We Interrupt the Yokogawa Conference to Bring You News of Iconics

Control contributing editor Paul Miller reports from the Iconics Worldwide Customer Summit 2008 in Boston… It’s finally a beautiful sunny, if cool and breezy day here in Boston, where at Walt’s request, I’m mostly indoors covering the Iconics Worldwide Customer Summit at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center, located right on Boston Harbor. And yes, we’re not actually very far at all from the historic Boston Tea Party site… Back in the early 70s, when I was a college student here in Boston, this waterfront section of South Boston was mostly made up of run-down fish piers, with a few good seafood restaurants sprinkled here and there. Of these, the world-famous Anthony’s Pier 4 still remains. What used to be the gritty Northern Avenue area has now been gentrified into "Seaport Boulevard," the better to draw conventioneers and the odd tourist or so to a new convention center and associated hotels. Many of Control's readers should be familiar with Iconics, a PC-based automation software company that has been around for quite a number of years. Russ Agrusa, Iconics' personable president and CEO, founded the company way back in 1986, which by a minor coincidence, happens to be the same year that I became associated with the industrial automation industry. As far as I can tell, the company has been keeping a bit of a low profile in recent years, especially when compared with some of its competitors. However, based on the generally enthusiastic composure of the 300 or so Iconics' customers and systems integrators in attendance at the Summit and the fact that the company has enjoyed double-digit growth for ten years in a row, I’m going to make a wild conjecture and say that they have been focusing more on their customers and their technology than on external marketing. This truly appears to be a worldwide summit, with customers, systems integrators and Iconics employees from all over the world in attendance. The Iconics master of ceremonies is from the U.K., and in the breakout session I attended this morning, the technical presentations were made by specialists from both Italy and the Czech Republic, where Iconcis has a development center. According to company literature, Iconics has deployed more than 225,000 solutions in more than 60 different countries. The company has recently opened offices in China and France, and will soon open an office in Mumbai, India. Iconics HMI/SCADA, data analysis and visualization, and manufacturing intelligence software products are built on top of Microsoft technology. Iconics is a Microsoft Gold- Certified Partner and the company’s products take advantage of Microsoft latest .NET and SharePoint Portal Server technology. While all automation software and systems these days supports OPC, Iconics is very proud of the fact that its software and solutions are "OPC to the core." Company personnel are actively involved in the OPC Foundation. This includes Russ Agrusa, who currently sits on the board and Jim Luth, who is OPC Foundation technical director. The big announcement today was the introduction of the Genesis64 suite of software products, which according to the company, represents the "Next Generation in Automation Software." Genesis64 is designed (and certified) for Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. The new product suite takes advantage of 64-bit computing, which according to Iconics, should help to further reduce application engineering costs. According to Agrusa, Genesis64 represents 80 man-years of work. Iconics also announced Version 9.1 of its Genesis32 product suite. Agrusa made it clear that the company would continue to support, improve and develop Gensis32, which represents its bread and butter. An interesting new Productivity Analytics product was also announced as part of Iconics’ manufacturing intelligence suite. This was built on top of existing Iconics and Microsoft technology and provides intuitive charts and visualization for real-time decision support. In addition to Agrusa's keynote presentation on the future of automation software, which was done about as well as any that I’ve seen on this subject, and several product technology presentations by Iconcis product people, I saw several interesting presentations by  end users. These included a presentation by Tim Shreve, the manager of the automation technology group for systems at Oxy Inc. in Houston, one of the world’s largest upstream oil and gas companies, with 22,000 wells around the world. Using Iconics HMI, data visualization and manufacturing intelligence software, Oxy developed an application that allows it to selectively turn off the motors on different wells at precisely the time that electricity rates spike in that area, and then turn the motors back on when electricity prices come back down. This real-time electricity usage has enabled Oxy to capture significant cost savings without negatively impacting production. Got to wrap this up now because I don’t want to miss a panel discussion that will start in just a few minutes. Then, it’s off to Boston’s Hard Rock Café for dinner and music…