iControls possesses a wealth of Ignition experience and we’re excited to bring them onto the official Inductive Automation team. Furthermore, Australia is an English-speaking country with a strong technology background, and operating there will position us to expand into key markets in the Eurasian region,” says Inductive Automation CEO Colby Clegg.

Read more about Inductive Automation Australia in this blog post.

Inductive Automation also continues to work with independent international distributors in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and UAE; Brazil; Central America; France; Italy; Norway and Sweden; Sub-Saharan Africa; and Switzerland.

Ignition Community Impact Program

Inductive Automation announced the launch of the new Ignition Community Impact Program, which provides a standardized process for individuals and organizations to apply for a free Ignition license to create a project that benefits their community. The program is intended to support philanthropic and community-service projects such as the Room in The Inn homeless management information system that won an Ignition Community Firebrand Award this year.

Program applications are filed through IA’s website, and licenses are granted after the application is approved. Those interested can learn more and apply.

The Ignition Effect’ Video Series

Inductive Automation announced the release of “The Ignition Effect,” a new video series highlighting the many positive long-term effects that Ignition has on the professionals who use it. The goal of the series is to help viewers more fully understand the role of Ignition in the industry by telling the types of personal stories that are not usually featured in case studies. The series includes interviews with system integrators and end users from the US, South America, the UK, and Europe, and highlights topics such as community, education, career journeys, and more.

The first 5 episodes are available now and more episodes will be released in the future.

BIC Implements Rockwell Automation’s Plex MES As Part of Digital Transformation

My mission involves going beyond the hype of the marketing term digital transformation into the reality of implementation. Companies have actually been doing this for many years. It’s just that we learn better ways to implement it, and suppliers have developed better tools. This implementation will be interesting to watch unfold.

Rockwell Automation aids iconic BIC to shift towards standardized and paperless operations with its Plex Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

Rockwell Automation announced the successful one-year implementation of the Plex Manufacturing Execution System (MES) at the BIC, a world leader in stationery, lighters, and shavers, plant in Bizerte, Tunisia.

BIC’s primary business drivers for digitalization and transformation are the standardization of production processes and integration across machines, people, and business layers. Plex MES was selected for its broad functional scope and technical capabilities, with a cloud-based, Software as a Service solution offering comprehensive support to BIC’s standardization process.

We have learned that the best MES projects start small. Prove a pilot at a plant. Make it scalable so that it can be rolled out to additional sites.

The deployment of Plex MES began in 2020 with a pilot project at BIC’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) production facility in Bizerte, Tunisia, encompassing 90 machines and 400 employees. The Plex MES system offers live reporting, enabling real-time visibility, automation of data collection, and tracking of production KPIs. The benefits of this project include improved inventory control, waste reduction, reduced error from manual processing, and overall equipment efficiency (OEE). It has also allowed for the automation of production integration, a significant change for people on the shop floor.

Plex MES also serves as a foundation for BIC’s broader Smart Manufacturing Initiative, including the integration of additional elements within the factory to help shift from a paper-based system to Plex MES and support self-sufficiency with a 360-degree view of the factory floor.

HighByte Releases Industrial DataOps Solution with Complete Data Engineering Toolset for Global Manufacturers  

Unified Namespace architectures are the hot IT item right now. HighByte, a pioneer in industrial dataops, now includes support for this technology.

HighByte, an industrial software company, announced the release of HighByte Intelligence Hub version 3.2 that fully supports Unified Namespace (UNS) architectures and expands data pipelines capabilities, providing a complete data engineering platform to the industrial market. Pipelines are further integrated into the core of the Intelligence Hub and enhanced to provide highly configurable, complex, and sequenced data processing. 

Pipelines in the Intelligence Hub can now seamlessly interface with complex systems hosting transactional and historical data and sequence dependent transactions with MES and ERP systems. This sequencing, along with new compression capabilities, can tackle “ETL” use cases, such as backfilling historical data from timeseries databases to the cloud. Pipelines can also now maintain state from one run to the next. This is ideal for capturing long-running, conditional events used for tracking machine status and production.

