Most people are familiar with the term “apps”, which is simply an abbreviation of “applications” that are simply computer programs with a user-friendly interface. There are now hundreds of apps available on the Apple App Store that people download onto their iPhones and iPads providing both games and useful tools to book flights, identify music tracks from their audible signature or monitor your heart rate during exercise. These are great for personal use and tend to be easy to obtain at little or no cost.
In the business world, there is a need for a similar platform to allow the efficient and safe distribution of industrial apps. This is where Intelligent Plant’s new Industrial App Store® leads the way. The Industrial App Store is an online shop window and secure data access portal that allows anyone to provide a service that requires secure access to their client’s process data. This data stays on the clients network so there is no need to copy, upload, or duplicate data in the cloud, which means no additional storage costs or transport fees.
Open to fair competition
Historically, major automation companies developed and sold expensive infrastructure and systems that ‘locked-in’ clients, as once an investment had been made, only they could provide products and services compatible with that infrastructure. Clients were then dependent on that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to have the solutions they wanted for a myriad of problems they might encounter across all their global assets. This prevented clients from picking the best in class or lowest cost solution, as they were locked into their main equipment vendor (MEV) who would only develop a new product when it felt there was sufficient demand from its own client base. The MEV could then charge what it liked, as there was little or no competition, as clients could not easily approach another vendor as their infrastructure was not “open” to fair competition.
What Intelligent Plant has done is disrupt this market with its Industrial App Store, which is completely open to anyone wanting to develop and sell an industrial app over the Internet, whilst taking away all the difficulties normally associated with connectivity and data security. In addition, app developers retain and host their own apps on the Industrial App Store, so they don’t have to disclose to Intelligent Plant or the end users the domain knowledge contained within the app, which protects them from cloning or hacking their intellectual property. It also means that the client doesn’t need to expose its network to an app developer who may be a small outfit. This means, for the first time, there is an even playing field where app developers can compete to gain market share from a growing number of active Industrial App Store users, many of whom are international blue-chip companies in the oil & gas, and renewable energy sectors. No longer are apps only available from the major equipment vendors – smaller, more nimble, specialist knowledge workers can now access global markets deploying their expertise using value-adding apps held in the cloud.
How does it work?
Industrial App Store manages access to client data and only allows apps to request the data for which they have been given the necessary privileges to obtain. The data request from an authorised app is routed to the client’s data historian by the Industrial App Store and passes the data back to the app.
The clients maintain intellectual and physical ownership of their data and there is no write back to their own data historian, only to a separate app results historian that Intelligent Plant provides for free.
Simple but effective
The beauty of this arrangement is that Industrial App Store clients don’t have to manage multiple connections and data requests in different formats and protocols to their servers on an ongoing basis. This reduces their cybersecurity risk to a single app store connection, which is established and tested once, is more easily monitored and, once set up, needs very little maintenance or support.
What sort of apps are available?
There are too many apps available to list here, but some examples include apps to track valve movements, monitor controllers, measure alarm performance against industry standards and guidance, monitor hydraulic fluid usage in subsea equipment, trend data using PCP and Calm Waters visualisations, and the very popular Power Platform connector that allows process data to be visualised in Power BI, acted on using Power Automate and accessed using Power Apps.
There are plenty of other apps already available on the Industrial App Store and in development both by Intelligent Plant and their growing network of development partners.
The costs of all apps are transparent in order to encourage competition. Customer ratings in the form of star ratings are also built into the Industrial App Store, providing purchasers with visibility and confidence in user feedback.
The future is already happening now! Microsoft’s ground-breaking Power Platform can now access process data using the Industrial App Store. This is a true acknowledgement from one of the world’s leading software giants of just how revolutionary and powerful they see this technology. This link to Microsoft opens up the global market for Intelligent Plant and all its developer partners using the Industrial App Store.