Discussing Current Challenges & Future Trends in Industrial Controls60 min video / 51 minute read View slides
About this Webinar
With the increasing demand for data and the onslaught of disruptive technologies, integrators are now more essential than ever to industrial organizations as they navigate this uncharted territory.
Inductive Automation recently sent a survey to a pool of 9,000 integrators to better understand their evolving role in the industry. Now, the results are in and they contain valuable insights that every integrator should hear.
In this webinar, Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer for Inductive Automation, lead an expert panel of integration professionals to discuss integrators’ current and upcoming challenges, as well as potential solutions. He will be joined by Dee Brown, PE, Principal of Brown Engineers, LLC; Kyle Chase, Systems Integrator and CTO for Kymera Systems; J.C. Harrison, Systems Engineering Manager for Roeslein & Associates, Inc.; and Pete Larochelle, Director of Informatics for NeoMatrix.
What you will learn:
- The current challenges facing the controls industry
- How current technologies are affecting integrators and their projects
- Which technologies integrators see impacting the controls industry
- How integrators can prepare for the future
- And more
Speaker 1: Good morning everyone, and welcome to our webinar today, Integrator Evolution: Discussing Current Challenges and Future Trends in Industrial Automation. My name is Don Pearson. I will serve as the moderator for today's webinar, and we have a number of panelists who I'll be introducing in just a few minutes. Our agenda today, we'll start with a quick introduction of Inductive Automation and our software platform Ignition. Then I'll introduce our panelists. We'll dive into the results of a survey that we sent out to a large pool of integrators. We'll discuss current technological and logistical challenges that integrators face today, then we'll turn our attention to the future technological trends that integrators may face as we move forward. As always, we'll certainly have a Q&A at the end of the webinar. A little bit of company background, Inductive Automation has been around since 2003, and really since the very beginning, we've been an independent company. We don't have any outside investors, and we're really pleased that enterprises around the world have chosen Ignition for their HMI, SCADA, MES and IIoT needs.
So far, we've been installed in over 100 countries. We have an integrator program with, I think about 1450 integrators now on it. Revenue has been going strong. Actually since the release of Ignition in 2010, we've been growing somewhere between 40% and 50% average annual growth rate every year and been profitable every quarter since that time. If someone wants a little more information on Inductive Automation and the company, then please feel free to go to inductiveautomation.com/aboutus, and you can learn more about it. As I mentioned it's used in a lot of industries, trusted by thousands of companies, 44% of Fortune 100, about 26% of Fortune 500, and probably just about any industry you can imagine from oil and gas to water and wastewater, food and beverage, government, transportation, packaging, just about anything, 'cause it's a platform that can really be used in any way you want to to fit the industry's needs you have.
S1: A snapshot of Ignition as a platform, it's the first web-based, database-centric, cross-platform. It's web-deployed. It's an industrial application platform for HMI, SCADA and IIoT. As I mentioned, it has web deployment, and I think one of the key features that certainly is a disruptive differentiator is our licensing model, which is licensed by the server. It's unlimited licensing, so you can use as many tags or clients or connections or concurrent designers as you want to. It offers built-in security, strong security and stability, and it's modular architecture makes it easy for you to expand and also to just use the modules that work for the deployment that you're involved in. It offers real rapid development and deployment. It's a three-minute install. And of course, there's nothing to do on the client side, so any changes to a project or anything can update immediately when the server updates to all clients in real-time status control and monitoring.
S1: That being said, let's just get into today's topic. I'm very excited to have these panelists. I've known all of them for a long time, and it's a good group of people, I think, to give their perspective on the results that you as integrators who participated in our survey gave us. So I'll mention them and then ask them each to say a little bit about themselves after I've mentioned the team. First is Kyle Chase. He's Systems Integrator and CTO at Kymera Systems, then we have Dee Brown, co-founder and Principal Engineer at Brown Engineers LLC, JC Harrison, Systems Engineering Manager at Roeslein and Associates, and Pete Larochelle, Director of Informatics at NeoMatrix Inc. So kinda just going down the line, Kyle, I'll start with you. Take a few minutes and just briefly introduce yourself, your company, the kind of work you do and that the company focuses on. Kyle.
S1: Yeah, thanks Don. My name's Kyle Chase with Kymera Systems. Like Don said, I'm the CTO at Kymera. I personally have been working with Inductive Automation for about 11 years now, all the way back to FactoryPMI Version 1, which was quite a while ago. We specialize in oil and gas, manufacturing, energy markets. And if anyone needs a hand, architecting small systems, large systems, really involved systems, we're here to help.
S1: Thanks, Kyle. I predicate that. Hey, Dee. Dee Brown.
Speaker 2: Hi everyone. I'm Dee Brown. Pleasure to be here today. Brown Engineers is a mechanical, electrical and automation firm. We do designs for a variety of clients, but a lot of those are in the water, wastewater and electric utility space. I've been in this industry for about 25 years. I've been working with Ignition software now for seven-plus years, and so glad to be here today.
Thanks Dee. It's good to have you here. Okay, JC, how about you?
Speaker 3: Good morning, Don and everybody else. My name is JC Harrison, and I'm the Systems Engineering Manager at Roeslein and Associates. We're a global full-service engineering and fabrication company that specializes in manufacturing modularization concepts. I run the systems department. We've been doing Ignition for many, many years, and we've opened up two Certified Ignition Training Centers in our UK office and in our Shanghai office this year. Good to be here.
S1: Thanks JC. Thanks for coming. Pete Larochelle.