Version 3.2 also includes a new UNS Client that provides visualization of the UNS, allowing users to view the contents of any MQTT broker. HighByte Intelligence Hub users can now see the results of their MQTT-based Industrial DataOps workloads in a single, unified engineering environment, negating the need for external testing clients.

The Intelligence Hub now provides a complete UNS infrastructure solution with an integrated data engineering platform, embedded MQTT broker, and visual client. Oriented for interoperability and architectural flexibility, the Intelligence Hub can serve as an organization’s sole UNS infrastructure or as a complementary solution among other third-party UNS components. Other features in version 3.2 include a new SQLite connector, enhanced store-and-forward capabilities, and improvements to many existing connectors, including AWS IoT SiteWise, Sparkplug, and PI System. 

Hexagon Empowers Machine Shops

This topic is slightly outside my usual area of expertise but shows extension of digital technologies (should we say even digital transformation?) into the machine shop market. I attended the Hexagon user conference last summer gaining an appreciation for the breadth as well as depth of their technology.

Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division announced the release of HxGN Production Machining, a new suite of software developed to empower machine shops to achieve operational excellence in the manufacturing of discrete parts, tools, and components with machine tools at any scale, from one-off prototypes to volume production, and across industries ranging from medical to aerospace and beyond.

Capabilities of the suite include CAD (computer-aided design) for manufacturing and design review, CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) for CNC (computer numerical control) machine-tool programming, process simulation and G-code verification and optimisation, shop-floor production intelligence, and automation and collaboration powered by Nexus, Hexagon’s digital-reality platform. Central to the company’s Machine Shop Excellence solutions, the suite includes significant automation and innovative technologies that help manufacturers achieve highly efficient utilisation of material, cutting tools, and CNC equipment, and capture and consistently apply a shop’s best practices.

The HxGN Production Machining suite will integrate common workflows to help teams reduce error and eliminate redundant tasks at every stage, from job quotation and design review through production, quality assurance, and product delivery. By offering a suite of connected products from the Hexagon ecosystem, manufacturers benefit from simplified procurement, implementation, and support. The suite’s flexibility makes it suitable for shops of any size, all types of CNC machinery, and any discrete part and material from one-off prototype to high-volume production runs.

Preparing jobs for CNC programming is easier with tailored design-for-manufacturing tools developed to accelerate the transition from planning to production. Hexagon’s DESIGNER software accepts CAD data from any vendor, and helps manufacturers easily visualise and analyse part model geometry. The software also helps utilise product manufacturing information (PMI), such as tolerance, surface finish, and material data. The suite is designed to preserve this valuable information across the digital thread to streamline production.

Interoperable with DESIGNER, Hexagon’s trio of CAM systems for production machining can program any machine tool, including multi-axis, mill-turn, multi-tasking, Swiss-type, and wire EDM machinery. The software applications, including the widely used EDGECAM and ESPRIT, and the new ESPRIT EDGE, provide a broad spectrum of machining cycles, programming for on-machine measurement, robust automation tools, machine-optimised G-code, and the use of AI to automatically generate collision-free positioning between cutting zones.

Hexagon offers extensive CNC program simulation and verification capabilities to avoid collisions and optimise code for more advanced machinery and complex operations. From the CAM system, machine-specific G-code programs are sent to its NCSIMUL software, which incorporates the entire machining environment to generate a digital twin of the machinery, part, and processes for cycle-time optimisation, set-up revision, and program certification.

New production-intelligence tools connect with machine tools to provide real-time insights and asset condition monitoring, as well as to support data-driven planning, quoting, and continuous improvement. Created by Hexagon partner Datanomix, Automated Production Intelligence software automatically captures data on machine performance and offers mobile machine-tool status alerts that enable lights-out machining and a high level of automation. By collecting job data, shops of any size can generate more accurate quotes using information about the past performance of machinery for identical or similar jobs.

