"I" is for Imagine - "I" is for ICONICS

If You Can Imagine It, You Can Build It with ICONICS

The ICONICS Connect 2021 hybrid event took place on Thursday, September 30th in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Having started with the company the second week of September, I was extremely excited as it would be my first ICONICS Connect. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued, and my anticipation was pretty high. During the two weeks leading up to the event, my colleagues were feverishly organizing and tying up all the loose ends. And of course, they did not disappoint.

ICONICS Connect 2021 included dynamic, interesting, and highly informative presentations providing in-depth insight into today’s automation software technology and digital transformation topics. Just a few key words from the event included digitizing, digital transformation, agility, resilience, streamlined operations, sustainability, digital twins, edge computing, connected workforce, and cyber security. For an understanding of the importance and relevance of the sessions, have a look at the event’s agenda:

  • Opening Keynote: Digitize Your Future with ICONICS – A Trusted Software Leader for 35 Years
  • Innovation Technologies: Stay Agile and Resilient – Solutions to Accelerate Digital Transformation Initiatives
  • Breakout Sessions - Group 1
  • Safeguarding Against Cyber Threats with Secure Data Connection
  • Rethinking Solutions for Your Connected Workforce
  • Breakout Sessions - Group 2
  • Streamlining Operations for a Sustainable Future
  • Riding the IT/OT Wave: IoT, Digital Twins, and Computing on the Edge
  • General Wrap-Up

Besides the common threads mentioned above, an overarching theme throughout the day was: “If you can imagine it, you can build it with ICONICS.” And I truly believe this. Through a recap of ICONICS Connect 2021, let me tell you, or rather, show you why.


Opening Keynote with Ted Hill, ICONICS President & CEO

Digitize Your Future with ICONICS - A Trusted Automation Software Leader for 35 Years.

First, before getting to the Opening Keynote, I want to be sure you understand the difference between digitization and digitalization because knowing the difference is relevant to ICONICS Connect 2021 and because digital transformation will continue its momentum into the future. Digitization is converting data into digital form. A good example is converting a technical report into a white paper pdf file. Digitalization takes digitization a step further by leveraging digital information technology to transform processes for the digital. In other words, you would use technology to digitalize your factory’s processes and data collection. Now on to the keynote.

Ted presented two substantial arguments for why Mitsubishi Electric is an excellent fit for both ICONICS and our customers. The first argument was the SUSTIE smart building presentation which showed how ICONICS is being used for Mitsubishi Electric research and development in their impressive net zero energy building. The second argument was the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL) presentation, which showed how its R&D division in Cambridge, Massachusetts is on the cutting edge of research and development and, in particular, researching process algorithms for time-series data to be used in automation software technology. It is clear that Mitsubishi is at the forefront of research to help humankind achieve sustainability. There is a breadth of possibilities from the edge to the cloud of what ICONICS software can be used for. Backing this up was the Spirax Sarco customer story which demonstrated ICONICS’ ability to meet the company’s needs for addressing their global customers’ steam processes for increased efficiency and sustainability. The key takeaway of the opening keynote was that the new normal is constant change, so we need to be ready.

(Available on-demand: Digitize Your Future with ICONICS - A Trusted Automation Software Leader for 35 Years)


Innovative Technologies Keynote with Mark Hepburn, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales

Stay Agile and Resilient - Solutions to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation Initiatives

The high energy level of ICONICS Connect 2021 continued into the second keynote, and in this session, Mark explained the ICONICS suite capabilities which were illustrated through customer stories and demonstrations. ICONICS Chief Software Architect Chris Elsbree spoke about key visualization technologies; Solution Sales Engineer Luke Gonyea went over the new Hyper Alarm Server and Logger technologies built on the foundation of ICONICS’ digital twin capabilities with AssetWorX; Senior Applications Engineer Alex Binder shared how all these come together; and Jim Desrosiers with Data Acuity reviewed best practices for manufacturing and highlighted these through a case study with Catania Oils - a leading manufacturer of organic oils located in Massachusetts.

So “Why ICONICS?”