Speaker 4: Hi. Thanks Don. NeoMatrix is a systems integrator headquartered in the greater Boston area, and we focus on automation and informatics solutions for a wide variety of manufacturing industries, including life sciences, electronics, web-based goods and utilities. We've been in Inductive System Integrator for the past seven years. And I appreciate the opportunity to be here today.
S1: I appreciate you being here, Pete. Thanks. So with that, let's go ahead and take a look. I do wanna say at the outset that certainly Inductive Automation has made a major focus on integrators. We consider them to be very important partners. As we don't have a distributor model, we go straight to integrators and try to do everything we can to support them and success in their business. In doing that, we decided it would be good to do a little survey, which I'll talk a little more about because we really believe that the control system integrators have always played a very important role in the world across industry and manufacturing. And as we see it control system integrators are actually now more essential than they ever have been. The more things are changing, the more industrial automation and industrial organizations that will need those integrators to help navigate pretty turbulent seas, if you will, of this ever-evolving, disruptive technologies that are going on.
S1: There's a lot of new technologies on the horizon. And in addition to that, industrial organizations have legacy automation and control systems, and they've been in place for actually decades in many cases. So organizations, they need help balancing new technologies with legacy systems. They need knowledgeable individuals who can integrate these different systems so that they end up working smoothly together. For another reason that integrators are really needed right now is that organizations around the world are in a heavy demand for more data, more insight in every facet of their business to really help them increase revenue, decrease inefficiencies and support better decision-making. And that demand for that data is driving this convergence between operational technology and information technology. It's only been written about by the Gartner Group, by ARC Advisory Group, and it seems to be a pretty hot topic at this time.
S1: If you think of OT, that includes, of course, the operational side, the industrial controls, and IT includes data-centric enterprise systems, for a long time, these two OT and IT were treated as two separate worlds, two separate fields. OT hasn't really experienced the same rapid technological expansion over the last decades as seen in the IT field, and that wasn't really perceived as a problem in the past. But now that there's a higher demand for data, there's a lot more attention on this gap between OT and IT as organizations strive to build one enterprise and have access to all the data from the very edge of the network, all the way up to the highest levels in the enterprise. Industrial organizations will depend heavily on integrators to navigate the convergence of OT and IT. Integrator's ability to blend together the digital world of IT with the practical world of OT where things have to run 24 by 7 and down time is everybody's enemy, it makes this really a lynch pin in an industrial organization's efforts to keep up with the latest technological trends going on.
S1: Because integrators have such an important role to play, we wanted more insight into the challenges integrators currently face and the future trends that will be most important for them to embrace. So we sent out a survey to a pool of 9000 integrators. Certainly, we knew that integrators face... You guys, you face your fair share of challenges, but actually our goal was to just get a little more detail, a little more insight about those challenges and to take up the biggest share of the time of integrators, what seems to be focused on. So more importantly, we wanted to know which up-and-coming trends integrators thought were the most important for the control industry. In our survey, we asked these four questions. What are the current challenges of the industrial controls industry? How are current technologies affecting integrators and their projects? Which technologies and skills are imperative for the future? And what does the future hold for integrators and the industrial automation industry?
S1: Let's just jump to the first one of those survey questions. Respondent's feedback about their current challenges broke down into two areas: Technological challenges, logistical challenges. And the graph shows the tech challenges here on this first screen. Two technological challenges integrators struggle with are data and legacy system integration. So within areas of technology, 61% said that software is the biggest challenge, 21% said hardware, and 18% said it was other issues. Data is becoming incredibly important, and organizations are looking to bring data in from the industrial floor. The challenge is finding a solution that's capable of collecting and sharing easily and at affordable cost. In legacy systems, there's tons of brownfield projects, if you will, that prove to be a serious technological challenge. Industrial systems get older. It seems more difficult to integrate these pieces of legacy equipment with the newer technologies and bringing the entire enterprise together where you want access to all the data.
S1: That was the backdrop. Let's move to the panelists. I'd like to get your reactions to the survey. What are your thoughts about current technology challenges that integrators face today? Since I had you introduce yourself first, Kyle, I'll go to you. What are your thoughts on this issue?
S1: Yeah, I was quite surprised, actually, by the results of that question. For us dealing with a lot of legacy systems, our issue seems to be more on the hardware side, and I think a lot of the challenges that a lot of integrators and end users face right now that look like it's software-based is probably more hardware-based when it comes to throughput, concurrency, hardware. Your old serial networks, they're definitely gonna slow you down. And then even just training and understanding your hardware, if you were to take any comp sci major coming out of the university now and you give them a PLC, a lot of them probably still won't know what that is. If you give them a Raspberry Pi or anything that's using new technologies like MQTT, like HTTP, JSON, REST, they're gonna know a lot more. So I found it quite surprising, but I also understand how a lot of people are feeling that way.
S1: Sure. Thanks. That's a good perspective from what you see. Pete, how about your thoughts?
S2: Yeah, I kind of would echo Kyle's comments there. It's rare for us to walk into a new plant with brand new equipment that has all the latest and greatest technology. Typically, we're interfacing to the software and hardware from a lot of different vendors, and even within one vendor's products, there're many different models and revisions that cause a lot of technical challenges with training and integration. So one way we've found that's best to overcome these challenges is to utilize platforms which are truly open and take advantage of industry standards, and then in addition, partnering with vendors who provide superb training and technical support that ensures that our staff can be up to speed quickly and have the resources to succeed while they're in the middle of a project.
S1: Thanks, Pete. JC, your thoughts.