High volume and precision manufacturing operations can implement closed-loop quality capabilities from the suite, applying series metrology data to predict when parts will begin to fall out of tolerance and automatically perform tooling offsets due to normal tool wear and tear. Hexagon’s Intelligent Machine Control (IMC) software uses statistical process control to update the CNC controller directly, eliminating guesswork and ensuring that manufacturers won’t need to rely upon staff to manually calculate offsets and enable lights-out production.

HxGN Production Machining is available now globally from Hexagon and approved partners. A webinar series detailing how manufacturing challenges are solved with HxGN Production Machining can be accessed at go.mi.hexagon.com/2023/IntroToPS/WebinarSeries. Learn more about Hexagon machining technologies at hexagon.com/products/product-groups/computer-aided-manufacturing-cad-cam-software.

Betacom and UScellular Introduce Industry’s First Private/Public Hybrid 5G Networks

Manufacturing, along with retail and other industries, are still reaching for the last mile of wireless connectivity, especially given the growth of mobility platforms. Representatives of Betacom and UScellular chatted with me the other day to reinforce the important points from this news about the first private/public hybrid 5G networks.

Private wireless network provider Betacom announced on September 19 a partnership with UScellular to deliver the industry’s first private/public hybrid 5G networks, advancing Industry 4.0 initiatives across the United States. The service provides security and control over business data, both on-premises and while roaming among company facilities. 

The private/public hybrid 5G network service allows organizations with multiple sites across numerous locations to maintain connectivity between locations. Enterprises working to modernize their operations across dispersed locations now have a cohesive mobility strategy with trusted partners for Industry 4.0. Uptime and performance are assured for improved operational efficiency and productivity with Betacom-backed Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

“This relationship with Betacom helps to establish a new bar for how the entire wireless industry thinks about, builds, delivers and utilizes wireless networks,” said Kim Kerr, senior vice president, enterprise sales and operations for UScellular. “These new capabilities significantly accelerate the return on investment for digital transformation and modernization initiatives for organizations of all types, from enterprise to retail to government, and move the industry as a whole forward, faster.”  

UScellular’s network and extensive access agreements give customers connectivity across the United States. UScellular also provides data backhaul between sites. Enabling devices to use a single SIM with profiles for both Betacom private CBRS networks and the UScellular network ensures mobility, while integrated communication and coordination between the two companies’ 5G network cores enables seamless roaming across the country.  

“Betacom and UScellular are breaking new ground for their customers and setting new precedents for the industry,” said Joe Madden, Founder and President, Mobile Experts Inc. “Enabling device mobility from facility to facility with a transition from CBRS to cellular in both directions has never been solved. This makes private/public hybrid 5G networks extremely valuable for a wide range of industries.”  

The solution establishes and maintains end-to-end security, utilizing virtual private networks (VPNs) to ensure that all data effectively remains on the customer premises while devices and sensors are in transit between locations. It also provides unmatched resiliency by using the cellular network for failover in cases where the CBRS network or local internet service providers (ISPs) suffer an outage. The new network architecture utilized for this service facilitates mission-critical Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I) services and solutions which require the highest degrees of data and device security. Reducing dependency on public clouds for data transfer by creating a private network through the carrier network results in fewer vulnerabilities and fewer attacks. 

“The service we are announcing today recognizes that the wireless world is changing, and that connectivity, in all of its forms, must change with it,” said Betacom CEO Johan Bjorklund. “Organizations today need seamless mobility with incredibly high densities of sensors and devices to accelerate their Industry 4.0 initiatives. This new service acknowledges and uniquely meets that need.” 

Betacom offers the first fully-managed private 5G network, building on its long history as a wireless infrastructure provider to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Founded in 1991 and headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, the company has regional offices throughout the country. Having completed more than 800 large-scale design and deployment projects, Betacom inspires confidence among their customers who have worked closely with them to meet their pressing high-performance connectivity needs. Its secure private 5G wireless service is the first managed service of its kind in the United States. 

Inductive Automation Alliance Partner Program Expands

Ecosystem adds SafetyChain, SiteSync, and Snowflake join the Ignition Ecosystem

From the first time I met the founder of Inductive Automation some 20 years ago, he talked about a different way of doing business. Part of it was building IT-friendly databases and tools. Another part was the way to interact with customers including the pricing model and innovative support tools. The team quickly also implemented the idea of community. I leave tomorrow for the Ignition Community Conference in Folsom (if you are there, stop me and say hi). They emphasize the reality of community.

