Iconics World Tour and 25th anniversary vision

Iconics president and ceo Russ Agrusa presented the keynote speech at the Vision 360° World Tour event held in the UK in November, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of Agrusa founding Iconics in 1986. The World Tour series started in the USA in June, and explains the latest in industrial and building automation software solutions to Iconics customers, systems integrators, OEMs and channel partners, plus showcased customer applications that leverage the latest Microsoft technologies. Iconics has recently been confirmed by ARC as having a 4.4% global market share of the HMI market: in pre-Iconics days Agrusa worked on developing the HMI used on the Foxboro IA DCS.

The Northern correspondent for the Industrial Automation INSIDER attended the presentations, and reports on the Agrusa keynote and the flavour of the other presentations by Clive Walton, the Iconics UK md, and other inputs from Microsoft and Corning Glass!

Agrusa was clearly in no doubt about what the future held, and presented many technologies under the company’s 360° Vision banner, using a theme of ‘Any Glass, Anytime’. A core philosophy may be indicated in the keynote Iconics mission: Make the “Right Decisions”, delivered at the “Right Time”, put in the “Right Hands”, on the “Right Glass” – the “Glass” being any form of existing or foreseeable display.

For Agrusa, the Cloud was not optional or even the future – it was here and now, with examples such as the download of apps (watch out for industrial apps), and the use of Google Docs etc. Such acquired user habits quickly become the trend and the expectation for industrial automation and information systems. The benefits of Microsoft Azure were explained under the three headings of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). This general visionary line was reinforced by a brave on-stage demonstration of the use of Microsoft Kinect (the motion sensor) to point at a 3D windfarm SCADA display and to then drill down into a detailed display of the status of one ‘faulty’ generator – so please do not wave your arms around in the control room of the future!

Mobile devices
Many of the particular product presentations included the demonstration of the full integration of tablets and smartphones within the Iconics Genesis64 for mobile data display and interaction with process automation.
It may just be that Agrusa is one of the first in line for the Visionary position that the industry sorely needs, whose job description could be paraphrased as, “I have seen the future, let me show you how it works”.

The Iconics Genesis line-up is both native 64 bit and also 32 bit. It was emphasised that the 64 bit products have been completely re-written to take advantage of now readily available 64 bit processing, while giving reassurance that 32 bit was fully supported and was maintained in the road map. Evidence of its effectiveness were presented in a case study from Cougar Automation featuring the University of Bristol campus monitoring system, and further endorsed by the Industrial Technology Systems (ITS) presentation of their partnering experience with Iconics.

Quantified results
Some other notable applications were listed as: Dublin Terminal 2; Iconics WaterAnalytiX for Cork County Council; the Audi A4 & A5 production lines at Ingolstadt; the Nissan Battery Plant in Sunderland; and the ‘Energy Dashboard’ for the Microsoft Redmond Campus. All of these are large and prestigious projects and as such the question arises ‘why Iconics?’ – especially when the company just seems to get on with the work rather than devote its time to publicity or other distractions.

Embracing new technology
What may be at the core of the Iconics difference is their apparent wholesale enthusiasm and acceptance of new technology. The two day event was liberally scattered with discussions incorporating virtualisation, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile 7, Cloud based data repository, the use of ‘personal devices within the workplace’ (also a Microsoft theme, under the acronym BYOD – Bring Your Own Device), 3D visualisation for manufacturing and facilities operators, integration of Bing maps, the fullest exploitation of Microsoft technology and more. Several Iconics UK support engineers were at the event – their bandwidth, confidence and enthusiasm was infectious, and could be a very tangible aspect of the ‘Iconics difference’ – evident customer satisfaction.

Following the theme, a futuristic video from Corning Glass showed a whole host of ‘smart glass’ devices from interactive (with your in-car navigation device) motorway traffic signs, to group working active tables, roll-up screens, many portable devices and even ‘appliance veneer glass’ for domestic devices. Although it all seemed to be for a questionably optimistic future, Agrusa made a convincing argument that this was going to be sooner rather than later, with Iconics being at the forefront of the exploitation of it all for manufacturing and other facilities. Iconics might come to be reported in industry as the people who delivered the technology that we were all waiting for.

This article first appeared in the Industrial Automation INSIDER, January 2012 issue.