S3: It's JC. And at first, I was a little bit surprised as well till I started looking at the breakdown of the company sizes, and about 50% of the survey were companies that had 25 employees or less. Our company's certainly much larger than that, so we typically do new projects. And I think that some of the smaller companies that are probably... Their engineers are looking at, "What kind of software do I need to communicate to this piece of hardware," when actually, as stated by Kyle and Pete, generally, it's a hardware issue that's perceived as a software issue, but nonetheless, it's still an issue.
S1: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, Dee. What do you think?
S4: Yeah, I totally agree with the software being a big issue. My recent example where I saw this is a large water utility that is gonna be replacing their legacy HMI software that is a package we helped put in 20 years ago. And now having worked with no Ignition extensively over the last several years, having to now go back 20 years and look at their screens and their scripting and the systems that were in place to support all that and how they had to copy those screens around the multiple nodes and maintain all of that stuff, for the guys that haven't made the leap to the newer web-based technology and unlimited licensing model, I can understand how finding software can be a huge, huge problem.
S1: Yeah, thanks, Dee. Let's take a look at... Let's turn our attention to the logistical, to round out the current challenges question. Interestingly, the logistical challenge is top of respondent's concerns. When we asked the survey respondents what their biggest challenges were, you can see 30% said it's customers and project requirements, 21% said budget, 17% said time was their biggest challenge. So let's see, from a perspective of this panel here, what your thoughts are on biggest in the logistical challenges area. JC, how about you first.
S2: Yeah, Don. You and I talked about this before. It's as if the Ignition software has created its own issues in the fact that it's so flexible. We take these projects into our customers. We think we have a well-defined scope, and then we get to the customer job site and they understand how easy it is with the rapid development tools to add more screens and more reports and then they're asking for new things because it's so easy. So yeah, the scope creep certainly is an issue.
S1: Yeah, I know one of the things I'd say that we, or at least we say even in our mission for Inductive Automation is we wanna remove all technological and economic barriers. But the fact is to the degree that you succeeded that then I heard a comment from one of our customers, Ted Travis from Sherwin-Williams say that he really has to manage 'cause now everybody knows they can ask for projects, it can be done on the platform. There's no limit to projects, no limit to tags, and all of a sudden he has a challenge inside his own organization of managing expectations and scheduling out things the way they need to be scheduled out. The integrators you point, you gotta avoid scope creep because you got a product to get on the project you're on, and you can't be going off on tangents. You gotta also stick to the core a little bit. Kyle, your thoughts on it.
S3: Yeah, I would totally agree with JC and Ted. When we walk into these projects, a lot of customers tell us that they absolutely know everything about their system. If it's 500 well sites, they're all 98% of the same. And really, when you get down into looking at the nuts and bolts of everything, as an example of those sites are nothing alike. They're gonna be 50% or 60% the same, but this is not a realistic understanding of what the system currently does. And they know what they want to do, but they don't know how to get there. Especially when you're dealing with these older systems where there is not only the software side that has to get upgraded, but usually there's some communication logic because those applications or those devices were tied directly to applications. It's not necessarily just intellectual property that's changing, it's usually a business flow as well that's changing.
S1: Sure. Sure. Pete. What do you think in this area of logistical challenges?
S4: Yeah, I guess I would agree that scope creep and project definition is always a problem. And one area we've had success is rather than go through the traditional project definition and procurement process, we've had a lot of success placing an engineer or a group of engineers with a customer, and then utilizing SCRUM or agile project methodologies to attack the project or idea immediately. And this is the one that needs a lot of time spent on the bidding and procurement process, which directly leads to cost savings for both us and our customers. We've found that Ignition is a huge asset when working through this methodology. While technically capable as or even more important, client and tag licensing is never a design constraint that our people are concerned with when they're offering design solutions.
S1: Sure thanks. Dee, why don't you wrap up the comments on sort of logistical challenges for integrators?
Speaker 5: Yeah, I think I agree with our team so far. I know Pete has some kinds of contracts he works through on a probably hourly rate or some things where he has some flexibility in his contract. I know on the utility side, a lot of times, we get a lump sum, fixed amount going into it, and they don't wanna see any changes to the fee arrangement. But yet they see Ignition and all the wonderful things it can do and begin to ask, "Can we add this and add that?" My answer to that is, "Yes, you can do that, but we didn't have that plan going in. We had to give you a fixed fee going into this, so let's wait till the end of the project and see if we can either deal with it there if we have time." Or usually if they're so happy with the way things are working at that point, they're glad to add new features and tools. So there's multiple ways we can use those kinds of contract arrangements to deal with the scope creep.v
S1: Great. Thanks, Dee. Every challenge actually also presents an opportunity, and according to our survey respondents, the controls industry is entering an exciting time with a lot of opportunities. The controls systems industry is evolving, and the role of the control systems integrator is evolving right along with it. New technologies and skills are allowing integrators to connect SCADA systems to enterprise systems and really bridge that gap between OT and IT. So let's just take a quick look to examine these future trends and see what technologies the integrators will need to know if they're gonna stay ahead and continue to expand, continue to be relevant, I guess, and also expand their role. We asked our survey participants which technologies and skills they thought will be most imperative for the future. IIoT and MQTT had the top response of 43%. Data management and the cloud tied for second, each getting 16%. 14% said that mobile is the most imperative, and 11% said that security would be the most imperative. So let's kinda discuss each of these technologies a little bit in some detail and how they affect the integrator.
