Ignition Made Simple: What’s The New SCADA Really All About?

August 31, 2021

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Jan Madsen

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Ignition is a versatile, robust platform, you can build pretty much any industrial application you want. It’s powerful, effective, and quite intuitive. And the modular and licensing model? Talk about unique! Inductive Automation truly disrupted the industrial world and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

But it’s about so much more than that…

It was about time someone revolutionised the industry. It was about time the next generation of industrial systems came into play, taking efficiency, productivity, and profitability for your business to a whole new level.

It all sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Well, the good news is that it’s completely real. And it’s only the beginning.

This article is for those of you who aren’t yet sure about Ignition. You’re in the researching stage, trying to get a better grasp of what this “new SCADA” is all about.

You’re in the right place.

We put together an article that breaks down Ignition into simple, understandable parts, and helps you get a clear image of how Ignition can help you enhance your operation’s performance.

By the way, can you tell we like explaining things in a simple way?

What is Ignition?

Ignition is a software platform for creating custom HMI, SCADA, MES, database applications and more. The Ignition software is web-based, and it’s installed and deployed using web technologies. The Ignition platform is managed, controlled and configured using a fast, easy to use web interface. Finally, Ignition developed applications and its designer tool are launched using web pages. The web based nature of Ignition makes it versatile, and safely accessible across a network.

Inductive Automation

Inductive Automation realised, more than 10 years ago, that the current solutions (take SCADA for example) are very limited, very demanding in terms of hardware, and ridiculously expensive.

Ignition is an open, universal platform for industrial applications. It’s server-based, you have unlimited users, unlimited tags, unlimited clients, and it works on any OS.

With the Ignition platform at the core of your systems, you can collect, analyse and visualise data, all in one place. Your SCADA won’t be isolated on an island – Ignition bridges the gap between the plant floor and the enterprise systems. Every system and process affects the entire organisation, after all, so why not have them all connected for you to make better, data-driven decisions?

Moreover, you can finally get rid of the ugly HMI that makes the operator’s work more complicated and benefit from the dozens of pre-made design elements from the Ignition library. But more on that when we talk about the Ignition Designer and the modules.

What you have to know is that Ignition is as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

With some coding skills, the Inductive University, and ambition, you can go from a basic solution to an advanced one, with Machine Learning for example. The connections Ignition can make possible are incredible, and it integrates so well with different systems.

Of course, it’s never really as easy as you’d probably want it to be, but with the necessary knowledge and skills, there are unlimited possibilities.

The Gateway

It drives everything in Ignition!

Inductive Automation

Think of the Gateway as the “home” button – this is where all the modules and projects meet, it’s the place where you can access whatever you want.

The Gateway Webpage is where you set up your licensing and activation, configure your Gateway settings, databases, devices, projects, modules, security, and alarming.

When the Gateway server is running, you can connect to a device, connect to a database, launch the Designer, and launch a Vision client or Perspective session. You can also check the status of your system, network, agents, sessions, tasks, reports, and alarms.

Essentially, it’s the heart of Ignition.

The Ignition Designer

The Designer is where the actual fun happens. It’s essentially a configuration tool, where you can build your solution with the help of the modules you installed or the components & tools “on the house”.

It comes with the Ignition platform and it’s equipped with some of the best development tools you could want. Choose the components you need from the vast Ignition libraries (or create your own!) and integrate SQL seamlessly.

Inductive Automation thought about everything: this tool not only allows you to build customised industrial solutions, but it also empowers you to create a sleek design for it, making it more easy-to-use and understandable.

And if you’re thinking “oh, that must be hard”, know that the Designer is pretty intuitive, and it has many drag-and-drop features that do the job for you.

On the other hand, if you’re into more advanced tech, scripting in Ignition will have you hooked.

As Inductive Automation mentions, with the popular Python scripting engine fully integrated into Ignition, alongside an easy-to-use script builder, scripting in Ignition is powerful and effortless.

The Modules

Ignition has a modular pricing model, which makes it unique in this space. You can buy any module that fits your needs and pay once. Each module adds new essential functionality to your solution. Like Lego. 🙂

This deserves to be emphasised because it’s one of the key differentiators of Ignition. Other softwares might be able to achieve some of the results Ignition does when it comes to industrial solutions, but Ignition’s licensing model is unbeatable. And, as we know, money is always an issue.

