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Four questions to help you decide between Vision and Perspective

With the launch of Ignition 8 in April 2019, we suddenly had two different visualization modules available in Ignition: The old-timer Vision and the brand-new Perspective. The option to choose between two different modules begs the question: Which one should I use? Should I go for Vision or Perspective for my project?

The short, and somewhat useless answer, is “it depends.” Despite the ambiguity, the reality is, it depends on several aspects. Inductive Automation posted an excellent blog post showing how these two modules run side-by-side on the Ignition platform, and complement each other. But if you are still in doubt, keep reading, and we will try to provide some aspects to consider when choosing between the two.

Follow this link to see what Inductive Automation says: Vision & Perspective: Which Module is Best for Your Next Project?

At the time of writing this blog post, we have experienced how these two different modules work together as something complementary. And at times with overlapping functionality. And in many cases, that will be the answer: You should not choose between the two visualizations modules – they support each other and together form a more coherent solution.

In addition to all the information available from Inductive Automation, the following four questions will hopefully help you clarify some of the confusion.

We will end this blog post by providing some short, tangible advice to utility companies helping you navigate towards which visualization module to use.

1. From a user viewpoint – how are the two solutions different?

The primary difference is that Perspective is a “mobile-first” module. Ignition as a platform has been around for more than a decade, and during that time, mobile devices have overtaken traditional computers as the preferred computing device. The Vision module does not offer anything useful in that context, and therefore a completely new solution was required: The birth of the Perspective module.

The Perspective module offers many of the modern functionalities we know from web design and apps for mobile devices, with full responsiveness probably being the most important. Responsiveness means the solution will adapt to the screen size. For example, by stacking the view and thus avoiding the scrolling here and there, that would otherwise be necessary.

Because Perspective is a mobile-first solution, it seamlessly makes use of some native functionality for mobile devices. For example, bar code scanning can be built directly into a Perspective solution. Or the use of GPS coordinates and interaction with a map component. Or the accelerometer, which senses movement and gravity.

For every upgrade, we see more and more functionality added to the Perspective module, putting it into a pole position when it comes to making use of modern mobile device functionality in a more traditional factory environment.

2. What are the practical aspects?

The most significant difference between Vision and Perspective is how they appear to the user. Perspective solutions are web browser-based, meaning they run inside any modern browser, whereas Vision runs via a native client application. What does this mean in practical terms? It determines where and how you can run the two visualization modules:

If you, for example, want to run Ignition in a control room environment and do not want a browser-based solution, Vision is so far the only option. There are talks about creating a desktop application for Perspective as well, but no timeline and for the time being Vision will be your only option.

If you want to run Ignition on mobile devices, Perspective is the only option. Previously, Vision supported a simple mobile module, but from Ignition 8, this has ended.

These two ends of the spectrum are the easy ones: “Desktop solution and no browser-based solution – go for Vision.” And at the other end of the spectrum: “Solution for mobile devices – go for Perspective.”

And on top, we have all the combos in between these two, for example: “Can I run Perspective on a desktop computer in the control room? – yes, in a browser.” “Can I run Perspective both in the control room on desktop computers and on mobile devices – yes, and both have to run in a browser.”

3. What are the design aspects?

The introduction of Perspective means both some subtle technical differences in the background, more about that later, and, more importantly, some not so subtle differences in how we think the design and user interaction. The Perspective module requires a different way of thinking and planning your design, and it’s a paradigm more comparable to web design or mobile app development than standard Vision windows.

Vision is much more in line with the old “what you see is what you get” approach – you place components where you want them to appear on the Vision window, and that’s pretty much it. Perspective, on the other hand, deals with responsive layout aimed at mobile devices, which requires a very different design structure behind the scenes.

It’s essential to understand this aspect of the difference between the two visualization modules. Perspective is not “like Vision, just for mobile devices.” It is two very different design approaches, both in how they appear to the user and how you create them. Thus, it makes no sense to “just convert the project from Vision to Perspective.”

