Get More Data into Your SCADA
How to Gather All Your Data onto One Platform58 min video / 49 minute read View slides
About this Webinar
In this era of Big Data and the IIoT, the need for industrial data has never been greater. Ironically, although SCADA stands for "supervisory control and data acquisition," legacy SCADA systems make it hard to get to a lot of potentially useful data because they lock it inside proprietary systems. Amazing possibilities open up when companies use a tool that can break down data silos and get data from many more sources onto one unified platform.
In this webinar, SCADA experts from Inductive Automation show you how the Ignition industrial application platform makes data acquisition easier than ever while also being scalable and economical for organizations of all sizes.
See how Ignition makes it easy to collect data from:
- Any database: MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and more
- Practically any PLC and device: Siemens, Modbus, Allen-Bradley, DNP3, OPC, Omron, UDP & TCP, SECS-GEM, and more
- MES, ERP, and CRM systems
- Field devices containing valuable IIoT data
Don: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar: Get More Data Into Your SCADA: How to Gather All Your Data Onto One Platform. Just to introduce myself, I'm Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer here in Inductive Automation. I'll be moderating today's webinar. We have another speaker with us today, as well as from our team, someone from our team. So I'll be introducing those folks in just a few minutes. Our agenda for this webinar, start with a quick introduction of Inductive Automation, our software, Ignition. I'll introduce our panelists, then we'll get into the topic. We'll talk about the growing demand for data that a lot of organizations are experiencing, then we'll talk about the many data sources you can connect to using Ignition, including PLC's, databases, device data, data from web services, then we'll have an Ignition demo about data acquisition.
Don: Just a little background on Ignition. The company was founded in 2003. We've been in the industry for 13 years. Since day one, we've been an independent company with no outside investors, was started by Steve Hechtman, who brought 25 years of integration experience to the table when he decided on launching into the ideas he had for the Ignition platform back then. Our integrated program has over 1,400 integrators. And since 2010, really, our sales have been growing at an average rate of over 60% a year. If you want more information just on us as a company, you can go to our website, to the About Us section, and there's stuff there on key executives and staff and customers and all sorts of case studies and things like that. So we really are proud to be trusted by a lot of companies, including 41 of Fortune 100. And about a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies now are using Ignition in some form in their organization. It's being used in virtually every industry that you can imagine, from oil and gas, to water and wastewater, food and beverage, government, transportation, packaging, just... The list goes on and on in that area.
Don: Additionally, I just want to point out, we were pleased with this recognition. Gartner gave us a nice recognition for some of our efforts to reinvent industrial automation software. This year, they... It's one of... Gartner's one of the world's leading IT research and advisory companies. And they named Inductive Automation as a, what they call a cool vendor for 2016 in the area of managing operational technology in a digital business. So we're one of five vendors selected for that honor, and we're just pleased to be recognized. Additionally, probably more importantly, we did a... Or automation.com released a survey that they did in the HMI SCADA software area. They call it their HMI Software Experience Survey. Our company was, by far, the top choice in four major categories: Technology adoption, customer service, ease of use, and software reliability. The orange bars there are the Ignition, and the also-rans is everybody else. And we're very, very pleased to have that result because of an independent survey, and it's you in the community talking to automation.com to tell them what you think of Ignition in terms of its utility for you.
Don: I think there's a lot of reasons for that, but I'm gonna just, for introductions here, and mention what we consider six major points, why it's unique. Really, Ignition is the first database-centric, it's cross-platform, it's a web-deployed, industrial-application platform for HMI, SCADA, MES, IIoT solutions. Few of the reasons, one, it is web deployment, that's a big deal. Second, our unlimited licensing, which really just gives you the freedom to use this, any tags or clients or connections as you want, do as many projects as you want, open as many concurrent designers as you want. The whole thing is unlimited, as to give you freedom to innovate and do the projects you need to do. Ignition offers strong security and success-level security and stability. It's also modular in architecture, making it very easy to expand. It's made for rapid development and rapid deployment, and it offers real-time control and monitoring.
Don: I'm gonna introduce our panelists here. Kyle Chase is CTO of Kymera Systems. He's an Ignition Premier Certified Integrator based in Alberta, Canada. Kyle has experience in many fields, including instrumentation, control systems, automation, IT, databases, programming, and worked in a lot of different industries. Kyle, can you take a minute and introduce yourself?
Kyle: Yeah, yeah, so my name's Kyle Chase. Like Dom said, I'm the CTO at Kymera Systems. I've been using Inductive Automation products for, I believe, over 10 years now, right back to Factory PMI version 1, and FactorySQL version 2. So Kymera's focus, when it comes to our business, creating automation systems that can do exactly what this webinar talks about: Collecting data, creating information, and empowering the users, or empowering your clients, with the data that they already have.
Don: Thanks, Kyle. And I know I said it before we started today, but I do wanna say publicly, we really appreciate you taking time to join us here today. Our second panelist is Travis Cox. He'll be joining me in the room here in just a minute. Travis is Co-Director of Sales Engineering here at Inductive Automation.
Don: I would say this tongue-in-cheek if he was here, but he's a man who needs no introduction. I think many of you have worked with him because Travis was involved in the start of the company. I think he was employee number three or something in 2003. He led the training department, the support departments, established a design services area, worked in many projects, and he's now Co-Director of Sales Engineering here. He's helped hundreds of very vocal Ignition advocates, and done hundreds and hundreds of projects or influenced them. So we're pleased to have Travis here with us today.
