Is it really possible that another Ignition Community Conference has come and gone? After months of increasing excitement and preparation, we held our 2019 conference on September 17-19 at the Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom, California (near Sacramento). Once again, ICC was a sold-out event attended by more than 660 industrial professionals who represent many different job roles, industries, and countries. So much happened in three days — the schedule was nearly as packed as the walkways of the Harris Center — that it seems daunting to try to recap even the highlights, but we’ll give it our best try in this blog post.
Before we delve into our recap of ICC, we want to mention that if you weren’t able to join us there, you can still enjoy full access to all ICC 2019 session videos by purchasing a Virtual Ticket.
Announcements and Firsts at ICC 2019
No ICC would be complete without its share of big announcements and firsts. This year, we announced the arrival of the Ignition Exchange, a free, online library of Ignition resources, templates, and tools (more on that below). We also officially announced the launch of our new Distributor Program, in which we’re partnering with select international organizations to deliver the same level of support, training, and customer service that our customers expect from Inductive Automation.
This was the first year that we held the Solution Showcase, where several different technology companies delivered presentations about solutions — from digital twins to advanced analytics to edge computing and more — that allow users to do even more with Ignition. Also, for the first time, there were eight Ignition Firebrand Award Winners in the Discover Gallery, which is the most we’ve ever had. And, as you’ll read later, this was the first time that we had our very own ICC band!
Key Moments from the Keynote
This year’s keynote, titled “The Future of Manufacturing is Limitless,” featured presentations from Inductive Automation’s President and CEO Steve Hechtman, Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson, and Co-Directors of Sales Engineering Travis Cox and Kevin McClusky. (Co-Director of Marketing Doug Dudley was scheduled to speak in the keynote but had to cancel due to the early arrival of his firstborn child. Don graciously filled in for Doug and we’re glad to report that Doug and his family are doing well.)
Don started off by sharing three important lessons that our company has learned from putting on the conference for the past seven years. Specifically, Don explained, our interactions with the Ignition community at ICC have taught us that “community” is much more than a marketing term, that serving our customers is always our top priority, and that while our company can make great software, the community has the power to change minds, processes, and entire industries.
Steve then took the stage to tell the story of how, in his career prior to starting Inductive Automation, he went from being a frustrated integrator to developing a software solution that delighted his customers and made integration fun again. This solution eventually led to the formation of Inductive Automation and the creation of Ignition software. Steve explained that Ignition was built to solve pain points that he’d constantly dealt with while working as an integrator, and he pledged that Inductive Automation will always focus on keeping our software easy, fun, and affordable.
Speaking in the keynote for the first time as a duo, Travis and Kevin began by explaining their roles as Sales Engineers and said that their jobs have become even more fun since the release of Ignition 8 in April of this year. They said that customers’ feedback and innovative uses of Ignition have always driven our software development and that Ignition 8 and the Ignition Perspective Module continued in that tradition.
“As great as all the new features are, the most exciting thing about Ignition is seeing what you do with it,” Travis said. To illustrate the point, they discussed seven projects from the 2019 Discover Gallery. They showcased projects by Brock Solutions and Dublin Airport, Streamline Innovations, and Industrial Networking Solutions (INS) and ARB Midstream as examples of Ignition’s potential for building limitless system architectures. To showcase Ignition Perspective’s potential for limitless system visualization, they showed projects by Corso Systems and SCS Engineers, and ESM Australia. They shared projects by Andritz Automation and Steritec Automation as examples of the limitless ways that the Ignition platform can be put to use.
Then, Don came back onstage to report on the growth of the Ignition ecosystem and our customer programs. He provided an overview of the ecosystem, showing how the community has shaped it, and how it has added value for the entire industrial sector. He spoke about our efforts to promote the community’s success through our training program, Inductive University, our expanding partnerships with universities, and our software development kit.
Don talked about the recent expansion of Integrator Program benefits and gave a shout-out to the 14 integrators that achieved Premier status this past year. Don then announced the launch of the Ignition Distributor Program, intended to help more of our customers throughout the world to experience Ignition in their own language, on their own schedule, and with local support and expertise that meets their needs. He mentioned the growing number of OEMs that have officially joined the Ignition Onboard program, and talked about our strategic partners, Sepasoft and Cirrus Link Solutions.