S1: Because it was a really wide margin, 43% of our respondents actually said IIoT and MQTT are the most important technologies to look out for. The IIOT, of course, can greatly improve connectivity, efficiencies, scalability, time savings, cost savings for industrial organizations to help them with better decision-making, all the things it's been touted to promise. Companies are already benefiting from IIoT through those cost savings due to predictive maintenance, improved safety and other operational efficiencies as well. IIoT networks of intelligent devices allow industrial organizations to break open the data silos, get at that data that's sort of stranded at the edge of the network or out of the edges of the field and connect all of the people, the data, the processes from the factory floor or the field to the executive offices. So business leaders can use IIoT data that they didn't have access to before from the operational side, and you end up getting a more full and more accurate view of how the enterprise is doing, and that of course is to help them make better decisions.
S1: MQTT is emerging as the standard IIoT protocol. It's extremely lightweight. It's a publish-subscribe messaging protocol. It's ideal for M2M devices in situations where bandwidth and power are premium. MQTT decouples edge-of-network devices from applications. Instead, edge-of-network devices connect to applications through message-oriented middleware or MOM, which reduces bandwidth congestion and allows for easy scalability. So there's a lot of arguments for it. Let's take a look at you guys thoughts on the newer technologies and trends. Let me start with you, JC, in terms of the survey. IIoT and MQTT are surveyed as the most important technologies. Why do you agree, disagree, your thoughts?
S3: Thank you, Don. Yeah, I let others on the panel comment on the MQTT since they've had more experience with it, but I will certainly agree with the IIoT. We find this almost in every installation. It's a very simple thing. It'll be some device that's been put into the plant whether it's to test a sprinkler system or anything else, and it's got an embedded web server on it. And the plant manager or somebody in upper management will say, "Well, I can pull this up on a web browser on my computer, but I can't see these moving data trends." And they get to ask that question, so it is certainly a challenge and something that we do have to face right now.
S1: Great, thanks JC. Okay, Kyle, give me your thoughts.
S4: Yeah, I would agree that as we're moving to the future, IIoT and using technologies like MQTT are gonna be very important. The fact that we have smart devices that are connecting to infrastructure instead of connecting applications to devices spins the way that we create SCADA systems on its head. A lot of this technology wasn't available 20 years ago. Doing all this through serial connections wouldn't be possible, and having implemented a few MQTT proof of concepts and small systems, now I can say that every SCADA system we've built in the last 10, 15 years would have been marginally better, if not a lot better using technologies like MQTT at the core.
S1: Thanks, Kyle. Dee, how about your thoughts?
S3: Well, I think the Internet of Things acronym is a buzzword that's caught a lot of attention in the last year or two, and what I find interesting about that is, for example, I was in a large conference just a couple of years ago on data centers and monitoring facilities. And the guys in the room were talking about, we don't have the tools to monitor, to do real-time monitoring and store this data and grab data from all different kinds of devices, and I'm thinking... They even said the monitoring market is not very mature, and I thought, "For those of us who have been around utility systems and SCADA systems for 25, 30 years, 35 years, those systems have been around forever." And so I think it's interesting that when you find the tools like Ignition that have the ability to communicate with all these devices, display it, alarm it, that market is very mature. It's just that certain industries are not aware of that. What I think is interesting about this Internet of Things is that Ignition is the perfect platform to be able to connect all the dots for everybody in that space and leverage that across different market spaces.
S1: Thanks Dee. You know, you brought up something that I think I'd like to maybe comment on too, 'cause I've been to a lot of... A fair number of industrial shows and automation shows this year. And it was interesting to note over the last two years the fact that there's probably not a booth backdrop that exists in any one of the sponsors or exhibitors that doesn't have IIoT somewhere in its language there. Certainly, there's a lot of interest around it. What it's also done is attract a whole lot of people who don't have any background or history with the fact that operational technology folks. What is the definition of SCADA? Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. You've been gathering data and giving it to supervisors to make decisions for like you said, 25, 30 years, but I think what's happening now is we're trying to bring in the whole enterprise. It's why we argue sometimes on the fact that this trend to bring OT and IT together needs to be led from the operational side 'cause the operational folks on the platform in the field are the ones that really got to make sure that operation keeps running. And if it doesn't work down there, it's a non-starter no matter how much hype comes from the top going down.
S1: I'm curious to see if there's any comments from anyone here about the... There's the hype, and there's the substance. Everybody's got IIoT, the new buzzword on their lips right now, but do you see it from customers and what are the common obstacles to implementing it or what are they asking for? Anybody wanna comment on that area?
S2: Yeah, being at those conferences, especially ones that we were at earlier in the year, Don, it seems a lot of people are using IIoT and they're talking about getting your data into their cloud and then selling you services on top of that. The nice thing about what Inductive Automation with Ignition and Cirrus Link and the other partners have done is they've built a usable platform, a usable Internet of Things platform that is usable right now. It's not something that you're gonna have to do a lot of retraining to learn, and it's not a theoretical implementation. It's actually easy to use and right out of the box.
S1: Thanks, Kyle. Anyone else wanna... You don't have to if you don't, but I'm just curious about comments of the IIoT interest from customers and how that plays out in terms of maybe substance and hype. So going to the next part of the survey, 60% of our respondents report that data management technologies are important, this convergence of OT and IT and the rise of IIoT is sort of triggered by this need that industrial organizations have to just get at more data. So currently integrators have to implement incredibly costly solutions that still do not meet all of those organizations' requirements. Fortunately, there are cost-effective solutions that IT and enterprise software employ using SQL databases, of course. And SQL databases, free integrators from more restrictive nature of processes historians by allowing them to log historical data. So on this particular subject, how much has data and the demand for data impacted the industrial control space? Pete, you want to comment on that.
