An Ignition Systems Integrator Shares His Learnings from the Ignition Community Conference 2023
This year was my first trip to the Ignition Community Conference (ICC) by Inductive Automation since 2018, which was my 5th consecutive conference starting back in 2014. The birth of my son, Covid and conflicts with other industry trade shows hindered my ability to attend, but this year I was finally able to attend along with co-worker Chris VanRemoortel. The following is a summary of the information I personally found interesting from the sessions I attended.
Vendor Sessions and Table Talks
The first day of the Ignition Community Conference was set up a bit differently than in years past. It featured technical sessions from 3rd party vendors and introduced table talks, a new addition this year, which allowed attendees to add a topic for discussion that may be interesting to their peers.
Technical Session – Flow Software
Flow Software is an analytics framework with the goal of turning data into information. Flow provides an alternative to aggregating all data into a data warehouse or data lake and then performing analytics. Instead, Flow can access the data from where it resides today, clean and add context to that data, and then publish that data back to another data source or to a dashboard or report. I was particularly impressed with its ability to easily handle issues with time series data, such as event frames and handling totalizer rollover events. Neomatrix hasn’t used Flow to date but have a session setup with Jeff Knepper to get a better understanding of how we can leverage Flow to add value to our customers’ automation systems.
Table Talk – Alex Marcy from Corso Systems & DEI
Corso Systems frequently blogs about the lack of women and minorities in manufacturing – something I can appreciate. Alex Marcy has commented in the past that many people in our industry state that they would love to have more women in their company – but they just don’t apply for the jobs. When I saw this table talk available, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see what other folks are doing to attract more women to the industry and see how we can help. The conversation was great and went in a number of different directions – but these were the main takeaways I had from the conversation:
- Codifying benefits such as Maternity and Paternity leave for birth or adoption within your organization
- Making it easier for working parents by offering flexible start and end times to deal with kids and their activities
- Try using Tech Ladies – a recruiting firm with a focus on women in technical roles:
- Follow and engage with Industry pages run by women such as Automation Ladies
- Hire women on the college intern/coop loop.
- Follow and engage with Andrew Crow who is focused on connecting members of communities to the manufacturing industry
Main ICC 2023 Keynote
In my experience, the highlight of ICC is the keynote sessions in which Inductive Automation’s leadership reviews the highlights of the past year and gives an overview of the company’s future plans and products. Typically, there is a lot of buzz around new functionality being added to products; however, this year the bigger announcements in the keynote session reflected some major business decisions they made surrounding licensing, certifications, and geographical organizational structure.
New Release & Features
While no new major Ignition release is imminent, some minor details of the next version and features were announced. One interesting note was that they will be skipping version 8.2 and going directly to 8.3. This is for no other reason than they commit to Long Term Support (LTS) for odd versions and due to the lapse in time between major releases they are going to ensure that the next version will have LTS. For the new release they announced three major new features:
- Native drawing tools for Perspective
- Event Streams (more on this later)
- High performance time series historian
Inductive has announced various versions of the Ignition product over the years: Edge, Maker Edition, Cloud Edition, and now they are offering free licenses for non-profit entities. Highlighted in this presentation was the work that Chris McLaughlin did with the Room in the Inn project which was also honored with a Firebrand award. Congratulations to Chris and the other hundreds of folks who helped with that project.
ISASecure SDLA Certified & Inductive Automation Trust Center
Security is a focal point of every company today and Inductive Automation has an ongoing campaign to continuously improve the security of their products and websites. They recently became ISASecure SDLA certified which means that Inductive takes an approach of integrating security processes throughout the lifecycle of Ignition from design, implementation, testing, operation in production environments, and decommissioning. They also pointed out their new (or new to me) trust center website, which you can find here. This portal allows you to view the status of their security posture – including known vulnerabilities.
Inductive Automation Australia
During its initial years, Inductive bucked the industry trend of going direct to market (with the help of Ignition system integrators) rather than using a distributor model. As their global footprint expanded it became difficult to support companies in different time zones with different languages and cultures. They addressed this by setting up an international distributor model that covers a larger portion of the world. It was announced at the conference that Inductive acquired iControls – previously the Ignition SCADA and Sepasoft MES distributor in Australia. This acquisition will provide Inductive with extended sales and support hours, which will benefit all Inductive Automation customers. Congratulations to Glen Fry and the iControls team!
The technical keynote went into the new features in more depth – as well as some changes to Ignition Edge pricing. Let’s dive in:
I mentioned Event Streams above and while they didn’t go into depth, the following infographic gives a good idea of what they intend to do with the solution. I see this as Inductive entering the Industrial DataOps field. DataOps solutions take information from disparate data sources then, filter and transform that data, and send the cleaned and modeled data to another destination.
Ignition Edge Licensing Changes
Ignition Edge licensing has gotten fairly complex – with the many different features that you can combine for various solutions. In addition, there were some limitations to the number of devices and tags with an edge deployment. Inductive announced that they are simplifying the solution to two offerings and at a lower cost point:
- Headless (IIoT, Compute, Sync Services & EAM) $900
- Headless + Panel – $1850
Gateway Configuration Options
It was announced that the configuration will now be stored in human readable files (with secrets management extracted, of course). This provides the ability to easily change configurations in different environments simply by passing in another configuration file. In addition, there will be a new REST API, which will provide for all gateway configuration items to be read and set through a secure http interface.
Miscellaneous Technical Additions
In addition to the major features being added a couple minor additions were discussed as well:
- The addition of an AB Micro 800 Driver – no more Modbus mapping!
- Google Maps integration
- Complete tag cross reference tool
- Multi-tenant housing support approved in cloud edition
Overall, my return to the Ignition Community Conference after my 2018 hiatus was a rewarding experience. The conference provided valuable insights and updates across various aspects of the industry. From discussions on the evolving landscape of manufacturing, notably the efforts to attract more women into the field, to the technical innovations like Flow Software’s data analytics capabilities, the conference was a wealth of knowledge. The keynote sessions, as always, served as a focal point, shedding light on the company’s future plans and product developments.
If you want to connect and discuss how any of these announcements could impact your installation, please do not hesitate to reach out.