Tech Strategy

IIoT – The New Skin of SCADA

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a classic concept with a new spin. SCADA is essentially IIoT and has been for decades. The oil and gas industry (and others) have been using sensors, PLCs, SCADA systems since the 1980’s and have used these systems to drive daily operations.

The legacy SCADA platforms have taken us far in regards to automation and controls but the architecture has often been non-extensible, proprietary and siloed. Even valuable equipment data within the same facility may not be readily available to all users without significant development time.

Elevating Automation

Ignition’s web-based gateway server architecture, combined with the base of IIoT connectivity with data transmission via MQTT, creates a centralized services platform that can be easily replicated and/or reused throughout the organization, regardless of location or network siloes.

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Ignition IIoT

The Platform and The Protocol Get Hitched

This message is targeted to IT and OT executives who are looking for ways to capitalize on existing investments, curtail the costs of modernization and expansion, who also have a desire to future proof their next moves for (at least) the next 5 years

More often than not, the operational investments are slower to change while IT needs to remain nimble and address the ever-evolving technological advancements that drive competitive edge and organizational sustainability.

Today, we have to address the convergence of both sides to ensure smooth transformations with long term holds.

IT/OT convergence, Industry 4.0, Operational Excellence, Level 5 Manufacturing Maturity, these are all concepts being addressed in boardrooms today. These initiatives are putting the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) front and center of many an evolutionary path.

Ignition’s pricing and architecture equate to sustainable infrastructure as Ignition facilitates growth via M&A, market expansion, diversification, innovation at the same time improving visibility and operational efficiency.

Ignition combines a fully functioning, scalable SCADA system with a software development framework and a best of breed IoT messaging protocol (MQTT) to extend the life of operational equipment, enable layers of new sensor technology, incorporate decision dashboards for action and analysis as well as bring controls to mobile devices.

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Ignition has built in security protocols such as SSO, 2FA, OpenID Connect and SAML as well as federated identity providers such as ADFS, Okta, Duo, etc.

Organizations utilizing IIoT are recognizing the benefits of not only the visibility and controls of plant operations but the polling and incorporation of edge devices with their associated data goldmine.

To get a great IIoT overview provided by Ignition, check out their in-depth coverage on how IIoT is driving decisions with useful, granular data, the chasm between IT and OT and the benefits and challenges to building the IT/OT convergence bridge.

With Ignition, you create a decision support system driven by daily operational controls.

The IT/OT Sandwich

Looking at the topline benefits which are measured by bottom-up changes, how do you orchestrate OT and IT efforts to ensure they work in tandem and can be supported by both sides? Who owns it?

As the operations side working in SCADA environments have been building and supporting machine and sensor-based data for decades, they are already programmed to capture PLC data via SCADA to make critical operational decisions. Thus, it becomes a natural progression to add IIoT functionality from the operational side while including IT in the execution.

The answer to this question will vary by organization but a good and tested approach to consider is the following:

  1. OT responsible for determining the plant infrastructure
  2. OT recommends products that will work with their equipment
  3. IT validates equipment selections based on network and security requirements
  4. OT drives the operational and technological changes and IT supports
    change management and infrastructure

The key success factors regardless of the path to get there include: 

  • Complete documentation of the current and future states which feeds a comprehensive gap analysis resulting in a detailed transformational roadmap
    • Transformation can include working with all existing plant equipment and/or partial to full replacements and upgrades
  • Clarity of user needs aligned to prioritized business objectives
  • Security with networking architecture
  • “Go/no go” gates which consistently tap into investment vs impact based on clearly defined (upfront) measurable success criteria.

Asset Visibility = Clarity of Effort

Asset management, usage chronology, data acquisition, process visibility, production alignment

The equipment has a story. Certain users need specific information. Watching trends, acting on alerts, building business cases for improvements; asset visibility and clarity of effort help to establish the metrics that can be measured. By leveraging all the available data, the baseline metrics can be used to determine ideal cycles for monitoring, production, maintenance, diagnostics, repair, shutdowns, etc. The beauty of Ignition is the flexibility it offers over the parameterization of tags, the ability to throttle alerts and baselines easily, enabling nimbleness and granular tweaks that optimize monitoring or control functions.

Business Case #1

Modernize Outdated Systems

Manage Budgetary Constraints

Leverage Existing Infrastructure

Helping folks build solid business infrastructure and make prudent technology investments, this organization finds other companies that are in need of an operational overhaul and brings them to full operability and profitability.

In this particular example, they took an oil pipeline business with over 30 sites and improved their SCADA by moving it to Ignition, Ignition Edge, leveraging MQTT and building a whole new control room from the bottom up. And, they accomplished this Industry 4.0 transformation in six months!!

The success of the effort was largely in part to leveraging Ignition and its robust Designer (saving dev time) along with the built-in drivers for their equipment and the standard MQTT protocol which comes bundled with the Ignition platform.

They were able to leverage cloud services, a centralized OPC UA server, edge of network devices and secure device transmissions thru a security protocol within their cellular provider. The system now monitors and controls almost one thousand miles of active oil pipelines and close to a million gallons of crude oil storage.

By removing VSAT and replacing it with MQTT’s lightweight messaging protocol, the new system is more reliable, secure and consumes less networking resources.

The beauty of MQTT’s publish/subscribe functionality is that polling can be based on time intervals, user needs, variable changes or in combination of the three. Adding a cellular network security layer enabled encrypted end-to-end communications between the edge of network devices and the Ignition platform.

Business Case #2

Facilitate a Variety of Users and Customers

Achieve Regulatory Compliance for Food Safety

Build Extensible Solution to Expand More Readily

Top priority for this organization is food safety. Building process, controls and monitoring functionality into the operations for complete visibility from any connected device.

The operation requires supporting a wide array of customer requirements as well as several standards related to Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and FDA regulatory.

The Ignition platform provided SCADA controls and data collection as well as device agnostic accessibility, alerts and reporting. It gave granular visibility to each customer’s requirements which enabled fast action for manual remediation (i.e. - equipment calibration) or automated disruption. 

As Ignition is based on centralized templates and reuse, standing up new clients has become exponentially faster each time. They work with a robust standard configuration that is centrally managed and provide idiosyncratic functionality at the facilities or departmental levels.

The cost-effectiveness of the platform has been instrumental in winning new business as the cost to set up and support new clients is greatly diminished.

An unrealized benefit from the onset, is the user-friendly nature of the Ignition Development Platform has enabled even some non-technical users to create their own reports, templates, queries and even build their own applications. Ignition has brought SCADA, OEE, trends analysis, KPI’s, regulatory compliance and so much more to the table.

Ignition + MQTT = IT/OT Convergence

Envision a centralized hub sitting between all your enterprise systems that converges and delivers data in such a way that only those who need particular “atoms” of data can access them.

No matter how big or small the importance of the decision is, or how granular the data, which ever user needs it, they get it as it occurs. Alarms and notifications delivered to any devices with interaction/control mechanisms at hand. This is the power of Ignition with MQTT!

By leveraging MQTT and Ignition, you can decouple intelligent devices from the plant floor or industrial applications and make that data available to anyone in the enterprise.

Margaret is our Director of Delivery - North America. Besides her enthusiasm for being a true client partner, Margaret enjoys singing, writing and helping others achieve their personal and professional goals. Feel free to contact her on LinkedIn.

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