Let’s talk about some of the most popular Modules.

Want to know how to get started with Ignition with a minimum investment? Download our checklist.

The Perspective Module

Perspective is the next generation visualization system for industrial applications, optimized specifically for mobile devices. Perspective puts the power of your plant floor in the palm of your hand by empowering you to create beautiful, mobile-responsive industrial applications that run natively on any mobile device and web browser.

Inductive Automation

Yes, you can literally carry your industrial application in your pocket and access and visualise your data from anywhere, anytime. With the Perspective module, you can create visually pleasing, super intuitive, and easy-to-use applications that work on ANY device – from your phone to your desktop.

This module is part of a standard architecture for a basic Ignition solution. It comes in 2 different types: Perspective Limited (only available for 5 sessions – good for smaller apps) and Perspective Unlimited (which we recommend). You can always check out the pricing here.

Frequently Asked Question: But how do the Ignition Designer and the Perspective Module work together?

The Designer is where you write the code and where you configure the actual solution. The Perspective Module, like all the modules for that matter, is the additional “piece of Lego” you buy/add to be able to configure the visualisation part of your solution in the Designer. Without the Perspective Module, you wouldn’t be able to do something in the Designer to display your solution on other devices.

The Vision Module

Ignition has two visualization modules: Vision and Perspective. Vision has been around for years and is in extensive use in just about every industry. Perspective is Ignition’s newest visualization module. It leverages HTML5 to allow users to build mobile-responsive industrial applications that run natively on any screen. While both Vision and Perspective support desktops, HMIs, and control room displays, Perspective also offers visualization and control on any mobile device.

Inductive Automation

The Vision Module gives you the possibility of ditching the ugly HMI that only confuses you and replacing it with an understandable, user-friendly HMI that shows you the exact information you need.

Windows, Navigation, Buttons, Components, Bindings… everything you need to build an effective HMI is at your disposal.

Vision is the original workhorse that is applied in thousands of solutions globally. It’s applied in many different settings from desktop applications, over control room use to HMI directly on machine displays. All of these have one thing in common: it just works!

Compared to the other visualisation tool, Perspective, it has no mobile-first option. If you know you will never need a mobile-first solution, then you can’t get a more stable and intuitive solution to work for you.

The Tag Historian Module

The Tag Historian Module provides power and flexibility for storing and accessing historical data. When history is enabled on an Ignition Tag, data is stored automatically in your SQL database in an efficient format. This data is then available for querying through scripting, historical bindings, and reporting. Options for partitioning and deleting old data help to ensure the system stays maintained with minimal extra work. Also, you can drag-and-drop Tags directly onto an Easy Chart component to create trends or onto a table to display historical values. Tag Historian’s robust querying features provide you great flexibility in how you retrieve the stored data.

Inductive Automation

The Tag Historian is another super useful module.

There are multiple opinions about the Tag Historian, though, based on a lot of different needs – should you or shouldn’t you use it?

Our answer: it depends. Do you only need a simple solution to store historical data for later doing trend curves and the like? Or do you need a more sophisticated database setup?

The very short difference:

Tag Historian: Easy to work with, no SQL skills required, limited functionality on the database side, and great for just logging historical values.

SQL Bridge: Requires comprehensive SQL skills, way more flexible on the database side, great for more complex tasks, or if you want to store data along with events in general.

If you want to know more…
Tag Historian

The Tag Historian module is the easy way for people with very little or no understanding of SQL and databases to store and retrieve data from the process.

Do you want to use your data for trending, or to easily show records in a table? Then use the Ignition Tag Historian.

The module is easy to configure and very good when it comes to data visualisation. Just drag and drop tags into a chart or a table to display historical values.

Do you want to avoid doing complicated SQL stuff like creating schemas in the database or taking care of the maintenance of the tables in the database? Then use the Tag Historian.

All configuration takes place in the Ignition gateway. For example, defining partitions, so the table doesn’t grow indefinitely and data pruning to avoid huge volumes of data.