Don: As we get into this subject, there's demand for data machines and devices, they're now built with this "smart capabilities." So you can capture lots of data and create more data than they actually can probably be used. It's estimated that by 2020, there'll be more than 20 billion devices in the Internet of Things. The rise of big data and the rise of the Internet of Things have challenged companies to handle much larger amounts of data than they ever have before. They are also challenged to do more with that data, like figuring out how to turn it into actionable information and better decision-making. So just as an opening question, I'm gonna ask you, comment on, Kyle. I know there's a lot of talk in the industry about big data and IoT. We just came back from the Automation Conference in Chicago, and I don't think there was a display around, including ours, that didn't have IIoT on it in some fashion. There's a lot of buzz around this. Do you have any thoughts to add about how data is disrupting business? Have you seen it affect the companies that you've worked with, Kyle?
Kyle: Yeah, the IIoT is definitely something that's taken the world by storm. If you think about it, that's what we've been doing in SCADA for the longest time, is interconnecting all these devices, tracking all the information into one system. The newer technologies are allowing us to do that on quite a large scale. And all of our clients are always asking, "How can we get more data into the hands of our clients?" So we're talking not only from the plant floor to the management, we're also talking globally. So from each plant to one central server, your executives and your high-level managers want all that information as well. And that's really allowing them to do more with what they already have.
Don: Thanks, Kyle. And we're gonna dig into what that means, and how does one access data, how does one utilize data, in what ways, various ways to do that? When our company surveyed the integrators in our integrator program, they told us their clients are always asking them to get more data into the hands of more people. You just sorta set the table, overall, with this, but as an integrator, have you found that to be the case from what your customers, your clients are asking of you?
Kyle: Yeah, absolutely. If you take a look at how businesses are being built now, they're very geographically diverse. You typically don't have one office with all your people in it anymore. What people are able to do, a single person can do a lot more than they used to be able to because they have all the data readily available in their hands at their computer at any given point in time. So every company, every one of our clients that we deal with is continually asking, "What more can we do with the data that we have, and how can we give it to our employees?"
Don: Certainly. Thanks, Kyle. It's certainly a big deal right now. And also, we're noticing it, as we get into larger and larger interplaced deployments. I know it's true of businesses of various sizes, but in the case of these larger enterprises that are operating from multiple locations around the world, there's an especially great need to share data constantly to ensure that all the different offices, all the departments, all the plants, all the locations are actually on the same page. It's critical to operate in that enterprise. And within industrial organizations, say in a single location, there's clearly a need to share operational data with other systems and people throughout the enterprise. I think the trend that's going on right now that has to do with operational technology and information technology coming together, the convergence that's being talked about, is critical because, really, there is only one enterprise, and the data from plant floor to top floor should be available throughout.
Don: As everyone here, I'm sure, probably knows that SCADA, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, is an industrial control system that actually runs at the core of many of these many modern industries. Millions of companies, other organizations all around the world are using SCADA. Even though data acquisition is the D and the A in the SCADA acronym, the increasing data needs of companies are not being met by traditional SCADA systems, or what we like to call old SCADA. But you can do something useful with... If you're gonna try and do something useful with the data, the first thing I'd do is be able to connect to it, and that, a connectivity issue.
Don: When our CEO last year at our conference talked about connectivity, storage applications, three major components to try and empower enterprises across those enterprises to be more effective. You can't acquire data, obviously, the first of those is connect, you can't acquire data if you can't connect to it. And frankly, it can be hard to connect to old SCADA systems. Data is hard to query when it's stored in proprietary systems. Those systems speak in different languages, and they make it hard to query the data. Because these systems aren't really fully interoperable, you inevitably end up with data silos, where data stays isolated. And that prevents you from being able to see all your data in one place or to compare the data in different systems across the enterprise. And you can't get your data in real time, it slows down your ability to respond and to make really good data-driven decisions.
Don: Frankly, when Steve started the company, Ignition was built, first, it was conceptually, before it became a reality to correct these problems. It's a communications hub. It can access just about anything. We call it an industrial application platform. It offers unlimited connections. It can connect to all your PCs and devices through OPC and MQTT protocols, all major databases, historians, any MES ERP system, and web services. We're gonna take a closer look at all of those data sources in these webinars. They're critical to fully empowering the enterprise with access to the data.
Don: Last year we took a survey of our customers, and one of the questions was, "What's the main thing that you use Ignition for?" The number one answer by far was data acquisition. It lets you collect as much data from as many different sources as possible, and then you can query it, analyze it, or use it in some other way that'll end up benefiting your organization. With Ignition, you connect to data from any PLC or device. PLC's are really the basis of most control systems. As you know, they automate electromechanical processes and are used to control machines. They also capture data from the plant floor by monitoring inputs and outputs. Ignition also connects to just about any device used by industrial organizations. It does this through a range of different drivers and modules. OPC UA Driver Modules are a group of Ignition modules that require the OPC UA module and are focused on establishing communication to specific devices.