S3: Yeah. Thanks, Don. I would actually say that this is probably the biggest technology that's important to the industry moving forward as far as we see it anyway. Traditionally, when we're discussing data within the automation industry, we would talk about process historians as you've mentioned, but today we're being asked to move data to and from the plant floor to many different business applications. And the biggest obstacle with integrating these disparate systems is that there isn't a single standard today which can handle every application that's out there. So being an open platform and connecting to, utilizing technology such as OPC, MQTT, SQL, web services, those are all important technologies to be able to have in your tool belt to be able to accomplish these tasks, moving forward.
S1: Thanks Pete. Kyle, I know you've done a tremendous amount of work with databases, and I'm interested in your thoughts on data management and SQL, but maybe also any comments you may have on any other data management technologies that we should be embracing as integration evolves into the future.
S2: Yeah, sure, Don. Yeah, that's one of the biggest things that brought me into using the Inductive Automation products 11 years ago, was the fact that, "Oh, okay, I need to get data from my plant floor or from my facility into a database, so now we can do other business intelligence and decision-making." So the biggest thing for us, we deal with a lot of big systems. The historians get to be quite big, so we actually utilize Linux quite a bit because the database technologies as it surrounds MySQL, MariaDB are just a lot more robust than they would be on Windows. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Oracle or SQL Server, but that's just our preference. So one example of using a SQL database to come up with real-terms dollars that can be saved is we did an R&D project for a large scale oil and gas company about five years ago, and their current way of doing R&D projects was store all your data to a CSV file, to an Excel file, and run your tests for three days and then move on to the next test.
S2: So what we did is we pitched, "Okay, let's give you your KPIs on the fly. Let's analyze this data that's happening." And so a test that would normally take three days now takes three hours because they know it's not working and they have empirical knowledge to show that, or they wanna run extra tests to really validate certain test cases. And we ended up saving them about 30 days of runtime on this R&D project, which added about $500,000 a day. So it was a pretty big project and they easily saved the money that we put into the project.
S1: That's actually a great example of just the power of the correct solution and the correct mix of technologies to address a problem, how much it affects the bottom line, even on project delivery, let alone the operational ROI that occurs as one moves forward. So thanks for expounding a little bit on that Kyle. I appreciate it. Let's move to virtualization and cloud solutions. 16% identified that virtualization and cloud technologies are important for integrators. Virtualization refers to creation of virtual machines that mimic a single physical computer with an operating system. It's actually running on several machines with pooled resources. Virtualization is actually what makes cloud computing possible. The cloud provides a wide range of services and resources. Applications now are in storage all via the Internet. So how have virtualization and cloud technologies affected the industrial controls industry, and how do you think they will continue to affect it going forward? JC, your thoughts.
S2: A couple of things I would address. First of all, for the integrator and for anyone who hires people that work for them, it's greater now, the skill set that needs to have whereas before maybe you just needed to know how to install windows. But now you need to know how to set up a server, set up virtual servers and maybe redundant virtual servers. And so certainly when you're hiring your staff, you have to have people on staff now that understand these technologies. And then the same thing where this cloud and virtualization may go, I can only speak from our experience. We recently started to put as much information as we could in the cloud to give all our end users histories and everything, and we found out that they really didn't care so much about the histories on their mobile devices as much as they wanted real-time data. And so we kind of backed away from the history side of it and presented real-time data. And then they make their decisions, whether they make phone calls or they look into it further from that. But that's what we've done here.
S1: Great, thanks. Thanks. How about you, Dee?
S3: I think, for me to answer this, I would use an example, a recent example from a client where we have Ignition running at a couple of treatment plants and it's locked down and it's secure, but the client began to realize asking us some questions, "Can Ignition do workflow processes and manage some things that could be done in the database?" Well, absolutely, and so they wanted to use it out in the field with their distribution crews and smartphones, tablets, iPads. So we were able to take Ignition with a new license, put it on a hosted server in the cloud to give them the connections to that. Keeps their plant secure, but gives them the capability they needed. So I think one of Ignition's big advantages here is that it runs on any OS and any type of environment, virtualized or not, and really gives the clients the ability to use the tools like they need to be used in a truly open system that runs in any fashion. So that's been a very powerful tool for us in that regard.
S1: Thanks Dee. Either Pete or Kyle. Kyle, wanna make a comment on the virtualization and cloud solutions world?
S4: Yeah, as we move into these, I guess just to agree with Dee and JC said, as we move to these larger systems, trying to house everything into one corporate data center for most companies just doesn't quite work. Once you start thinking on a global scale, the mobility and the ease of management that at least using public clouds and virtualization allows us to use, it definitely makes our job a lot easier. Virtualization is something that IT guys understand quite a bit, so the whole OT/IT automation engineer versus IT guy arguments, hopefully, that will start to go away as well, but time will tell.
S1: Yeah, I guess it will, but it seems to be moving a little bit in that direction. So let's go ahead and move on to the mobile devices world. 14% of respondents see mobile devices as important for integrators to embrace the Internet of Things, IoT, certainly, and mobile technology are set to bring people and devices close together out there in the broad consumer world, smartphones, tablets packed full of sensors and wireless radios that allow users to communicate and interact with other devices from work or stores or in their cars. Enterprise-level software already enables users to view and analyze data using smartphones and tablets with home automation being incredibly popular, IoT, importance of mobile devices in the IIoT space becomes crystal clear too. With mobile integration, organizations, they're more empowered, interface with their systems and make smart decisions while in the field, while out wandering around the plan floor, when they're on the move, really empowers decision-making to take leg time out of it and make it as real time as possible. In that area, how important do you see mobile devices in the industrial controls industry and the trend toward mobility? And where do you see room for mobile use to grow there? Pete, how about you comment first on this one?
