2020 ICC Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference

Ignition, ‘teleworking new normal’. New ‘Maker’ freeware. Perspective for the control room. MQTT, the ‘protocol of choice’ for Industry 4.0. Pioneer’s event logging. Amazon/Cirrus Link SiteWise engine. Vertech, ‘Docker/DevOps to dominate development’. Corso’s blockchain-based operator logs. Moxa ThingsPro comms for the IoT.

In his keynote address to the 2020 ICC Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference Don Pearson stated that there are Ignition installations and integrators in over 100 countries. IA founder and CEO, Steve Hechtman reported on the company’s reaction to the covid crisis that saw a transition to remote work ‘over a weekend’. Unexpectedly, staff proved to be ‘much more efficient’ working remotely and now working remotely is the ‘new normal for many of our staff, even after the pandemic ends’. Ignition has just released a Maker Edition, a free personal-use version to enable people to do ‘fun home projects to learn and innovate in new ways’. One happy maker is Enuda of Sweden that has created an automated heating system for its greenhouse. Using temperature sensors, MQTT and a homemade controller, they can see and control greenhouse temperature from a mobile phone.

Colby Clegg presented Perspective, a cross-platform environment/GUI that works across mobile, tablet, laptop and PCs. Perspective uses web-native technology. But in the control room, where running the SCADA or HMI inside of a commodity web browser is not best practice, a new Perspective Workstation applications can run in ‘full-screen kiosk mode’, eliminating distractions from the underlying OS (no more playing solitaire?). Ignition is in the process of replacing its Symbol Factory, an industry-standard vector graphic library with new smarter ‘Perspective Symbols’ and their dynamic data model that enables drag and drop deployment.

Ramnath Mani from Indian Automation Excellence set out to ‘breaking the myth of Industry 4.0 with Ignition. Industry 4 is envisioned as a constellation of process data sources and distributed applications in the cloud. But currently, I4 is split down the middle, between operations technology and IT. For true I4 implementation, devices (regardless of manufacturer) need to ‘seamlessly and instantly communicate’. This necessitates a common understandable language and IT-compatible protocol. MQTT is the protocol of choice to decouple devices from applications and enable I4 and the new IIoT. And naturellement, Ignition is the system of choice here as it ‘addresses the goals of the Open Process Automation (OPA-S) initiative for an open, standards-based, secure, and interoperable control system’. The idea is to avoid ‘ecosystems built around intellectual property stemming from one core partner’.

Andrew Scott (Pioneer Natural Resources) along with Amita Kulkarni and Binh Vu from integration partner CSE-Icon presented on Pioneer’s event logging system. The project centralizes event records for each control room operator with an emphasis on alarming, adding functionality to Pioneer’s current Ignition system to improve operator efficiency and pave the way for future field optimization efforts. The operations event management system was built with Ignition, displacing a third-party event logger. Ignition allowed for automatic population of much of the required event information and associated metadata from the scada system, leaving the operator to provide comments and additional information. Alarm management has been improved with alarm status updated when an alarm is cleared. Daily reporting is now largely automated.

Arlen Nipper (Cirrus Link Solutions) showed how Ignition and MQTT/SparkPlug can be used for auto-discovery of data models and to push time series data into the Amazon* Web Services cloud. The AWS IoT SiteWise service allows operations data to be collected via MQTT Sparkplug (or OPC-UA) into a cloud-based model of an asset including time series data. SiteWise provides a standard API interface for applications to consume for AI and big data solutions. Cirrus Link’s Sparkplug SiteWise Bridge, currently in beta test, delivers data into SiteWise ‘with minimal configuration and zero coding’. The Ignition Perspective module adds HTML 5 data visualization from the AWS store.

* Amazon itself is an Enterprise client of Ignition.

Ryan Crownover (Vertech) believes that ‘Docker and DevOps are set to ‘dominate’ software development and deployment. DevOps is described as a ‘methodology and a mindset designed to integrate the development and operation of a system into a cohesive lifecycle’. The approach is claimed to be adapted to changing priorities, providing rapid turnaround times and coordinating the work of a team of developers. DevOps embeds a ‘continuous integration and delivery’ process that is said to be particularly suited to automation system development. At the heart of DevOps is GitLab and Docker. Git supports developer, source code and project management. Docker makes development independent of a target architecture. Software developed on Linux ‘runs just as well on Windows’.

A team from Corso Systems presented on blockchain-based operator logs and Ignition auditing. The concept is to add a Hyperledger Fabric blockchain to provides a chain of trust for all events tracked in Ignition. Public and or private blockchains allow for different modes of determining and enforcing trust. Corso did not go into the granularity of the events tracked in the blockchain which may be problematic for high volume streaming data.

Finally, Moxa presented its Things Pro cellular/VPN connectivity solution for the IoT.

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