Don: One of the groundbreaking things that Ignition is, is that it has OPC UA embedded at its core. Because of that, Ignition gives you nearly seamless connectivity to hundreds of other protocols. Ignition has drivers for major PLC brands, and it has drivers for Modbus devices, UDP and TCP devices, DNP3 machines and online controllers. In addition to those drivers, Ignition also connects to third-party OPC servers, so you can connect it to any device. And let's just go into a little bit more depth on this 'cause connectivity is such a critical component. The Allen-Bradley brand of programmable logic controllers is a popular choice in many industries. You connect to these devices, which includes compact logics, control logics and others, by using the drivers in our Allen-Bradley Driver Suite. You can also connect to the Siemens SIMATIC line of PLC's with the Siemens Drivers Module for Ignition, your Siemens S7-300, 400, 1200, 1500 PLC's.
Don: In addition to that, if you take a look at Modbus, in case you don't know, it's an application protocol that helps data to be managed and passed between various layers without being affected by the protocol used by the next immediate layer. So Modbus TCP, or known as Modbus TCP/IP, is a simple Modbus protocol running on ethernet over a TCP interface. The Modbus driver allows the Ignition OPC UA server to communicate with any device that supports the Modbus TCP protocol. It's a generic, simple driver that allows PLC support. You can collect data from laboratory information management systems, or LIMS, with UDP and TCP Drivers Module. Those LIMS devices include barcode scanners, weighing scales, analytical equipment of various sorts. And the UDP and TCP drivers are configured to connect and passively listen to one or more ports on a given IP address. Rules are configured that dictate how the incoming data is interpreted. I'm gonna ask each of our panelists, Kyle and Travis, maybe to comment on this, but why... Kyle, you first, why is that data from scales and barcodes valuable to have in your SCADA system? In what way would it be shared? How do people use that?
Kyle: Well, it brings us back to what this webinar is about. It's about putting more data into one system, so having your scale data helps with certain processes. We've connected on a large-scale, open-pit mine research and development project where we had to weigh all of the slurry coming in and out to get a net product or a net volume, so we're using the scales to do that. We've connected to barcode scanners in production. It allows you to have a user scan a barcode instead of having to type it in all the time. And we've used connected gas chromatographs at some of our oil and gas refineries, so when their lab equipment is done running a test, it just pushes the data into the driver, and we're able to automatically apply business rules and routing into what happens with that information.
Don: Thanks Kyle. Travis, your experience on that?
Travis: Well, so MES is important because it's part of this integration with all the devices and the information you have within a plant, and it's about how to get to them. So a lot of these weight scales and barcode scanners may be RS-232 and may be serial, in which case it could be a little bit challenging to potentially get access to that. There's a lot of ways you can do that. Certainly you can put a Moxa serial ethernet converter in front of it and that we can connect to with a TCP driver, which allows it to get that information to Ignition. So it could help our quality systems, it can help just getting more data, like Kyle was saying. So it's really about having a driver set that allows us to get to the information that's out there 'cause there's just a whole variety of different devices and different protocols and just different ways that data exists in a plant.
Don: Thanks, Travis. Going on a little further into this, I mentioned DNP3 before. DNP3 is a protocol that's used by many electric and water utilities in North America. It's used to communicate with SCADA master stations and of course remote outstations. If your organization uses devices that support the DNP3 protocol, you can communicate with them by using the DNP3 Driver Module for Ignition. You can also use it to set up Alias' Pointless for those devices. We get to OMRON NJ series controllers with the OMRON Driver Module for Ignition. The OMRON NJ controllers are... They're used in the Sysmac Automation Platform, so it has access to data from lots of different devices there too. And I mentioned before, Ignition doesn't have drivers for every device. We're not a driver company. We try to fit some major ones for a lot of our major industries, which I just went over, but it can connect to various third-party OPC servers, either through DICOM or through OPC UA. Before there was OPC UA, the original version of OPC used Microsoft DICOM as a uniform way for industrial applications to share data, but DICOM wasn't very easy to work with, it's become outdated. But if you have legacy OPC servers that use DICOM, you can get to that data by using the OPC COM Module. And Ignition connects to third-party OPC UA servers, such as those made by Kepware or Matrikon, Beckhoff.
Don: So because of the standards that Ignition is built with, you can connect to any device... And I think this is the main point here, we don't have standards, you can connect to any device that's out there, either through Ignition's native OPC, or a third-party OPC server, so we opened the floodgates to making that data available. Kyle, we've talked about how Ignition can connect all these different devices and protocols, how have you been able to apply these capabilities to actually be of more service to your customers?
Kyle: A lot of our customers have a lot of older systems, aging systems, they might have an existing HMI platform that has the OPC DA server built in. So we've used the UA titler quite a bit to connect those DA services. Anytime you're dealing with a lot of EFM data, at least in the oil and gas industry, there are some specialized communication rules that have to happen, so we've used Kepware quite a bit in our large-scale implementations. Being able to even write drivers for the inductive automation OPC server has helped us integrate with other applications that don't have a readily available communication path. So OPC is really what's empowering a lot of our ability to collect this data for our clients.
Don: Great. Thanks, Kyle, I appreciate it. Because I know you're... And just thanks for the comment on the ability to write your own drivers where needed to expand the connectivity where it wasn't formerly available. Additionally, to all of those devices it can also connect to serial ports with the Serial Module, Ignition can send and receive information over a serial port. There are two variants of this module: One allows the system serial functions to be accessed from client-based scripts, and one allows them to be accessed by gateway-based scripts. Connect with semiconductor fab equipment by using this XGen module for Ignition. So, XGen is a standard from SEMI, which is an international organization of semiconductor manufacturers. And Travis, with regard to this XGen module, can you tell us a little more about this module and about how the data from semiconductor equipment could be used?