Don wrapped up his ecosystem message by reminding the attendees that “the central figure in all of this is you,” and encouraging them to share conversations and ideas with their peers at the conference. The full keynote video is available to watch here.
Co-Directors of Software Engineering Carl Gould and Colby Clegg returned to the ICC main stage for this year’s Developer Panel general session. Since Ignition 8’s release in April, Carl and Colby said, the overall reception has been quite positive, while they noted that it is in a much earlier stage in the adoption curve compared to Ignition 7.9. They pointed out that their engineering team has been working hard on refining Ignition 8 with over 600 fixes and improvements so far as part of the new “release train” strategy. They highlighted some of the recent improvements, including client-side translation support, the new time series chart, ad-hoc dashboards, simplified SSL certificate setup, and a few others.
Then they talked about some upcoming features they've got planned for Ignition Perspective (such as Easy Chart, Radar Chart, Alarm Journal, and Interactive Rotation), for overall connectivity (such as updated drivers for Omron controllers and DNP3), and for the platform (like a new installer and multi-Designer concurrency UI). Carl and Colby concluded the Developer Panel by taking live questions from the audience.
The Build-a-Thon Returns and the Ignition Exchange Launches
The 2019 Ignition Build-a-Thon was an entertaining rematch between Kevin McClusky and Travis Cox. These two formidable competitors have been training non-stop since last year and our esteemed MC, IA Sales Engineering Manager Kent Melville, was back at it, helping us to navigate this competition. This year’s Build-a-Thon took things to the next level by improving on last year’s format and introducing new cutting-edge technology that helped energize the competition.
Before jumping into the battle, Kent talked about the aftermath of Travis’ victory in last year’s Build-a-Thon, and introduced a hilarious “mockumentary” video that gave us a peek into the lives of our Build-a-Thon heroes.
After the video, Kent returned to explain the new format of the Build-a-Thon, highlighting the improved shared screens, the new competitive workstations, and the projects that the competitors would be working on. Then he made one of the most exciting announcements of the conference: the introduction of Ignition Exchange, a game-changing tool that allows users to access resources, templates, and tools that they can use quickly in their projects. Ignition Exchange is a community-centric tool that enables Ignition users to easily share and use resources that speed up project development times. Attendees got to see this brand-new tool in action as Kevin and Travis used it for their Build-a-Thon projects. You can learn more about Ignition Exchange in this blog post.
To add more context to the Build-a-Thon, a panel of experts were on hand to provide live commentary. The panel included our very own Carl Gould, Colby Clegg, and Don Pearson. Of the three expert commentators, the crowd seemed to think that Colby had the funniest soundbites.
As Travis and Kevin started their build, Colby offered this insight: “The world of competitive SCADA has been on fire since last year's performance, and I can guarantee we're going to see some records broken here today. I'm talking about things like BPS (bindings per second), CPS (connections per screen), the ever-important IPP ratio — that's 'information per pixel' for those of you who don't follow the circuit.”
Colby further alluded to the importance of the Ignition Exchange when he said, “And we all know, in the classical model, design velocity is inversely proportional to the coefficient of designer friction, and with the Exchange bringing that latter metric to virtually zero, well, we're going to see some incredible stuff here today.”
Early on in the competition, Kevin ran into some technical difficulties, putting him at a disadvantage while Travis took the opportunity to pull ahead. Both competitors used the Ignition Exchange with lighting speed to help accelerate their project development. Both contestants kept focused and continued to rapidly build their screens.
Kent continued to keep pace with the battle and engaged our experts to provide feedback. He then alluded to the song he belted out at last year’s Build-a-Thon and promised that he had something even more exceptional this time. That’s when Kent debuted the special musical project that he and other musically talented IA team members had been working on: a hilarious music video by our own in-house rock band, Kent and the Ignition 8, playing a parody version of the hit song “Africa” by Toto, with new lyrics about Ignition’s unlimited tags and other excellent features. Watch the music video below:
Both the mockumentary video and music video had the ICC crowd in stitches and were directed and edited by Joanna Cortez, our company’s resident video producer.