Inductive Automation has added three companies to its Alliance Partner Program. SafetyChain, SiteSync, and Snowflake all add unique services that support the Ignition Ecosystem. I’m looking forward to learning more tomorrow and Wednesday.


This cloud-based software is a first-of-its-kind digital plant management platform with fully integrated tools for production, safety and quality, maintenance, and supplier compliance. From receiving to load-out, SafetyChain is trusted by over 2,000 facilities as their complete solution to improve performance by easily capturing, managing, and analyzing critical operations and continuous improvement data in real-time from anywhere.

“Inductive Automation is a true pioneer in empowering manufacturers’ digital transformation journey. Sharing this vision, SafetyChain is proud to have been selected as an Alliance Partner. Together, we add value by combining Ignition-collected data with mobile-collected data to empower frontline workers in real time. Our combined solutions leverage data to dramatically impact a manufacturer’s bottom line by significantly improving performance in key areas such as uptime, throughput, yield, and labor,” says Barry Maxon, CEO & co-founder of SafetyChain Software.


SiteSync leverages the latest sensor connectivity technology, including LoRaWAN, LTE, and more, to allow industrial users to bring stranded assets and manual measurements into a central source of truth for data visualization, alarming, and advanced AI analysis. SiteSync enables field users to deploy IIoT sensors with the same ease of commercial IoT systems via pre-configured devices and QR codes to commission devices.

The SiteSync Ignition Module provides field technicians, OT, and IT team members, with tools that make deploying IIoT easy across the organization. SiteSync’s UDT library creates normalized and decoded sensor data in Ignition, ready to be consumed by upstream data users.

“We believe Inductive Automation provides an unparalleled platform for deploying IIoT at scale. SiteSync is looking forward to helping the Ignition community bring the ease of Home Automation to the Industrial space through our partnership and the SiteSync LoRaWAN module. Our goal is to enable Ignition users and integrators to easily bring new IIoT technologies to their end users and help guide them in finding additional ROI for their Ignition projects,” says Michael Brauer, Vice President, SiteSync.


From the beginning, Ignition was designed to fully leverage databases and make it easy for users to connect to any database so they can store and query industrial and enterprise data. Ignition was one of the first organizations to unlock the power of SQL databases for industrial applications and is now among the first to integrate with Snowflake’s single, integrated platform.

The Snowflake Manufacturing Data Cloud is a fully managed, reliable, cloud-based data platform. It uses a multi-cluster shared data architecture to eliminate data silos and empower manufacturers to scale their data easily by leveraging the nearly infinite resources of the cloud to build a data foundation for their business, improve supply chain performance, and power smart manufacturing initiatives in today’s digital-industrial world.

With Snowflake, Ignition users can enjoy the benefits of elastic data storage offered by the cloud and leverage easy-to-use SQL, Python, Java, and Scala databases. Snowflake is a great complement to on-premise Ignition systems. Industrial data can be published using MQTT Sparkplug, and that data is stored automatically – along with its context – in the Snowflake Manufacturing Data Cloud using Cirrus Link’s new IoT Bridge for Snowflake, no coding required. Once the data is in the cloud, users can easily query it back into Ignition through Snowflake’s JDBC driver to use the data to generate reports, perform advanced analytics, and build and deploy applications.

Travis Cox, Inductive Automation’s Chief Technology Evangelist, is excited to see how the Ignition user community will benefit from using Snowflake and Ignition together. “The amount of industrial data organizations have to manage is increasing. Together, Ignition and Snowflake truly allows manufacturing and industrial organizations to scale and use data more effectively. I am excited to see the innovations that come out of storing industrial data in a SQL database with context!”

Inductive Automation’s Alliance Partner Program showcases a select group of technology companies which provide valuable products and services that complement Ignition. Partners involved with the Alliance Partner Program will work closely with Inductive Automation’s Industry & Education Engagement team to specifically discuss co-marketing opportunities. 

