What is SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition)

What is SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition)

A group of software programs known as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) are used to manage industrial operations. SCADA involves the real-time collection of data from remote places in order to manage equipment and conditions. SCADA gives businesses the resources they need to develop and use data-driven choices for their industrial operations.

Almost every industrial process may be managed with SCADA, one of the most used forms of industrial control systems.

SCADA systems are made up of both hardware and software elements. The hardware collects and transmits data to field controller systems, which then transmit it to other systems for processing and prompt presentation to a human-machine interface (HMI). SCADA systems also collect and document all events to report on the condition of the process.

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Components of a SCADA system

SCADA systems comprise field-deployed components for real-time data collecting as well as connected systems that facilitate data collection and improve industrial automation. The following are some of the SCADA components:

  • Sensors and actuators: An element of a system or equipment that monitors inputs from industrial processes is called a sensor. An actuator is a component of a device or system that regulates a process’s mechanism. Simply said, an actuator performs like a switch, dial, or control valve that may be used to control a device, whereas a sensor works like a gauge or meter that shows the condition of a machine. SCADA field controllers manage and control both sensors and actuators.
  • SCADA field controllers: These interface directly with sensors and actuators. There are two categories of field controllers:
  • In order to gather telemetry data and transmit it to a central system for further action, remote telemetry units, also known as remote terminal units (RTUs), interact with sensors.
  • PLCs (programmable logic controllers) interact with actuators to regulate industrial processes, often using the most recent data gathered by RTUs and the process standards.
  • SCADA supervisory computers: All SCADA activities are controlled by these, which also collect information from field devices and transmit orders to them to regulate industrial processes
  • HMI software: By combining and presenting data from SCADA field devices, this system gives users the ability to comprehend and, if necessary adjust the state of SCADA-controlled operations.
  • Communication infrastructure: As a result, field controllers and devices can connect with SCADA supervisory systems. SCADA systems can get data from field devices and manage those devices thanks to this architecture.

Evolution of SCADA architecture

The development of SCADA and corporate computers have similar histories. Large industrial companies were the first to connect mainframe computing capabilities with industrial processes, and these companies also deployed the first SCADA systems.

The following four stages of SCADA development may be seen as a result of advancements in computing, networking, and process monitoring and control systems:

1. First generation: Monolithic systems

RTUs at industrial sites connected directly to mainframe or minicomputer systems, typically also on-site or connected through wide area network, were typically included into SCADA systems used in the 1960s and 1970s.

2. Second generation: Distributed systems

During the 1980s, SCADA systems benefited from the widespread use of private local area networks and smaller, more potent computers to enable wider exchange of operational data at the plant level and beyond. Interoperability amongst SCADA product suppliers was nonetheless hindered by the absence of open networking standards.

3. Third generation: Networked systems

SCADA systems relied on increased interoperability made possible by the 1990s’ adoption of standard network protocols by industry. Because businesses could integrate systems across their own industrial infrastructure while utilizing a larger range of tools and technologies, SCADA systems could be expanded more readily.

4. Fourth generation: Web- or IIoT-based systems

SCADA providers used web software development tools in the early 2000s, enabling transparent interoperability and access via widely used interfaces such as web browsers running on mobile devices, laptops, and desktop computers. As a result, SCADA systems started to arise.

Cloud computing is transforming SCADA systems as it takes over more and more of the business computing market. By assigning cloud computing resources as needed for demand spikes and lowering those resources when demand declines, SCADA systems may be expanded more quickly and simply.

Legacy vs. modern SCADA

Organizations continue to employ mainframes and outdated, proprietary sensors and actuators as well as legacy SCADA computing resources. In cases where these systems are still operational, businesses may be hesitant to spend money on more advanced SCADA systems.

Modern SCADA systems that depend on distributed computing, network interoperability, and contemporary communication infrastructures provide superior returns on time and resource investments.

Benefits of modern SCADA

The benefits of updating legacy SCADA systems include the following:

  • Minimizing the Cost of Operational Performance: Considering how quickly technology is developing and how many solutions are available on the market to help us increase our levels of production, upgrading your SCADA systems can deliver efficiency. The reduction of capital expenditure and enhancement of asset performance both depend on improved operational performance.
  • Reliable Security: The network would made safe and compliant with basic security norms, including two-factor authentication or encryption, by upgraded SCADA software.
  • Versatility: Another aspect you should make sure you obtain when purchasing a SCADA system is versatility. It’s essential to be able to implement future changes without causing any disruptions to your business’s activity. Integrations operate in a similar manner. A modern SCADA system must be able to adapt to new technological advancements. Therefore, adaptability ought to be a key component.
  • Scalability: Modern SCADA solutions have the ability to expand in terms of capacity and scope. You can add new devices, new data sources, and even reorganize your system’s structure.

How to Select the Best SCADA Software

When deciding on the best SCADA software, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Determine your SCADA system’s precise requirements and expected results first. Think about the many kinds of data that must be gathered and tracked, including process control or data from live manufacturing. Make sure the software you select has the ability to gather and display this kind of data. Also think about if you require any other features, such support for remote access or alarm monitoring.

Second, think about the amount of vendor assistance that will best suit your requirements. Look for providers who offer a high degree of technical assistance and training resources if you are managing a complicated system with several components. On the other hand, if your system is simpler and uses fewer components, you might not need as much help from the vendor.

Finally, before adopting SCADA software, consider your financial limitations. Finding a solution that satisfies your needs and stays within your budgetary constraints is crucial. In order to maximize your return on investment, make sure to evaluate costs across several platforms.