As the laughter and commentary wound down, the countdown began for the competitors to wrap up their projects. Once time was up, Travis presented his project and demonstrated what he’d built in Ignition 8 and the Perspective Module. He focused on a feature called Click-to Graph, which provides an easy way to see history for process values without leaving the HMI. Kevin, on the other hand, took a different approach, focused on equipment, and showcased a feature to provide Historical Playback in Perspective, which wowed the crowd. To top it off, Kevin even pulled the music video into his project via a resource from the Ignition Exchange, showing the breadth of resource types that can be made available.
The votes were in and by a wide margin, Kevin went from being the “underdog” to the “undertaker,” taking the win and the glory of being the Build-a-Thon champion at ICC 2019. Congratulations, Team Kevin!
The Discover Gallery and Firebrand Awards
As cool as the Build-a-Thon projects were, the projects submitted by members of the Ignition community really stole the show at ICC. This year, we received another very impressive batch of project submissions from all around the Ignition community. Out of those, 18 were included in our Discover Gallery, and eight of those entries were given an Ignition Firebrand Award.
The ten finalists were Automation Solutions Ecuador, Erde Automation, Ympronta, Bouygues Energies & Services, Brown Engineers, MR Systems, Piedmont Automation, Andritz Automation, AT-Automation, and Steritec Automation.
The Ignition Firebrand Award winners this year were Brock Solutions and Dublin International Airport, Corso Systems and SCS Engineers, ESM Australia, H2O Innovation and Automation Station, Industrial Networking Solutions and ARB Midstream, MTech Engineering, NLS Engineering, and Streamline Innovations.
Congratulations to all our finalists and award winners! You can view videos and summaries of all of the Discover Gallery projects here.
Breakout Session Highlights
In addition to the keynote, developer panel, and Build-a-Thon, there were over 20 breakout sessions at ICC this year. This was the first ICC since the release of Ignition 8 and Ignition Perspective, so there was plenty of content that delved deeply into the new tools and features. In “Adding Ignition Perspective to Your Vision Projects,” IA Training Manager Bobby McKenzie presented several examples of how Perspective’s features can be used to supplement an existing Vision project. In “Exploring the Future of Industrial Applications,” Ray Sensenbach and Perry Arellano-Jones from IA’s Software Engineering team discussed a new approach to process design, with real-world Ignition projects which were made possible by Ignition 8 and Ignition Perspective.
Sessions like “The Endless Extensibility of the Ignition Platform,” “Limitless Scalability: Building Elastic Architectures,” and “Taking Ignition to the Next Level with Machine Learning” delivered further proof that “Limitless” was much more than a promotional theme but rather a true reflection of Ignition’s ever-increasing capabilities.
Speaking of the theme of “Limitless,” the Ignition community has proven there are no limits to what can be done with Ignition. The essential role of the Ignition community in the success of Inductive Automation became even more evident in the ICC community sessions, which all shared a predominant theme: the value of Ignition. The presenters in each of these sessions not only spoke of how Ignition enabled their organizations to quickly implement critical applications but also helped to build viable businesses.
The Ignition community is heavily comprised of integrators, many of whom have turned to Ignition to help grow their businesses. With Ignition, integrators are now able to produce turn-key solutions that allow them to efficiently provide their customers with cost-effective solutions in the shortest amount of time possible. As was mentioned in the keynote, more large enterprises are now joining the Ignition community with the help of Enterprise-level and Premier-level integrators.
Integrator insights were abundant at the session presented by John Southcott and Mark Holbrook of Brock Solutions (the first integrator to reach Enterprise Integrator status), where they discussed opportunities and challenges for enterprise deployments of Ignition, as well as in this year’s Integrator Panel session, where five integration professionals discussed trends shaping the industry and how they remain successful in the face of challenges.
At the Industry Panel session, technology professionals from five end-user companies spoke about a number of subjects such as how they started out using Ignition, maintaining a competitive advantage, and challenges associated with legacy equipment and migration. Attendees looking for helpful information about security got to see a session on cybersecurity from former Pennsylvania governor and former First Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and a security panel discussion featuring Albert Rooyakkers, the founder and CEO of Bedrock Automation; Lieutenant Commander Nathan Boeger, US Navy Information Warfare Officer; and three of IA’s security experts: Kevin McClusky, Jason Waits, and Joel Specht.