Investing in Manufacturing in America

  • Calix Continues 24-Year Leadership in US Rural Broadband by Expanding Strategy To Include American Manufacturing, Ensuring Full Participation in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program
  • Calix and its strategic manufacturing solutions provider, Jabil, join with government leaders, including US Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, to unveil the details of its strategy to meet Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements by manufacturing critical broadband hardware systems from the unique US-built Calix software and cloud platform at Jabil’s facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan

The Biden Administration and the US Congress have provided funds for investing in manufacturing in America. This news comes as a result of some of that investment. It links the goal of providing broadband access for all Americans with another goal of building American manufacturing.

Calix Inc. affirmed its commitment to “Build America, Buy America” (BABA) for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program during a special event held at a manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, operated by Jabil Inc. This commitment includes expanding a manufacturing services agreement with Jabil at its Michigan facility. Calix was joined by government leaders United States Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

Calix was founded in the United States (US) 24 years ago with an exclusive focus on enabling rural broadband service providers (BSPs). Over the past 12 years, Calix has invested $1.2 billion to build the only end-to-end software and cloud broadband platform, further establishing the company as the leading technology partner to rural BSPs across the US. Calix has more than 1,300 active US customers and nearly 100 percent serve rural markets, where they are leading the way to close the digital divide. The decision to move manufacturing to the US will ensure that Calix customers can leverage the BEAD program to meet this objective—and it will create new, high-value manufacturing jobs nationwide by building on decades of US-led innovation across Calix Cloud®, software, and systems.

With an initial investment from Calix of $4 million to $6 million and an ongoing spend for operations of $10 million to $15 million per year, Calix manufacturing solutions providers will hire workers in manufacturing, operations, engineering, quality assurance, and administrative roles as they ramp US production of Calix optical solutions—a first step in the company’s BABA initiative. The ongoing collaboration with these manufacturers will create more than 100 American jobs, with additional jobs planned as Calix customers participate in the BEAD program over the next five to 10 years.

Calix has longstanding partnerships with three manufacturing solutions providers: a five-year partnership with Jabil, an eight-year partnership with Gemtek, and a 10-year partnership with Hisense Broadband. The manufacturing services agreements between Calix and these providers reflect the following:

  • Jabil will produce optical network terminals (ONTs) and optical line terminals (OLTs) in Michigan
  • Gemtek will produce ONTs at its California facility
  • Hisense Broadband will produce optical modules at its New Jersey facility

Quotes from leaders involved:

“We founded Calix 24 years ago in the US by focusing on and partnering with US rural broadband providers as they innovated to close the digital divide,” said Calix Chairman Carl Russo. “Cooperatives, tribal and community-owned, family and community run, and private equity-backed local broadband providers are the lifeblood of rural America, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with federal and state leaders on broadband programs that help them expand the great work that they do every day. In doing so, they have created tremendous value for underserved communities across the US as our America-led software and cloud innovation in broadband has enabled even the smallest BSP to thrive and provide the essential broadband services that enable economic growth, education, health, and safety. Calix, our customers, and our partners are tremendously thankful to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Commerce Department for their leadership in ensuring that we can deliver world-class broadband and life-enhancing managed services to every citizen and local business. More importantly, they are doing it through a program that will help us meet this objective through Calix America-led software and cloud innovation while contributing to America’s manufacturing renaissance.”

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and commitment to ‘Made in America’ is driving a resurgence in manufacturing across the country,” said US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Today’s announcement is more evidence that we can close the digital divide and connect everyone in America to high-speed internet networks built by American workers with American-made equipment.”

“The ‘Internet for All’ initiative is not just a connectivity program; it’s a jobs program—for the people who build the networks and for the people who make the equipment those networks need,” said US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “If network equipment can be made in America, it should be made in America. Companies like Calix are stepping up and answering that call.”

