What is Ignition by Inductive Automation? (Comprehensive Explanation)
Published on: May 18, 2023

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 uniqueness! Inductive Automation truly disrupted the industrial world and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

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.

Ignition at a glance

Source: Inductive Automation

Ignition is a development environment for industrial automation operations. 

Ignition is made by Inductive Automation, based in Folsom, California. Inductive Automation was founded in 2003 by Steve Hechtman. With Ignition, you can connect real-time data, and have full visibility and control of the operations, design, and web-deploy clients to anyone, anywhere. Create industrial applications – SCADA, MES, and beyond – all on one platform. With Ignition, you have one Digital Transformation Platform to do everything.

Ignition is cross-platform compatible so it can run on Windows 10 and 11, and Windows Server 2016, 2019, and 2022, as well as Linux and macOS. Ignition can run on any device including PCs, laptops, servers, tablets, smartphones, and remote field devices. Ignition can go anywhere you need, to get the data you want.

How does it work?

Ignition consists of the Ignition platform and the Ignition modules.

The Ignition Gateway is the primary software service that drives everything in Ignition. It’s a single application that runs as a web server and is accessed through a web browser. Its capabilities include connecting to data and PLCs, executing modules, and communicating with clients. 

Modules add functionality. All modules are pluggable, so you can install, remove and upgrade the modules you need. With a full suite of powerful Ignition and third-party modules available for the Ignition platform, you can easily develop customised industrial applications for your unique processes. 

For example, with the OPC UA Module & Drivers which is using TCP protocol, you can connect to most major PLCs via the support of core drivers for Allen-Bradley, Siemens, and Omron devices. Then you create tags following a Tag Structure and you can follow the real-time values. 

With the SQL Bridge Module, you can store the real-time values in a SQL database and bridge the gap between OPC data and SQL databases. The Tag Historian Module will enable you to turn the SQL database into a high-performance time-series database configured from Ignition. 

Then with the Ignition Perspective module, you can build mobile-responsive industrial applications.

Source: Inductive Automation

Ignition has a server-centric web-based deployment model so you can instantly web launch an unlimited number of clients on virtually any device. 

Ignition installs on a server in just three minutes and instantly deploys to an unlimited number of clients to any web-enabled — desktops, panels, or even mobile. Updates in Ignition work easily: just make changes on the server and push them to everyone, instantly, without experiencing any downtime.

The Gateway

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, and 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 software 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.

The Perspective Module

Perspective is the next generation visualisation 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.

Access our demo of a high-performance HMI built in Perspective 

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 visualisation 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 visualisation 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 visualisation 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, to 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

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 an 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 table 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.

Here’s s video on what is the Tag Historian: access it on YouTube.

SQL Bridge

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

SQL Bridge: As is given by 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.

A standard architecture 

The standard architecture is best suited for applications that require a scalable, centrally managed SCADA system using only one on-premise Ignition server with appropriate modules, connected devices, and a connected SQL database. 

Every SQL connection in Ignition is created in the Gateway. 

The database connections in Ignition are happening via JDBC drivers. Ignition has full support for the following databases: MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Firebird, IBM DB2. Providing access to relational databases is at the heart of the Ignition platform. 

By connecting Ignition to one or more SQL databases, you can query existing data, update data, store historical information, access data analytics, and more.

How to build a simple architecture: watch the video walk-through.

Data Structure 

Tags in Ignition are points of data. 

Tags provide a consistent data model throughout Ignition, and this is the easiest way to get up and running creating real-time status and control systems. 

Tags in Ignition offer: 

• Performance and Scalability 

On the Gateway, as a rule of thumb, the system can support 50.000 value changes per second and millions of Tags. SQL database connection supports up to 10.000 value changes per second. 

• Object-Oriented Design 

Use UDTs (User Defined Types) to design re-usable, parameterized, and extendable data types. You can create and configure new instance Tags in seconds, saving a great amount of time. 

• Powerful Alarming Model 

Each Tag can have any number of alarms configured on it. There are many different alarm modes accommodating simple digital alarms, analog high/low-value alarms, as well as alarms like bad data quality and bit-packed alarms. 

• Drag-and-Drop Screen Design 

You can drag and drop Tags onto a window or view to automatically create new bound components. 

• Historical Logging 

The Tag Historian Module makes it easier than ever to store data in an efficient format in a SQL database and then use the historical data. 

We use the ISA-95 standard for creating a tag structure via the common data model Enterprise/Site/Area/Line/Cell. 

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


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. 

Go on Inductive Automation’s website to calculate your price 

(spoiler alert: a standard package comes at a one-time fee of just US$14.690)


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. As the quote above mentions, it feels like people who actually know what a real-world SCADA system is created it.


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.


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.


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 

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. 

From cybersecurity to best practices, there’s essential info you need to know to get started with Ignition.

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.

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