Traditionally SCADA solutions have been created by engineers, and almost all layouts created like P&ID – Piping and Instrumentation Diagram, which is a schematic illustration of a functional relationship between piping, instrumentation, and system components. Such a layout made sense because it mimics the real world – “this pipe connects to that pump,” etcetera.

When mobile devices started taking over the world, their limitations in screen size demanded a different approach to design. And this again required different skills and knowledge about how to convey information on such devices best. Thus, we learned two new expressions: UI and UX.

UI: User Interface – graphical layout and look of an application. It consists of the buttons, text images, sliders, text entry fields, and all other items with which the user interacts.

UX: User Experience – how is the experience of using the design? Is it smooth and easy or confusing and irritating? How well does the navigation support the user?

Due to the limited screen size of mobile devices and the demand for responsiveness, these two aspects become essential in designing mobile solutions. A result is a different approach to the overall layout, and suddenly, the well-known P&IDs no longer appears to be the logical solution.

The following example is from a project we have done recently, and it illustrates how the same information is conveyed to the user, but in two very different layouts:

This first screenshot is a typical P&ID where you see the pumps and the pipes and how everything is connected. The screen is a standard SCADA window with different groups of information. It is also apparent that just transferring the same layout to a mobile device is not going to be particularly user-friendly.

Important note: The P&ID has a lot of “empty space,” the majority of the pixels in the window does not carry any information. When moving to mobile devices with much-reduced screen size, the whole idea of “empty space” makes no sense. Hence we need a different layout that presents information in a user-friendly way.

Here is an example of how we transformed the above traditional P&ID into such a mobile-friendly layout, adapting a better UX fitted for being presented in a responsive mobile environment:

This second screenshot is for a tablet and here presented in a horizontal view. This layout is showing three blocks: “DRIFTDATA,” “AMPS,” and “UDVALGTE KURVER.” And the solution is fully responsive, which means that if the tablet turns to a vertical view, the view will automatically stack in two blocks instead of three. And if you use a smartphone instead, the solution will adapt and stack everything in one long column.

4. What are the technical aspects?

There are subtle differences behind the scenes in how Perspective and Vision works. Still, for a typical Ignition project, the answer is straightforward: From a technical point of view, the visualization modules work similarly.

One thing worth noting is how the two modules run CPU cycles:

  • In Vision, CPU cycles run on the client computer
  • In Perspective, CPU cycles run on the server

This difference could, in some cases, have an impact. For example, if you run heavy scripts or data manipulation, it might be easier to “crank up” the CPU on a server, and in such cases, the Perspective solution is attractive.

That said, in typical cases or projects, from a technical point of view, there will be no real difference in how the two visualization solutions work.

Our best advice to utility companies

Based on our daily work working with the Ignition platform and implementing Ignition solutions with utility companies, here comes our “Top 3 Advice” concerning Vision vs. Perspective as the visualization module:

I: Not necessarily an “either/or” decision 

The two visualization modules – Vision and Perspective – work perfectly together and form an integral whole. They share the same resources on the Ignition Gateway, and therefore it often makes sense to think of them as “just two different ways of interacting with the same data.” We have created solutions where the people working in the field use mobile devices for their daily tasks, and the people in the headquarter do more analysis on desktop computers and prefer to work in Vision instead.

II: New possibilities

The Perspective module is an entirely new way of working with traditional SCADA systems, born out of the fact mobile devices are abundant everywhere. This “mobile-first” mindset opens up a plethora of new possibilities for collecting, analyzing, and presenting data much more in line with modern IT practices. Perspective, therefore, brings some much-needed new options to an area that has for very long been locked in old traditions and only one way of doing things.

III: New skills required

New possibilities and options often mean new skills required, as well. As we have demonstrated in the above example, the “mobile-first” approach is a game-changer compared to traditional P&IDs, and will also require a different skillset. The good news is that these necessary skills are available when we include people from modern web design and mobile app development. Such people with these different skills are not often seen on the factory floor or in the control room environment, but they bring precious lessons to the table.

– The Enuda Team