The data logged with the Tag Historian is available for a query to be used in scripts, historical bindings in tables components, trending using charts and reporting.

It provides an easy way to log tag values to a SQL database to view tags. It focuses on trending. It can be configured to record data history based on a Tag Group’s execution rate, and the data is stored in the database in an efficient format.

Tag Historian: The easy way of storing historical data without any need for SQL knowledge. Less configurable, especially on the database side, but easy to get up and running. In short: less flexibility and control, but easy to use.

SQL Bridge

The SQL Bridge module is another option for storing process data in the database. At the first glance, the two modules appear similar in that they both store process data to the database. But they offer different functionality depending on the overall business need.

SQL Bridge: As is given from the name, this module offers a more sophisticated “bridge” between the gateway and the database. The configuration requires SQL coding and offers more flexibility. In short: more flexible and full control, but requires comprehensive SQL knowledge.

The Ignition SQL Bridge module brings the power of SQL databases to the industrial process. It enables the creation of Transaction Groups that synchronise data between PLCs and databases for event logging.

How Is Ignition Different From Other Industrial Software Companies?

It’s almost as if people who actually develop SCADA apps for a living created it – they wanted to include many tools and options to get you to a better final application in a shorter time, without workarounds and hacks!

Ignition user

The Learning Curve

Inductive Automation had the brilliant idea of launching Inductive University, where you get all the training you need to be able to accomplish what you want in Ignition. On top of that, they put at your disposal several documents, articles, and videos where they walk you through different steps of building a solution.

Also, it’s important to know that Ignition was designed to be more intuitive and easy to use from the get-go. Like the quote above mentions, it feels like people who actually know what a real-world SCADA system needs created it.

The price

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the licensing costs alone should sell anyone on Ignition at this point. Not only is Ignition uniquely affordable, but it also gives you a sense of security thanks to the transparency of pricing (and other areas of Inductive Automation).

I think it’s quite clear by now: when it comes to pricing, especially in the SCADA space, Ignition has no competition.

Scalability

Ignition is a highly reliable platform. It’s easy to set it up as well as to scale it.

The modular structure allows you to only choose the modules you want to build a solution now, and then add some more functionalities as you go.

Tip: Our experience with several clients showed us that what we’ve been recommending so far actually gives the best results: start small. It’s so much more effective to build a solution, as simple as possible, see how it works, and then scale it. Overcomplicating it only makes you feel unnecessarily stressed.

Non-proprietary

Ignition is a non-proprietary platform. It’s open, which means you’re not locked into anything – you can connect things easily and get real-time, relevant data out of your systems.

Traditionally, many SCADA systems were built as proprietary systems. Yes, it solved problems perfectly fine on the factory floor. But it was isolated and limited.

Ignition, on the other hand, does what a SCADA system has to do, and so much more. It integrates seamlessly with other systems and processes, thus accomplishing the mission of bridging the gap between the factory floor and enterprise systems.

Let’s take a very popular story we get told often. Imagine this:

You’re a manager of some sort, in a huge company. You know you have a SCADA system on the plant floor and everyone working with it is completely happy with how it works.

But one day, you wake up and you decide you want to be more cost-effective – you want to look at some data and see where you can make adjustments to improve productivity as well as profitability.

You want to compare, for example, plant floor A to plant floor B (for performance reasons). So, you need data, right? But you immediately get an obstacle in your way: getting data out of your isolated, limited, proprietary systems is not easy at all.

That’s where Ignition comes in, allowing you to do just that much more easily because it’s open and transparent.

Do this next…

All these possibilities can’t come without some effort. While Ignition is an easy-to-use, intuitive platform, there are a lot of things to unlock and learn about it to be able to build a fully customised industrial solution.

Sure, Inductive University puts at your disposal literally everything you have to know about Ignition in order to build industrial applications.

But from what you’ve been telling us, you don’t really have the time or energy for that, especially when you just want to get started and see what Ignition is all about.

That’s why we put together our expert knowledge to give you a straightforward guide (checklist + details) on how to get started with Ignition. These are the exact steps to follow to start building a working solution and see Ignition in action.

Download the checklist now.

Note: a pop-up will appear automatically.

Written by Jan Madsen,
founder of Enuda

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