S3: Yeah, well, the biggest impact we've seen, and it's nothing new, I guess, really is with mobile devices with the alarm notification and event notification via text messaging or email. That's certainly taken place for a while, but it's a big benefit that all of our customers see. With regards to tablets, we actually see an opportunity to eliminate clipboards that deal with redundant data entry. So if you walk through almost any manufacturing facility today, you're gonna see people using clipboards to manually record data, and there's an opportunity to replace those clipboards with tablets with electronic data entry forms and it eliminates redundant data entry as well as making that data immediately available to the rest of the organization instantaneously.
S1: Yeah, actually, you bring up an interesting point. I saw a Concept Systems blog. Concept Systems is one of our premier integrators out of the Northwest, and a blog on their site from one of their owners basically said that it was entitled, "Automating the Manufacturing White Space." And what he commented on was just going around, you see a clipboard, you see somebody's writing on a grease board on a wall somewhere. These are all opportunities to bring that data into a real-time accessibility, mobily accessible or easily attainable way. And there's tons of opportunity in what he called the "Automation of the Manufacturing White Space." Dee, how about your thoughts in the area of mobility?
S2: I think this mobile device area is actually a really big deal. Very few people have the opportunity to sit at their desk or on a console, watching the screen all day, every day. They've gotta be out around the plant, managing the facility, doing a lot of things. And so they need a mobile device to get their attention when something needs to be addressed. One project we did recently for a utility was their first computer-based SCADA system, and I got a text not too long after finishing this project. I got a text about 7 o'clock one night, and I thought, "Ooh, that's not a good thing. What's going on?" But what the plant supervisor was texting me, he said, "I just wanna thank you guys for the new tools that you put in place, especially this alarm and mobile client system. This is what all plant supervisors need. Thank you for giving this to me." So it was a great example of a guy that was a little bit tentative about accepting some new, embracing some new technology, but it worked out extremely well for him to the point of really bragging on what we were able to do using the Ignition software.
S1: Yeah, Dee. That's true. I have to make the comment because it was one of your customers from Clarksville, John Lester, who was speaking at Smart Industry with you. And I remember chatting with him over dinner the night before the presentation, and he commented on his... He manages the power and light, but he's got a guy who's been with him as a supervisor for a long time, and he said his major goal with the new system was he wanted to be able to manage the health of the system from his duck and deer blinds out in the Arkansas rural country. So when he could actually have his mobile device and see the health of his system from his deer blind, he was a happy camper. And John said he had accomplished that. He was now a happy camper, so I guess mobility serves all sorts of different motivations from people and that seemed like a good one, what they had.
S2: That's right. It gets you out of the office.
S1: It gets you out the office and keeps venison in the freezer all year long, I guess. Alright, let's go ahead and move on to security. 11% of respondents said security is of greatest importance. In the past, most HMI SCADA systems remained sort of self-contained in keeping off of networks. And that was seen as the best security measure at the time, but now data from industrial systems is needed, security has become a bigger priority, obviously. Well-established IT security practices include final authentication and auditing, high-level security technology such as Secure Socket Layer SSL is used to create secure encrypted links to encrypt data. And the excellent security and stability of MQTT with its message takes a lot of the surface of attack away and allows it just to be that MQTT MOM broker there. It's an ideal protocol for IIoT when you're bringing so much data in from the field.
S1: So someone on the SSL MQTT uses transport layer security TLS, which encrypts sensitive information over networks. The subject of security is certainly a hot topic as SCADA systems get connected to the enterprise. JC, maybe you can start off. How secure is IIoT, and what security technologies do integrators need to embrace in order to stay competitive and serve the needs of security from their customers?
S3: Well, Don, I think the answer, first of all, is IIoT is... It is as secure as you make it. And to embrace this technology, I believe integrators need to be aware of the devices that they're putting on the network where there's an outside internet connection to it. But what is really good about our conferences that we have every year is all of us get together and we share ideas, and so there's other integrators and some of them are on this panel that actually have expertise in IoT. So I would recommend to the integrators that if you're doing a system design, reach out to the other people in the inductive world and bounce off your designs because it is a very important issue. And the last thing that you wanna do is leave a door open into somebody's plant that you could have closed.
S1: Actually, that's a good point. And I actually wanna put a plug in here right now for our sales engineering, our co-directors of sales engineering, Travis Cox and Kevin McClusky and their team are completely willing to work with any integrators who wanna basically have a discussion, or like JC said, some of your colleagues and peers across the Inductive Automation Integrator Program are really willing to share. So take advantage of sort of best practices of knowledge, and certainly our sales engineering guys are always willing to talk about configurations and architectures, how to deal with security issues. Kyle, your comments on this question.
S4: Yeah, as we move our footprint from inside our walls per se, to again, these larger scale SCADA systems, security that was previously ignored or just, yeah, I guess, ignored, it's gonna be a lot more relevant. There are search engines out there now that allow you to search for devices that are directly connected to the Internet by port. So you could say, "Give me everything with port 502 for Modbus or everything for 44818 for Ethernet IP." And using that, attacks can be made in a matter of half-an-hour that can exploit that, so security is very important. And like JC said, if anyone needs a hand with developing these architectures, the people on this panel are the guys that can help with that.
