SCADA is the abbreviation for “Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition”. This word is currently widely used by industrialists, but it is still little known by most of us.
What is that? When should you use SCADA systems? Where can you use them? Etc.
Many of us want concrete answers to these questions. That’s why we’re going to walk you through everything there is to know about this topic in detail.
What exactly does the term SCADA mean?
SCADA is an acronym for four letters: Data Acquisition and Control System.
In fact, it refers to a category of software dedicated to controlling industrial processes and collecting data in real-time at remote sites. SCADA systems can be used to maintain control over your equipment, industrial processes, and to optimize their operating conditions.
A typical SCADA system is made up of transmitters, a remote terminal unit (RTU), communication protocols allowing communication between the servers and RTU transmitters, a data server for archiving data and supply the human-machine interfaces (HMI). HMIs are user interfaces that can connect the operator to the control device of an industrial system.
If a SCADA automation infrastructure is properly designed, it should enable companies to:
- Better respond to operational questions
- Do more, do better and at a lower cost
- Increase the availability and life cycle of their equipment
- Improve the performance and reduce the maintenance costs of their equipment
Now here is an overview of the evolution of SCADA systems.
The four types of SCADA systems
There are different types of systems that can be considered SCADA architectures.
They improve as technologies evolve.
First-generation: monolithic SCADA systems
Previously, manufacturers have used minicomputers to optimize their processes and equipment.
Back in the day, monolithic SCADA systems were very popular and did not use common network services. The systems were therefore independent, that is, one computer could not connect to other systems. The remote sites were connected through a backup mainframe system.
This ensured the redundancy of the first generation SCADA system. The monolithic concept was mainly used in the event of the failure of the primary mainframe system. The use of this older form of SCADA system was limited to monitoring system sensors as well as signalling
any operation if programmed alarm levels were exceeded.
Second generation: distributed SCADA systems
For this second generation of SCADA systems, the sharing of control functions is distributed among several systems connected to each other via a local area network (LAN). They were therefore called distributed SCADA systems.
Individual stations were used to share real-time information, process orders and perform monitoring tasks to raise alarm levels in the event of problems. What differentiates them from older systems is the reduced cost and size of the station.
However, network protocols were not standardized, and the security of installations could only be determined by very few people other than developers. In other words, the security of the second generation SCADA installation has been ignored.
Third generation: networked SCADA systems
Current SCADA systems are now networked and can communicate over a Wide Area Network (WAN) over data lines or by telephone.
These systems typically use Ethernet or fibre-optic connections to transmit data between nodes. They also use Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) to monitor or adjust routine signalling systems for critical decisions.
While the first and second generation SCADA systems were limited to single networks or buildings, the third generation SCADA uses the Internet, often implying a security concern.
Fourth generation: SCADA 4.0 systems based on the Internet of Things (IoT)
The emergence of the fourth generation of SCADA systems has drastically reduced the cost of infrastructure through the adoption of IoT technology and cloud computing. System integration and maintenance is therefore very easy compared to previous systems. The latest technological advancements in SCADA systems now allow real-time status reporting, the use of more complex control algorithms, and the increased security of sensitive information in large enterprises. In addition, these systems can be implemented on traditional PLCs.
SCADA: how does it work?
As already mentioned, SCADA is a term used to refer to centralized systems designed to control and monitor an entire industrial site or complex equipment spread over large areas. Almost all control actions are performed automatically by PLCs or RTUs.
Take the example of an industrial water supply process: the PLC can in this case-control the flow of cooling water and the SCADA system can record and display all changes related to the alarm conditions in case of variations. or loss of flow, a significant rise in temperature, etc.
The data is collected at an application programming interface or an RTU. They include condition reports of monitored equipment as well as meter readings. They will then be formatted so that the control room operator can take the necessary steps to add or override the normal PLC commands (RTU), using a Human Machine Interface (HMI).
Thus, the RTU can connect to the physical equipment and convert all the electrical signals coming from that equipment into digital values, such as the open or closed state of a valve or switch, flow or pressure measurements. pressure, current-voltage, etc.
In this way, the RTU can automatically control the equipment or allow an operator to do so, for example by closing or opening a valve or switch, or by adjusting the speed of the pump.
SCADA: the human-machine interface
It is worth mentioning what the HMI stands for. This is a device that delivers the data processed by the RTU to the human operator. The latter can therefore use it to control industrial processes.
The HMI is linked to the databases of the SCADA system, which allows it to display diagnostic data, management information, logistics information, detailed diagrams of the operation of a given machine or sensor, maintenance procedures or troubleshooting guides.
The operator can therefore have, for example, the image of a pump connected to the piping. The HMI provides him with a diagram that shows whether this pump is working or not, or whether the amount of liquid pumped through the piping is within the operating conditions of the equipment at any given time. In the event of an adjustment, for example, when a pump is stopped, the HMI software will instantly show the decrease in fluid flow in the pipes.
Note that the block diagrams provided by the HMI may be in the form of digital photographs of process equipment and be accompanied by animated symbols (schematic symbols, line graphics, etc.). As a result, representations can be as simple as an on-screen traffic light network, representing the status of the traffic light in real-time in a given area. They can also be very complex, such as the multi-projector display showing the position of all trains on a large railway network.