ICONICS is the most scalable, reliable, and customizable platform in the market for real-time operations. It is open, yet secure. It provides extensible connectivity to virtually any kind of OT and IT system: OT systems, or operational technologies, include all the control systems, the mechatronics, the things that make the things that we operate ‘work’. And the IT systems, or information technologies, come from the management information systems area, whether those be in your corporate data center or in the cloud, coming from a web service. ICONICS is a platform that brings these systems together contextually, so you can connect to and virtually control any system, whether it be through IoT, on the edge, or across our enterprise.

The ICONICS Suite is a combination of four elements: GENESIS64, Hyper Historian, AnalytiX, and IoTWorX, and presents a commonality of one unique and singular platform service connecting all of those elements together, not just for the industry today in its current applications, but also for the industry as it looks forward to future-proofing the elements of its systems. And ICONICS is a single unified platform that is competitive, flexible, scalable, and modular, as well as customizable and extensible. In essence, ICONICS is the “Switzerland of automation” with the ability to connect to everything. A key to realizing ICONICS’ success is to start with one specific challenge and then scale up and out. Start economically and then use that as a baseline to solve whatever problem you encounter next. To me, this was reminiscent of peeling the layers of an onion. There is always something else to uncover once you get started.

(Available on-demand: Stay Agile and Resilient - Solutions to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation Initiatives)

Breakout Session – Group 1

Safeguarding Against Cyber Threats with Secure Data Connectivity with Oliver Gruner, ICONICS Corporate Account Director – MELCO

Besides Oliver Gruner, the session’s exciting team consisted of Tom Burke, ICONICS Global Director of Industry Partnerships; Ben Burke, Dispel Chief Operating Officer; and Yuki Shimizu, Mitsubishi Electric North American Development Center (NADC) Application Engineer. Given the COVID pandemic, remote work has become increasingly more prevalent and important. When people do remote work, when they access OT systems remotely, cybersecurity is not just an issue, it is a necessity. Cyber security features that are built into the ICONICS Suite make it simple and easy to deploy to inherently secure systems.

The ongoing hot topic of BACnet Secure Connect was discussed along with what is changing in the industry to make communications more secure, especially what important considerations to take into account when enabling remote access to OT systems. Ben Burke gave his insight into Department of Defense-grade level cyber security, going over what is new in the cyber security measures and how organizations can take advantage of it. The session concluded with a demonstration of new cyber security protocol using Mitsubishi Electric hardware in combination with Dispel’s Moving Target Defense-based remote access solution, and ICONICS' visualization and IoT technology.

(Available on-demand: Safeguarding Against Cyber Threats with Secure Data Connectivity)

Rethinking Solutions for Your Connected Workforce with Jotham Kildea, Solutions Sales Engineering Supervisor

The benefits of a “connected worker” should be bidirectional, meaning not only do you want to empower your workers with information at their fingertips, but you also want to capture their insights from what they see in the field to provide more context to the overall application. In many industries that were previously focused on “air-gapped” systems, there has been a major reset and change of thinking. This was partially due to the necessities of adapting to COVID, but also because many of the latest and best in class security models are designed around and assume an Internet-connected solution.

Where possible, when connecting your workforce, you want to adapt the solution for the operator according to the environment. This situation can incorporate aspects such as tailoring graphics to touch-friendly or even wearable or mixed reality devices, using location awareness to curate experiences, and using technologies that rely upon a variety of cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity options. For some, it might be a bit of a different frame of thinking as compared to a traditional SCADA integration project. However, a connected workforce should be connected not only to the data, but also to each other, to learn from their coworkers as well. To illustrate how organizations can become connected, system integrator Shane Stevens with Impact Automation and Controls explained how the Lake Cities Municipal Utility Authority (LCMUA) uses the ICONICS suite for this objective, and a live demo of LCMUA’s mobile solution followed.

(Available on-demand: Rethinking Solutions for Your Connected Workforce)

Breakout Session – Group 2

Streamlining Operations for a Sustainable Future with Zhi Wei Li, Director of Incubation and Engineering, US

The world’s climate situation is serious. Its causes and its disastrous effects on our lives are now well known, from forest fires and severe droughts to rising sea levels and flooding. Through global initiatives like the Paris Agreement, world leaders have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of their respective countries in an effort to slow down and hopefully reverse the effects of climate change. During this session, Zhi focused on how corporations and businesses play a significant role in achieving sustainability, and encouraged them to think in terms of measuring, tracking, and reporting on the emissions that a business is producing. He added that energy consumption is a major contributor to emissions so understanding how a business consumes energy is critical in the path to sustainability.