Travis: Well, yeah, sure. So in an automated fab, this interface, with this protocol can help you start and stop equipment, processing can collect measurement data throughout that, can change your variables and even select recipes for products. So it really allows you to interface with this equipment to host communication. And so it just opens up that, and another channel to more devices, more things that we can work with, so it's very important obviously for semiconductor, very specific to that, but allows you to do quite a bit in that realm.
Don: Thanks, Travis. So looking at all that, Ignition, as I said, has embedded OPC UA, there are also modules for Ignition that allow it to leverage the MQTT protocol, which has become the leading protocol for the industrial Internet of Things. By building MQTT architectures that include middleware, what you really are able to accomplish is you can decouple intelligent devices from applications, and instead connect those intelligence devices to your infrastructure, put the data right into your infrastructure, there are a lot more details to it. I'm gonna let Travis make a couple comments on it here too. But one of the benefits is, you can gather huge amounts of data from field devices that are usually just left unused, you get at those silos, and you can make that data available to a line of business applications. If you just look at this graphic that's up there, on the left side as I look at the screen here, you have your plant floor with your PLC's, your HMI's, your sensors, and then your field devices, the RTU's, the rectifiers, the flow computers. All of that stuff, all those edge-of-network devices come into... God knows how many protocols, but they can publish data into the MQTT server.
Don: And now, on the other side of this, the industrial applications at the top, and the business applications at the bottom, you can use it for your traditional SCADA applications, alarming, historian, but also line of business, ERP, the billing, the CRM. So it really is a very good approach to how to really capture field-device data and bring it into the enterprise. Travis, you've worked a lot with MQTT and the development of the MQTT for Ignition modules. Like to add something to this?
Travis: Yeah, sure. This is a really important infrastructure change, everything we've talked about so far, as far as what Ignition can connect to as far as the PLC's, the drivers built into Ignition, and OPC... In general it's very important, it's to standardize that part of it. But this is now bringing in a different infrastructure rather than a traditional pole response that we have with our legacy protocols, which is never gonna go away. The idea is to have middleware, basically enterprise service bus, for the industrial realm, that's been around in IT for a long time. So rather than coupling your application with the actual device protocols, having the drivers built natively, imagine pushing all that to the edge, having them publish data to a central system, that more than... That Ignition could get access to the SCADA system, but also ERP systems, BI tools, business analytics, ERP, CRM, billing, any other application could get access to it. So it's not having to use your SCADA system as that enterprise service bus, as to actually have this infrastructure, this change that really facilitates the future where we do get more data, more things that can plug and play into the environment without having to have the specific drivers. So it's really about standardization, but more around the infrastructure with getting this information into the system.
Don: Thanks, Travis. I really appreciate expanding on that a little bit, 'cause this is a significant... This enterprise service bus, if you will, for industrial, is a huge necessary component if the industrial Internet of Things is gonna connect to thousands of devices and sensors, and bring data smoothly into the enterprise. So if you want more information on this, certainly you can get a lot more detail on the Ignition IoT platform in this series link, MQTT modules at inductiveautomation.com/ignition-iiot.
Don: There's also a module for Ignition called SQL Bridge, and that connects PLC's and databases. It was actually the foundation. Our CEO and President Steve talks... I think he calls this the Swiss Army knife of industrial automation because it's so powerful and can do so many things. It allows you to log data across all sites to a central location. It lets you move data bi-directionally, log data easily, synchronize PLC's and databases, as well as a lot of other functions. It's an important enough connectivity tool with so much function that I'm gonna ask both of you guys to comment. Kyle, first off you, and then I'll go over to Travis. But what's it like trying to connect databases with PLC's maybe in the traditional, old SCADA way? Can it be done? How easy is it? And how easy is it when you take the approach of the SQL Bridge.
Kyle: So in our experience, it's very difficult with traditional HMI and SCADA platforms to connect to databases. Before we found Ignition, it would typically involve diving into some BP, adding the appropriate connectors, creating the connection to the databases, trying to manage connection pools to get performance, and then just trying to deal with that data as it was going in and out was very difficult. With Ignition, you can be up and running in a matter of minutes, logging data, both one direction or bidirectional into your PLC's. So Ignition, in our opinion, is far easier for connecting to the databases, and moving all this information, and that's why we picked it as our tool of choice.
Don: Thanks, Kyle. Travis, you've been working since legacy product backed the SQL with this functionality. So your comments on SQL Bridge Module?
Travis: Yeah, Ignition, it naturally deals with databases, and that's one thing to know, is you're not having to do, like what Kyle was saying, potentially with others, we are having to code up the connections and all of this sorta stuff. You're just really figuring out here how to map data in and outta the database. And the Historian and the SQL Bridge modules, they make it so easy to put data in and out that you really don't even realize you're working with a SQL database, to be honest. But there's a lot of power in what you can do with databases, and the more you know about it, the more that this module can help you do things and store data in ways that you would have never stored before.