S1: Great, thanks Kyle. And I'll be sharing everybody's contact information in a couple of slides when we go into our Q&A. Dee, do you have any thoughts in this area?
S2: Yes, there are certainly a lot of things that can affect security, cyber security in particular, and I think it's different protecting an OT system than it is a traditional IT system, 'cause we've got controllers and things out there that are now network that are really wide open that may not have the ability to provide login password protection, all kinds of things. One of the things we've been able to do over the past year is install Bedrock Automation's cyber security controllers in a couple of utility environments, so they've worked really well. They've been really well received, and I think you're gonna see more and more of that kind of technology that's gonna be needed to help secure the operational technology side of the industrial control system space.
S1: Thanks, Dee. Sort of a wrap-up question, and maybe you guys can just take a minute just to wrap it up. I'm just curious, each of you is either owner or in very strong leadership positions inside your organizations, and so as a wrap up to today's discussion before we go into Q & A, how optimistic are you about the future of systems integration, about the future of your business and your ability to serve customers? Are you growing the way you wanna be? Are you confident? Just give us a little taste of the tone of the market, if you will. Pete, how about I start with you?
S3: Yeah, thanks, Don. We're certainly excited about where the industry is headed. From a business perspective, we could continuously experience double-digit growth, and the demand for our services is higher than ever, but outside of the business issues, the engineer in me is excited because we are seeing some things we've never seen before. I've been in the industry for almost 20 years now, and it seems like we've made more progress in the last five years than we did in the first 15 combined. And it's exciting to be able to witness how disruptive a tool like Ignition can be, not only from the technological standpoint, but also from a business model and ethical model standpoint.
S1: Thanks, Pete. Kyle, your sort of final thoughts?
S4: Yeah, like what Pete said, there's been a huge explosion of progression in the last couple of years. I'm really glad to be part of it, and I think it's gonna be interesting to see where systems can be... How can they grow in the next five years? What is all this new data gonna do to us? From Kymera's perspective, obviously, we serve primarily in oil and gas clientele, and with oil dropping in price there last year or the year before, our guard growth was slowed. In saying that, we've hired and we have grown in the last two years even while primarily serving a market that is on the decline. And I attribute that to the fact that we use newer technologies like Ignition and MQTT.
S1: Great. Thanks, Kyle. JC, your sort of wrap-up thoughts?
S5: Yeah, I'll go along with Pete a little bit for what someone else has done this like he has for 20-something years, and when Ignition came along, it certainly breathes a new breath of fresh air into this stagnant industry. And the way it's changed in the last four, five years is simply amazing, and as much as I'm excited, I'm hoping that frustrations don't grow because of the demand for our services, and sometimes we can't deliver everything because demands are so high, so plenty of work out there for plenty of integrators.
S1: Great. Thanks, JC, and Dee, final thoughts.
S2: I do think it is a great time to be a system integrator. The Inductive software has really been disruptive in a good way over the last many years. We've got the tools in our hands now to do so many things. Cyber security, the hardware, those kinds of things are changing, and even new protocols, MQTT with publish-subscribe capabilities, so everything is new but has so much potential here. I think the only thing we as integrators need to remember is to keep our knife sharpened, our tool sharpened and the continuing education that goes with this, so that we can continue to deliver these kinds of tools for our clients. I think it's a great time to be in this space. Just like Pete said that more change in the last five years, maybe even three years, than there's been in our careers combined prior to that, so that's a pretty fascinating time.
S1: That's great. Thanks, Dee. Thanks to all of you as panelists for providing the insights that you've had and how you see things going forward. I wish we had more time to continue discussion because I think there's a lot of topics we could dig into more, but we're gonna stick with our time frame. However, if you're interested in reading more about the subject and about our integrator survey, we got a white paper about it. It's available on our website. It's a resources section of inductiveautomation.com, or if you're watching the live today, you've got the paper when you registered, or you can get it now in the handouts panel, handouts bar on your toolbar there, you can get it.
S1: So before we start into Q&A, I just wanna mention a couple of things. Some people here are gonna be new to Ignition. I encourage you to learn more about it. Simply try it. Just go to inductiveautomation.com, download the full version of Ignition, it's free, and get a two-hour run time. You just reset it if you want. The designer never times out, so you're gonna actually be up and running in three minutes and test it out and actually build an entire project before you end up buying anything just to see if it fits your needs. A lot of people, looking over the attendees today, are on our Integrator Program. All who aren't, I encourage you to look into the ever-growing Inductive Automation Integrator Program. I mentioned at the outset that we really do focus on our integrators. You're our partners. You're the sales force out there presenting projects. And that's why we want the knowledge to be transferred, and if you're...
S1: If you get benefits from working with us, there's no upfront cost or obligations. You can just sort of learn more as you progress through the program, so go to inductiveautomation.com/integrators if you wanna know more about it. We're also extremely big on knowledge transfer here at Inductive Automation. Inductive University is available. We've got well over a million videos watched, challenges taken, credentials earned. It's an online course. There's over 600 and some videos there, and they basically are designed to guide you through all the steps needed to earn an Ignition credential and gain a solid workable understanding of the Ignition platform and how it applies to you and your customer's projects. So it's easy to sign up. Just sign up and learn, and you can get going now. First question, I heard the driver should come from the operations side, that they should drive it up. How do you do that if you have the global perspective from the Control Center View, which is much more global and maybe more top-down?