It is important to emphasize that sustainability is not about using as little energy as possible but about using energy as wisely as possible – in other words, it is about not wasting it. And this is where ICONICS comes into play. ICONICS has tools and solutions to help businesses measure, track, and report on their energy consumption. An excellent example is Mitsubishi Electric with its various initiatives to become more sustainable across its businesses. These incorporate pioneering zero energy building technologies and closed loop usage of plastic in manufacturing, as well as sustainable water recycling technologies and innovative battery developments for the renewable energy industry.

Next, Dean Tallman with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IOUE) continued by explaining his organization’s goals and a use case about how this technology can be put into practice. The International Union of Operating Engineers is an advanced trade union with a fundamental mission to represent a diverse group of heavy operators and stationary/facilities engineers within the construction, pipeline, stationary, and environmental industries. The organization manages and operates the IUOE International Training & Education Center (ITEC), which encompasses over 100 local training and apprenticeship programs to guarantee that its craft workers remain extensively skilled, productive, and safe. He demonstrated how ITEC is using ICONICS to manage and control the facility and more importantly how this technology is used to train information-based workers.

(Available on-demand: Streamlining Operations for a Sustainable Future)

Riding the IT/OT Wave: IoT, Digital Twins & Computing on the Edge with Spyros Sakellariadis, Global Director of IT Business Development

Before the start of the presentation, Spanish guitar music was playing and then ...Led Zeppelin. It surely got the audience’s attention and mine and set the energy and context for Spyros’ topic. The emphasis of his presentation was to explain how ICONICS fits into and contributes to the OT and IT environments. On the OT side, ICONICS has long delivered applications to monitor and manage equipment. The ICONICS Suite includes modules to communicate with equipment, display real-time information about that equipment, detect problems, and issue alerts to operators. On the IT side, the ICONICS Suite is a solid Internet of Things (IoT) citizen. On premises, now commonly referred to as “on the edge”, our IoTWorX and GENESIS64 applications handle all the communications between the equipment and the cloud and can also deliver services relating to real-time data (“edge computing”).

Our IoTWorX application runs on Azure IoT Edge, taking advantage of all the functionality conferred by IoT Edge, and our GENESIS64 application runs on Windows and supports all the OT functionality required by the operators. Both can be configured to send data to the cloud, for example, to Azure IoT Hub. In the cloud, our GENESIS64 application subscribes to Azure IoT Hub and receives all the telemetry data sent by the on-premises components. It interfaces with many native cloud services and can be configured to integrate with enterprise applications such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service for work order management, technician scheduling, and so forth. The move to push compute into the cloud produced significant benefits for customers; the addition of edge compute and the introduction of hybrid solutions produced even further benefits and promises to continue to do so.

(Available on-demand: Riding the IT/OT Wave: IoT, Digital Twins & Computing on the Edge)

General Session – Wrap Up

ICONICS Connect 2021 wrap-up was a Q&A session with a panel of some of the day’s presenters and was just as interesting and informative as the whole event. The panel included Mark Hepburn as the moderator, joined by Ted Hill, Zhi Wei Li, Jim Desrosiers, and Dean Tallman. Attendees asked questions covering topics about how system integrators can best start with the ICONICS Suite, how the IUOE runs its facility and how the organization plans to train its members for rapidly changing technology, how Data Acuity’s client focus and solutions have changed with technological change, how to capture OEE with the ICONICS Suite, how ICONICS is planning its roadmap and timeframe toward AI, what's the next big thing for the ICONICS Suite, and what are the future collaborative plans for ICONICS and Mitsubishi Electric.

ICONICS Connect 2021 marked the 35th anniversary of ICONICS software. With this solid history and a solid future with Mitsubishi Electric, what we can achieve together looks bright indeed. Together our companies can continue to contribute to factory automation and digital transformation technology and its advancement and, more importantly, to human and world sustainability.

Remember, if you can imagine it, you can build it with ICONICS.

(Available on-demand: General Session – Wrap Up)

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