Don: Thanks, Travis. So if you think about data, let's go another step further, this subject of moving PLC data from the platform into the database. In order for a SCADA system to be useful, you have to be able to move data from a platform to a database, and PLC's are the devices that just happen to be best suited to this task. SQL databases make PLC data easily accessible by getting the data into an open format. So what are some of the ways, Kyle, that you say you can use that PLC data?
Kyle: For us, typically it's for logging daily information, to do up reports. We also use it quite a bit for shipping terminals, so metering in oil, or our product coming into a facility, also leaving a facility. It's very important for coming up with net balances between the two to capture that data properly. So that's how we've used it, mainly for daily logs and for shipping reports.
Don: That's great. How about you, Travis, what's your experience?
Travis: So the PLC data is one thing. Certainly logging the data is very important, as Kyle said how he's used it. But I think the other important thing is to be able to add contextual information to that process that you're putting into there from the devices. So things like work orders that you're running, products you're working with, the season of the year, the manufacture of raw material, who the operator is, who the supervisor is, all these kinds of information. And there's a lot of other things that you could log with the data, and that when you pull back those reports and you do that analysis, you could start seeing your data in different ways, slicing and dicing it, and where you wouldn't have had that if you just had some traditional, simple as logging the data to the PLC. So I think it's important to think of not only the PLC data, but we're putting contextual information into the database as well, that helps you get better reports.
Don: I think that's critical, 'cause when you start spreading this data across the enterprise, that context, different people wanna see it differently for different reasons across the enterprise. So that context adds the value there. If you connect with SQL databases, Ignition allows users to make PLC data easily accessible, as you said. It opens other valuable data avenues. It adds context as Travis just pointed out. You can log historical data from a SCADA system into the database, and to integrate SCADA with manufacturing execution systems, the MES side and the enterprise resource planning systems.
Don: I think all of that connectivity becomes critical to have this empowered organization with real-time data. And databases are what you use them... You use them to save, to organize, to protect, to deliver data. So it just makes sense that an effective modern SCADA system will be able to work with them easily, but Ignition is actually the first database-centric, from-the-ground-up, SCADA Solution. It's also database-agnostic in a sense that it doesn't limit the ways in which you communicate with the specific type of database. It allows unlimited database connections with almost any type of database, including the most commonly used database SQL. The business world has embraced SQL databases, so they're used by most standard enterprise systems and they're also very well-supported by IT departments. They're famous for what? Their simplicity, their speed, their flexibility, ease of connectivity and their ability to quickly query related data.
Don: Ignition leads the industry, frankly, in database accessibility and utilization. If you have existing databases like MySQL, or Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and others like that, it'll work with those. That allows you to work with different types of databases and, of course, to evolve also with the latest database technology, and you can connect to multiple databases together through one platform. So it really opens up whatever your enterprise may be using. One of the biggest problems with old SCADA is that you can't access real-time data easily. That's because most SCADA software uses historians with proprietary technology that compresses and stores the data. And so to get that data, you have to pull it out of the proprietary software and put it into a usable format like dot XLS or dot CSV files. The process takes hours, even days sometimes, and by then, the data isn't even relevant anymore. So it's not really real time, for sure. You can't see what's happening right now with traditional, old SCADA systems because time series data is difficult to get to, it stays detached from the rest of the enterprise in most cases, and it's its own data silo. But honestly, there's just no inherent reason why this data should be kept separate. There's no technological reason and no good organizational reason to keep it separate.
Kyle: And we're talking about here, getting this information into real time into IT and business applications, in particular. Obviously, there are ways of getting out proprietary data into real-time data into those systems, but it's been isolated, like you're saying there. And the idea of this is, "How do we get the enterprise to look at this information together?" And that's where the openness of SQL databases is really what we're talking about here.
Don: Yeah, that's a critical component 'cause it's being able to get it and to get it easily in that direction. Ignition actually, it uses SQL databases to log and store data in real time, so it's available in real time. You don't have to pull it out of proprietary storing software like I was commenting on, Travis was commenting on. You can get the real-time plant-floor data from anywhere in the world while it's still relevant. So it gives you answers to important questions in milliseconds instead of waiting for hours or days. ERP systems work in periods of time like weeks, months, monthly reports, quarter reports, annual, but plant floors work in milliseconds, fields work in milliseconds. So it let's you see real-time trends and cross-reference any number of data sets. Kyle, when you're able to get real-time answers from your data, what kind of valuable insights and extra value does it bring when you can get that out of it?
Kyle: It just increases your speed to react. So imagine, one of the systems we've done in the past is an R&D system for large-scale oil and gas clients. Typically, they'd be storing everything to a CSV, or an Excel file. They wouldn't be able to analyze that data until they have done all their tests. Being able to come up with the KPI's on the fly, we're actually able to save them 35 days of runtime at about half-a-million dollars a day on certain R&D projects. So there's an immediate cost savings that you get by being able to react to your data as it's happening.