S1: So that's Mike's question. I'm gonna comment on it and then ask any of our panelists to comment on it too. And that is, if you think about it, you basically have to get a seat at the table. In some way, shape or form, you have to get a seat at the table, and the way I think you do that is you basically have to work through the operation side about the things that really are key challenges 'cause the top is also interested in making sure that production doesn't stop. You live with the world of downtime if you're an operations person, and the start is to get a seat at the table and to not back off at all from the discussions that include the IT folks, 'Cause even as Kyle said earlier, we're trying to just build one enterprise here. So with that, our panelists, anybody, in terms of how you do project stuff to include the operation side and sort of drive this IIoT evolution?
S5: Don, this JC. We face this a lot because we put in new plants, and that's what we do. And it almost becomes a people issue, that you want to involve both sides. And so the recommendation simply is, like you said, not just invite yourselves at the table, but try to get everybody involved in the table.
S1: Yeah, I think it really has to be a larger discussion. You're right, JC. Anybody else wanna comment on that question?
S3: On top of that comment, I think more like a business owner or business manager that's responsible for the whole business, not just the controls guy, which is sometimes the seat we're in, and learn to have those conversations broadly with owners, IT folks, and get that seat at the table that Don's talking about.
S1: Great, thanks, Dee. Our next question here, we just got time for a few questions, but I'll make sure we get to a couple here. What can we as integrators specifically pitch to prospective clients in regards to the cost-savings potential of using Ignition? A few pointers would be great. So how do you pitch Ignition, and how do you pitch cost-savings to your prospective clients?
S3: Don this is Dee. I'll go first and just say that the last couple of big projects where we've had cost be a big part of the conversation was the way we leveraged that was just being able to ask them to look at their existing costs and annual support and do a 10-year life cycle cost of that compared to Ignition. I promise you Ignition will look very favorable.
S4: Yeah, kinda the same thing Dee said, if you compare existing software costs with what Ignition can do for the price that it's offered at, there's obviously some immediate cost savings or viewable cost savings there. The other part too is what type of return on investment can you get by increasing how efficient your business practices are? Moving data and getting the data in the right people's hands and showing them the information from that data is very important. And usually, if you can't make the justification just on the software price, helping them be more efficient and increasing safety, decreasing downtime, that's usually another way to approach that as well.
S5: I'll throw in real quick. Don't underestimate the impact of showing them what Inductive University can do for their people on a piece of software that they can get trained on for free.
S1: Good. That's a good comment too. So let's move on to another question here. This is Robert's question, he says, "How do you foresee integrators differentiating their value in the future? Do you believe there is space for integrators developing their own intellectual property in this space?" And I just wanna comment that certainly, but what we have done by exposing our API and giving people a software development kit they can use, we encourage... We're an industrial automation platform with Ignition, but the subject matter expertise, going into particular industries, the applications, the actual modules, being developed is something that I think gives you extra... Your own intellectual property that moves you in that space. Kyle, I'm gonna call on you first, and anybody else can answer too. But since I know you've taken advantage of this to create differentiators for Kymera, can you comment on Robert's question about differentiating the value?
S4: Yeah, at Kymera we've developed quite a bit of modules, and we've got between 25 and 30 inside of our Code Management System now. And usually what happens is we'll go, and we'll talk to a client. They'll have some unique problems that they need solved, that their existing solution can't do as well as other systems that would be more expensive or just a lot more complex to manage. So we've taken the SDK from Ignition, built communication drivers that plug into the OPC framework, expose new components, and export data in a way that Ignition doesn't support natively. And I'm forgetting one thing. Oh, and moving data between systems in a more efficient manner. We wrote a module that saved us about 300 times. It gave us a 300-fold compression on data, so 300 megabytes of data uncompressed, moving to the SCADA system using this module we built dropped us to megabyte of data. And this leads back to skilled integrators as well. Most new integrators won't understand that that type of stuff is capable inside of Ignition, and so using the people on this panel, we've all got at least five years of experience with Ignition. Not only do we wanna help end users meet their goals, but also helping other integrators understand that is a big part of what we do.
S1: Thanks, Kyle. Just as we're wrapping up here, there's two or three other questions that are asking the direction of modules and developing modules. Robert has questions on, "How do we like the new module market program that we've got? Do we see the module market as a key part of our business?" I can answer that by saying yes. I think the answer that Kyle just gave supports that. We want to basically... In fact, we went to the new showcase 'cause we took away all requirements for anybody to have to go through us to have any kind of contract with us. We just open up and we'll display your module, showcase, allow people to go through our showcase through your own websites. We've also added the capability to add the licensing keys from our license server for... Our server license for Ignition, you can add on your modules to that license. And so what we're doing is empowering everybody we can out there in the market to take their subject matter expertise, their industry expertise, and develop the modules you need to serve your customers or modules you wanna sell, so that what happens is this whole ecosystem grows.
S1: It was mentioned earlier. We're trying to basically say, "This is IIoT delivered now from the edge all the way to the enterprise, and we are a player in that ecosystem at Inductive Automation, but so are you and your expertise aggregated together." And even what was said by Kyle and Dee is sharing with each other in this community is gonna build stronger solutions. And the showcase for modules and the accessibility of people being able to create modules is an important part of that for us. We come to the end of our time. I have this last screen up here 'cause I wanna make sure people know. If they're new to Ignition and want a demo, they can have it. In the upper right-hand corner, we have all of our panelists listed there with the email address. A couple of them have already said, "No problem." If you have questions or wanna have a follow-up, please take advantage of that. If you have an interest in a demo, call one of our county executives or Melanie will get that set up. More from the panelists, you've got their contact information. With that, I think we're wrapped up. I appreciate everyone's attention and participation today. Thanks again to the panelists, and we're finished. Have a great day.