Our strategic third-party module partners Sepasoft and Cirrus Link Solutions both presented workshops and sessions again this year. Sepasoft’s workshop taught attendees how to easily connect business systems such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) to Sepasoft MES (manufacturing execution system). In their breakout session, Tom Hechtman and Mark French from Sepasoft shared information about the new Business Connector Module, MES Enterprise features, OEE Lite, MES Document Management, and other exciting solutions they’ve been working on lately. At Cirrus Link’s workshop, attendees learned how to use the MQTT protocol with Ignition 8 and Ignition Perspective. In their breakout session, Arlen Nipper from Cirrus Link discussed how Ignition and MQTT have made digital transformation not only possible but relatively easy, especially for brownfield facilities.
#DigitalTransformation projects need to start at the OT infrastructure to connect to IT/#cloud tooling. Ignition addresses the fundamental issue that OT infrastructures are not conducive to digital transformation requirements. - Arlen Nipper @CirrusLink #ICCLimitless pic.twitter.com/2uBSeKReQB— David Greenfield (@DJGreenfield) September 18, 2019
Ecosystem Companies on Exhibit
Kent said, “It was great having so many Onboard partners present. A complete solution is about more than just the software platform. These hardware companies are making implementing enterprise rollouts simple and affordable.” And as Don said in the keynote, the software and hardware companies partnering with us in the Ignition ecosystem are all working together to create an environment that fuels innovation and growth for the Ignition community. We were proud to have these fine companies exhibiting at ICC 2019: Cirrus Link Solutions, Sepasoft, Advantech, Bedrock Automation, FreeWave, Hilscher, Moxa, Opto 22, ORing, Logic Supply, Wago, EZAutomation, Stratus, and RevoEdge. Thank you to all of our ecosystem partners for your support!
Kent and the Ignition 8 Rock ICC
The Wednesday-night ICC dinner at the Inductive Automation headquarters introduced a new band to the world: Kent and the Ignition 8. The band was a result from a company-wide call looking for musicians interested in working on a top-secret musical project. The band featured Kent on vocals and guitar, Kevin on vocals and keyboards, Mike on vocals and keyboards, Arnell on bass, Martin on lead guitar, Josh on acoustic guitar, Chris on drums, and Adam on sound engineering. From early on, during the musical project rehearsals and production, the musicians in Kent and Ignition 8 knew they had something really special. After making their music video for the Build-a-Thon, Kent and the Ignition 8 performed live at the dinner, unleashing covers of classic-rock tunes by Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Steppenwolf, and Stealers Wheel.
Some of Our Favorite Moments
With an event as big as ICC, everyone who was there came away their own favorite moments. However, all IA team members agreed that it was the community who truly made it a success.
"There were so many highlights this year, but a few things that stood out to me were the keynote and all of the music! Steve Hechtman, Don, Travis, and Kevin knocked it out of the park with their speeches, and highlighted what IA is really all about. Kent and the Ignition 8 brought the house down with their surprise performance and the hilarious music video. Finally, it's really the community coming together that makes every ICC so special. I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones every year," said Kristine Zukose, IA Director of Public Activities.
“The whole conference was amazing. To me, the Build-a-Thon was really the capstone that brought it all together, including the announcement of the Ignition Exchange. The Exchange will be a true game-changer for project design and development. The machine learning session and workshops also seemed to be well-received, and I'm excited to see what the community does with the information and technology presented,” said Kevin McClusky.
“I talked to a lot of new customers experiencing ICC for the first time. They were blown away by the passion and enthusiasm shown by the community,” said Kent Melville.
We heard many wonderful comments from attendees. Alex Marcy, President and Founder of Corso Systems, said, “It’s been a blast. Last year was my first ICC and this year has surpassed that in every way.” Here are a few more positive posts we saw on social media:
While we can only fit so many ICC highlights into one blog post, we’d still love to hear from you. What was your favorite part of ICC 2019? Did you have a favorite session, favorite video, or favorite Ignition-branded baked treat? Was there something you’d like to see more or less of at ICC next year? Leave us a comment — and we’ll see you there next year!
Tags /Community Discover Gallery Folsom HMI Design ICC IIoT Integrators Ignition Modules Ignition Onboard Ignition 8 Perspective