“Jabil is excited to join Calix in supporting the BEAD program while bridging the digital divide to bring critical broadband access to those who need it most,” said Jabil Executive Vice President of Operations Gerald “JJ” Creadon. “As a global manufacturing solutions provider, we have a presence in 30 countries and more than 100 facilities, yet Jabil was founded less than 30 miles from this state-of-the-art factory in Auburn Hills. We are extremely proud to ramp production of Calix’s industry-leading platforms here in Michigan, incorporating the latest automation and process technologies to accelerate the delivery of Calix’s industry-leading broadband-access equipment.”

Survey Reports Edge Computing Application Plans

Paul Simon wrote that it’s all happening at the zoo. Today, it’s all happening at the edge. ATT Cybersecurity has released its 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Edge Ecosystem focusing on manufacturing companies worldwide. It explains how edge computing is changing manufacturing to solve operational issues and reduce costs. This report reveals what your peers are planning and doing to embrace edge computing.

The lead and author of the report, Head of Cybersecurity Evangelism at AT&T Business Theresa Lanowitz, states, “In the past, IT typically made technology decisions based on business and computing requirements they understood. Thanks to ongoing advances in computing, things are changing.”

She contends Edge computing is a transformative technology that brings together various stakeholders and aligns their interests to drive integrated business outcomes. The emergence of edge computing has been fueled by a generation of visionaries who grew up in the era of smartphones and limitless possibilities. In this paradigm, the role of IT has shifted from being the sole leader to a collaborative partner in delivering innovative edge computing solutions. In addition, we found that leaders in manufacturing are budgeting differently for edge use cases. These two things, along with an expanded approach to securing edge computing, were prioritized by the respondents in the 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Edge Ecosystem.

Topline research findings

In 2023, the manufacturing respondents’ primary edge use case is smart warehousing, which involves deploying computing resources close to or on the warehouse floor. The enhanced productivity of warehouse employees, flexible logistics, and better optimization of warehouse space are some benefits of edge computing. This represents a shift from the primary use case in the 2022 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Securing the Edge, which focused on video-based quality inspection as the primary manufacturing edge computing use case.

Press releases concerning warehousing and logistics up and downstream constituted the majority of my inbox for the past few years. Looks like this is reflected in the research.

As manufacturing has evolved, the need for efficiency and speed is focused on moving goods out of warehouses and onto the next stop of either consumption or integration. The rising cost of labor and customer expectations for next-day or same-day deliveries drive the need for greater investments in rapidly understanding which products are most likely needed to fulfill a sales pipeline or supply chain.

This is AT&T Cybersecurity, after all, so it cites following cybersecurity challenges with the edge: 

  • Potentially more vulnerable data – especially when such devices are at risk of being stolen, lost or damaged. 
  • Legacy 4G threats, when the increased use of sensors and cameras on a production line can benefit from 5G capabilities and its enhanced encryption. 
  • Concerns regarding regulatory compliance, specifically when personally identifiable information (PII) is being transferred from the edge site to a different location.

Preserving Global Standards

I was invited to a presentation by a wireless technology provider called InterDigital. They wished to discuss the current state of global standard development especially in the wireless communication space.

My career has wandered through a maze of standard setting from chairman of the standards and technical committee of a trade association, to ASHRAE and UL committees, to sitting in on meetings of some international technical standard development, not to mention researching and writing about ISA standards. To draw from the movie title, I have witnessed the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

One thing I was taught early was the dance of the big companies in the industry joining standards development committees, their representatives being smart and nice people, and those same representatives doing all in their power by asking questions endlessly to slow or halt the standards development process. Or, best, would be like an early part of my engineering career which involved rewriting the specs to match our products.

This presentation led us from the past global economic strategies of companies to the current situation of nationalism—especially by China—where they try to do the same thing. Devise alternative standards, slow development of unfriendly standards, from the standpoint of Geopolitical strategies.

We know the benefits of standardization for all of us as users. The struggle is to implement enough despite that highly evolved dance so that we do benefit.

To recap things I’ve written about for more than 20 years:

  • Interoperability
  • Safety and Reliability
  • Economies of Scale
  • Innovation
  • Open Market Access

What can I say. Get involved with standards where you can!

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