Don: Thanks, Kyle. Bottomline, frankly, is you can do all of these things. You can store data from PLC's and devices. You can get time series data in real time. You can connect your SCADA with MES and ERP just by connecting to relational databases. And when you're on Ignition, all you need to do is click on the Create New Database Connection option in the Ignition Gateway. What about data that exists at other levels inside your organization already? Most control systems can't get SCADA to work together easily with MES and ERP, because maybe they're outdated and they don't work with modern IT technologies that are found at the enterprise level in organizations. The gap there between SCADA, MES, and ERP keeps many companies from connecting up their whole enterprise. Unfortunately, this gap between systems leads to unnecessary waste, missed opportunities, bad decision-making. And as we said, SQL databases are already in use by most MES and ERP systems, so when you're using SQL with SCADA, you can connect these three levels of software together easily. And I realize sometimes if SCADA is... Sometimes you hear that people "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy, and their SCADA system's working, but it's working to do what SCADA systems do, it's not bringing together that entire enterprise.
Don: MES essentially is that middle layer between SCADA, which is at the operational level, and ERP, which is at the enterprise or executive level. So MES software actually is designed to bridge the communication gap between the plant floor and those executive levels. MES software does that by tracking and improving things like downtime, quality, SPC, recipe management, track and trace scheduling, genealogy questions, and a whole lot of other functions. So there's a lot of valuable data at that level if you can just get at it. Connecting SCADA to MES without the help of SQL databases happens to be a real challenge. It requires multiple applications, multiple operating systems, lots of time getting data to and from the plant floor and back to the executive level. But if you've got SCADA software that utilizes SQL databases getting SCADA and MES to communicate, it turns into a fairly simple process 'cause both systems are speaking the same language. So Ignition allows you to then connect and collect the information easily at the MES level. You can add third-party MES modules to your Ignition platform or easily integrate Ignition with an existing MES system, and you'd connect the ERP system of your choice.
Don: In a company survey, our integrators told us that one of the most common requests that they get is to connect the data from SCADA systems to ERP systems. ERP handles many aspects of business management, such as some of these here: Your supply chains, procurement, human resource, financial sales, and just a whole lot more. And also, we have to deal with the subject of connecting to web services. Ignition can connect to web services, whether it's a Simple Object Access Protocol, SOAP, web service, or a Representational State Transfer, REST web service. One of the common web services applications is to allow Ignition to communicate with ERP systems. For example, Ignition could pull production orders from ERP or update the ERP at the end of a production run, either direction. It can also access things like work orders or schedules or production definitions and asset information. So it really empowers the enterprise when you got the plant floor and the top floor connected. And this ERP connection to web services is critical. Kyle, I just was mentioning a couple things from the top level. Are there other types of data from web services that you might want to connect SCADA to?
Kyle: Yeah, absolutely. We routinely pull weather data for a lot of our SCADA systems. It allows us to react to possible dangerous weather, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, stuff like that. We also get -40 degree weather up here, so we need to be prepared for that type of stuff. And then internally, in our own timesheet system, we built our own time sheet, project management, expense tracking system inside of Ignition. So some of the things that we do is we pull hour-by-hour currency data from web servers. And we also use a web service to mail out our invoices. So companies that won't take email, we can just invoke a REST endpoint, send them a PDF with the address, and they'll go out and mail that letter for us. So just a few examples of the web services that we've connected to on our own.
Don: Great thanks. I totally appreciate that. If you think about it, we really are... You're talking about more and more data coming into the enterprise. We've talked about various sources you can pull data from and bring into Ignition. You can gather data from multiple sources into one platform, then you can use a set of powerful development tools to do things with it. So Ignition has rapid application development tools. It has a web launch designer application that provides concurrent design clients and a uniform design experience. One of the things I was gonna do, I was just talking to Travis about it, is actually even let you guys know of a second schedule because a lot of the questions we're getting that are deep in terms of the demo and wanting to see stuff, that we're going to have another time, we'll just offer you guys to sit in and go deep into any questions you have on database acquisition with Travis in any direction that you may wanna go.
Don: A couple of comments that I wanna make in terms of overall is, if this is all new to you, one thing I would recommend to anybody is, please download it. You can download Ignition. It's full of functional modules that you wanna work with. It has a two-hour runtime. The designer never times out, so you can develop an entire project. You can look and see if it meets your needs, before you ever consider buying it. You can be up and running in three minutes. Then anything we're talking about in terms of database and access, you can just search for it if you want to, and the university is 100% free. There's 600 videos there. It's an online training tool. Just sign up, start learning, buy Ignition at your own pace, and dig into the connectivity and database issues at that time. We got quite a few questions, and we wanna get to as many as we possibly can, which is why I'm trying to wrap up really quickly. So now... But I do wanna say this. Do you want a deeper dive demo? Do you wanna dig more into it? You have questions for Kyle? Chase's contact information is there in the upper right-hand. These are our account executives and our Director of Sales. We welcome the opportunity to show you every detail you possibly wanna know about Ignition in this data acquisition and utilization world.
Don: So now as we move into questions, Kyle, I'm gonna let you comment. And every time I'll read them, you and Travis can either both comment, or one or the other 'cause we've got a long queue of them here. So the first one is, "Can I get the link to the survey for the Ignition industry?" This is for you, David, so I'd like to see where the information came from and find out the use for customers? The answer is yes to that. The survey was published, right? So if we can put that in there... I guess what I'll commit to is we'll get it and send the link in the outreach that we follow up to the webinar. So all of you can have it if you want to look at the whole survey. We'll find it for you, okay? Next. Hi. One of our clients is asking us to "dump" the data acquired by SCADA into a Cassandra database. Is it possible to do that with Ignition? Kyle, I'm throwing that your way 'cause I happen to know you know something about this.
Kyle: Into Cassandra? Yeah, we can connect with those types of databases using external modules, bringing in the resources, and with Python, we can dump it too the same way. So yeah, yeah, that is possible.
Don: Okay. Great. Thanks. Have you connected to an IP camera? Travis.
Travis: Absolutely. Ignition has an IP camera component that supports JPEG stills and MJPEG stream, so it's very common that people will put these IP cameras on the same screens. Also, in that same realm, there are video surveillance systems that have recordings of cameras, Cisco VSOM is one of them, and there's others out there as well. A lot of them support API's, like a SOAP or REST API that allows us to then go back and look at video recordings at a point in time.
Don: So for example, we've had a lot of customers who have integrated with these, with web services here in particular, we're talking about this, where they'll see an alarm happen in Ignition, or they go back in history for tag history or for alarm history, see an alarm happened two days ago, right-click and view the actual live... The feed of the cameras at that time, which can give you a complete picture. Not only are you getting the process data, you're getting other contextual information, but you're now getting the feed of what actually happened on the plant floor, that can get a very robust complete system. So that's a very good question, and it's something that a lot more companies are going down the path of integrating all these things together so they get a single view of that data.
Don: Yeah, that's great Travis. Hey listen, this is actually a very good question. Geraldo, you don't have to apologize for the question... I should apologize for not defining MQTT better, but I think I'm gonna let you do it, Travis, because this question... Sorry, what's the meaning of MQTT? We talked about how valuable it was. But what's the acronym and what... Expand on a little bit more for Geraldo.
Travis: MQTT stands for Message Queuing Telemetry Transport. Oh, it's a lot. It's just a protocol that basically is very low overhead, so it's a two byte... There's only a two-byte overhead, and then the rest is the information you're sending. So very low bandwidth, meant to go over things like satellite or cellular connections. Very secure, has TLS security and is a publish-subscribe protocol. So we have a... There's a middleware. The MQTT server, and all these edge-of-network devices can publish data to, then any number of applications can subscribe to the information through this protocol. So rather than connecting a SCADA system directly to the PLC through the native poll response protocol, we decouple it, have the edge-of-network device push it up to a business application, to a server that we can then look at that information.
Travis: Especially if you're gonna go into the cloud, this is the way to actually have a secure infrastructure using the cloud, because you don't wanna have to have open up firewalls in your network to get access to your PLC's. You want them to securely push data up. So it's just a different infrastructure change, and it's a very long explanation of MQTT, but you read up more about it, there's a lot of things using it, a lot of IoT applications from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM are all using MQTT as their backend. Facebook Messenger uses it as a backend to send messages back and forth. And Amazon Echo, Alexa, if you say, "Hi Alexa, play something," it actually sends those commands through MQTT on Amazon's side. So it's a very well-accepted IoT standard.
Don: It's also been in the oil and gas world, when you have these high-latency low bandwidth to a lot of wells out in the field, and really, it only publishes by exception, so it really uses the bandwidth extremely well, and it's not a heavy consumer. So when you wanna get more data outta those devices, you wanna have the health of devices, maintenance data, all the things that sensors can give you now with this IoT move, MQTT is becoming extremely useful to actually make IoT a reality. I look at it this way, and I see a combination between our unlimited licensing model, so you don't need to worry about tags and exit devices or anything else, take away your worry about that. Use a protocol with a middleware connection to the server like MQTT, and you just opened up an architecture that is totally powerful for IoT solutions. Next question, do you have requests to support the common process automation protocols: PROFINET, PROFIBUS, Foundation HART, etcetera. So first, Kyle, I guess? Or no, Travis. Travis, go ahead.
Travis: So we get this request quite a bit, and certainly there is no native driver in Ignition. Our drivers are Ethernet drivers, and so we rely on OPC servers or other applications to get that. So there's a request in that way. I think, especially like doing it HART, there's edge-of-network devices. When you get into the MQTT realm, there's edge-of-network devices that do support HART, and they can get data into a server that we can then read. So I think rather than us developing it, we're relying on getting information from that perspective. So Kyle, may have almost... Kyle, your way, you probably integrated with these before, and how have you done it with Ignition?
Kyle: Yeah, we essentially go down the Kepware route. So we let Kepware handle a lot of our communication infrastructure outside of MQTT and direct UA connections. So yeah, we use Kepware, connect those devices. Either that or a lot of your PLC's can have HART communications or PROFINET built in now, so we can also make a data concentrator through an existing PLC as well.
Don: Great, thanks Kyle. We're moving fast 'cause I wanna get to a lot of questions. Travis, I'm gonna have this go in your direction. Does SQL Bridge leverage deadbanding and data compression like PI Historian?
Don: So one thing that's very important is that Ignition is putting data into a standard SQL database. So compression isn't really an option. You wanna keep the data open. So we do deadbanding, for sure, but we also have an algorithm in Historian, to limit the number of points going to the database. So we can do interpolation, all that, but the idea is not to compress it, but to be able to log the least amount information to the database, allows us to draw the graph that we're looking for, based on how we tune it, based on how important a particular process value is.
Don: Great, thanks, Travis. So is there an emerging demand from the customer base for supporting NoSQL databases. Barabino Salvatory, that's his question to you, Travis.
Travis: It is a very valid question. There is a little bit of demand for NoSQL. I think when you get into really big data and IT systems, they're looking for that. When you look at operational level, getting databases is so new that there's not really much demand for it there. I think it's more on the IT realm, just dealing with massive amounts of information. So we are certainly investigating and doing research down those realms that Ignition can certainly support these things.
Travis: Once the support for them behind the scenes is getting bigger and there's more demand, we'll then start having more offerings for it, but we definitely adapt around with these now.
Don: Great, thanks. Just a side question 'cause a couple of people asked about this stuff, and John, you asked it here too, 'cause you came in a little bit late. We will send a link to this, to the archive of this webinar. So even though we're not sending out the slide deck, you will get the entire webinar, so you can go through it to different places, wherever you want. So you will have access to all that information. So the next question is, Is there a module to run Ignition as an OPC server? Travis.
Travis: Absolutely, the Ignition OPC UA module is that. It is a stand-alone OPC server, and there are drivers in the Ignition, native drivers that, for example, we're talking about Allen-Bradley, Siemens Modbus, DNP3, OMRON NJ, TCP and UDP, these ones. The idea is that it's cross-platform. So you could actually have an OPC server on a Linux machine or Windows, and it could be stand-alone. You could just use that by itself. Of course, when you use the rest of Ignition, you get to use that data in more ways, but it is an OPC UA server, not a DA server, but an OPC UA server.
Kyle: Okay, great, Thanks. Next question. In this world of cybersecurity and all the concerns about it, how safe is Ignition from cyber attack? How is it being monitored for it?"
Travis: So that's a very good question. Certainly, we ascribe our very best to make the software as secure as possible. We do use tried-and-true IT technologies like SSL so we can encrypt the actual communication to the gateway. It usually runs on that HTTPS port, so it's very configurable through firewalls and all of that. There is a robust security system in Ignition for who's allowed to do what and from where they're allowed to do that. So we certainly do as much as we can to the product. We also support multi-factor authentication and those kinds of things, or even using Active Directory or other systems. And we do audit trails in the products so you can see what's happening. Now, we do as many penetration testing that we can do. We have relations with ICS Search, which is Homeland Security, they have this program that if there's anything reported, we can fix. And we're going down the route of extending security from PLC's, like bedrock controllers all the way to a person with a smart card. We're using MQTT, it's a more secure infrastructure. So a lot of things in that realm. And we are happy to say that Ignition has been tested by outside systems, and it's a very robust system. There are customers now going down the route of putting it into the cloud.
Don: Great. Thanks Travis. So we're coming to the end. I'm gonna let it be that we maybe take one or two more questions here. And then I think I'll ask maybe, Kyle, if you have any final things you wanna say, and Travis, any final things, so we could keep to our time. And what we're gonna do, we're gonna follow up. There are a lot of questions still in the queue, which means that this is of interest to you, folks, we wanna respond to that. So we will be following up with a time when Travis is gonna dig in and do a demo on all of the components we talked about for connectivity and the SQL Bridge Module and stuff. You'll be able to have a deeper dive to get to some of these. We're still gonna follow up with all these questions. So with that, one final question, it's about MQTT I wanna ask you, Travis, and then we're gonna wrap it up. With MQTT, can Ignition connect to an open-source program?
Travis: Yeah, and so it's the standard. So as far as the MQTT server or broker, it will work with anyone that's out there. And it happens to be a module for Ignition, but it can work with any existing ones like Mosquito or Amazons or whatever happens to be out there. Sure.
Don: Great, Thanks. So with that, we're coming to the end. We got about a minute left. Kyle, I'd like to just ask you if there's any final things you wanna share with the audience today as we wrap up.
Kyle: Yeah, our business is primarily built around collecting and moving data, and creating more information from the data that we collect. So it's been something we've been working on for about 10 years now, and our business is... We're in Alberta, a lot of businesses in the area aren't doing so well with the drop of price in oil. Our business is healthy and growing. So it just shows that being able to collect data and create information is very important to a lot of businesses, even in times when it was low. I also wanna point out that the number on the slide, our phone number is wrong. Our number is actually 1800-470-2302. And if people wanna get a hold of me, my extension is 101.
Don: 23. Okay, I'll read it. 1800-470-2302, and your extension is 101.
Don: Great. Thanks again, Kyle, for being here. I know you're doing a ton of stuff of data for your customers, and so I appreciate it, you sharing it. Travis, wrap it up.
Travis: I just wanted to reiterate that we talk a lot about different ways we can connect Ignition to different sources of data, and certainly we have... I personally have a lot of experience doing this, and our experts here have a lot of experience, as well as Kyle and companies like that. So if there's anything that we can offer in guidance and help, our doors are open, so technical demonstrations on the product, just talking about different things that we could possibly do. Let us know. We're more than happy to take that on. And we'll have a point where we can also get together, and we can dive into the software and really get some Q&A going on how to do things there. So from our standpoint, we'll do what we can to help you guys out. Just let us know.
Don: Thanks, Travis. Thanks everyone, for your attention today. We always appreciate and welcome your feedback also on our webinars. As I mentioned, we'll follow up and make sure we get all these questions answered, and there's a little deeper dive Travis talked about. We'll let everyone know when that's gonna be so you can... And we'll also record it so you could be at it or see the archive of it. And with that, we're at the conclusion of today. Thanks so much. Have a great day.