Generally speaking, SCADA systems are used in alarm systems, which means that there are only two digital status points. On the one hand, when the alarm’s requirements are met, it activates. If necessary, it remains in its state. In other words, they look like the fuel level alarm system in your car. When the tank is almost empty, the alarm activates automatically in the form of a light signal.
As for SCADA systems, company operators and managers are notified by text messages and emails sent with the alarm activated. But in addition, they can view graphical trends, manage the various parameters relating to the configuration of their equipment, etc.
In which areas can SCADA systems be used?
All over the world, SCADA systems are used in various applications and in all industries.
Production, transport, distribution of gas and electricity
In these different sectors, utilities use, for example, SCADA systems to detect current flow and line voltage, to monitor the operation of circuit breakers, etc. These tools can also assist in the monitoring and control of pipelines, the remote control of storage, pumping or refinery sites, or the control of the distribution of electrical energy from various energy sources such as coal, nuclear or gas.
Building managers often use SCADA systems to control heating, air conditioning, refrigeration equipment and lighting units.
In manufacturing industries, SCADA systems are used to manage manufacturing parts lists, optimize industrial automation, and monitor quality control systems and processes.
As mentioned above, public transport services can use SCADA systems to regulate the electricity of subways, streetcars and trolleybuses.
In other cases, it is used to automate traffic lights in railway systems, to track and locate buses and trains, to control barriers at railway level crossings or to control the flow of traffic, by detecting, for example, fires that are out of order
Water and sanitation networks
Although not often covered in the media, SCADA systems are indeed used in the sanitation industry. The state and municipalities can use these systems to monitor and control water treatment centres, collection facilities and treated water disposal under the best conditions. Of course, other industries use this kind of software, such as those involved in agriculture and irrigation, pharmaceutical production, and telecommunications, among others.
How to choose your SCADA software?
Do you want to acquire this kind of tool, but you do not know how to choose? To help you, here are some criteria you should consider: compatibility, cost, included drivers, performance and security of SCADA.
Apart from that, you should also pay attention to the technical service that accompanies your software and its possibilities of adaptation with the technological tools of the future. In any case, you should always bet on the ease of deployment and use of your SCADA system.
Your SCADA system must be compatible with any operating system. So you can run it on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server Editions Mac or Linux.
Cost: a decisive choice criterion
Of course, like any other software, the cost of acquiring, deploying, maintaining and upgrading it is critical. Its price must therefore include all these elements. In this way, you will avoid purchasing additional functions, for example, to be able to add them to your system.
This element is often what differentiates one SCADA system from another. Data collection and analysis software, even if it comes at low prices, that does not offer good support will never be able to compete with others.
Choose a scalable solution
Your SCADA system must be very versatile in order for it to operate in different environments. If you are responsible for choosing a SCADA system for your business, you should consider how your needs will change over the next 15 years – the average life cycle of SCADA systems. All of this seems easier said than done. Here is why, if in doubt, you should call a specialist in the field.
SCADA security issues
Some manufacturers are reluctant to adopt the latest generation SCADA systems, mistakenly believing that they are vulnerable to cybercrime attacks. Some of them also believe that SCADA networks that are physically secure and disconnected from the Internet are secure enough. In reality, as SCADA systems can be used for monitoring and controlling strategic processes like water distribution, traffic light management, electricity distribution, gas transmission, etc., it is well logical to ask the question about possible hacks of the system and their consequences. To be honest, there are two major threats when it comes to SCADA systems. The first is unauthorized access to the software, carried out intentionally by human or inadvertent changes, virus infections and any other problem that can affect the controlling machine.
The second threat relates to packet access to network segments hosting SCADA systems. In many cases, vendors provide little security to the packet control protocol. So anyone who sends packets to the system could control it. Still, it is very easy to secure the system. For example, users can use VPN security to ensure sufficient protection. SCADA providers can also avoid these risks by setting up industrial firewalls specifically dedicated to TCP / IP-based SCADA networks. In addition, whitelist solutions can be implemented and they are able to prevent unauthorized modifications of applications.
Clarity, a solution that brings intelligence to your SCADA systems
The result of long years of research and development, Clarity is an interface provided by Crowley Carbon that allows companies to modernize their industrial processes. Built from the ground up and cloud-based, this software provides its users with an unmatched platform that brings intelligence to their SCADA systems. Thus, they can reduce the energy consumption of their businesses, increase uptime by reducing the downtime of their equipment, while improving the performance of their processes. Clarity provides remote visibility of data points, which enables manufacturers to monitor, compare, measure and improve the energy efficiency of their plant with exceptional reporting. To do this, users can use Clarity and optimize their processes in three steps.
Step 1: Modeling
- Definition and modelling of critical processes,
- Creation of “Digital Twins” or “Digital Twins“.
Step 2: Analyze the data
- Overlay of data collected in real-time on the Digital Twins.
- Generation of information from data mining
Step 3: Implement the solutions
Use of information to upgrade your equipment and processes.
Good to know: Digital twins are a digital replication of an asset, supply chain or process. They are very reliable compared to models and simulations that have already been used by companies, as they work in parallel with the real process. Digital Twins improve the performance of companies by increasing their creativity, their innovative strength, the efficiency of their teams and by offering the best returns as well as a stronger competitive position.
Why choose Clarity?
Energy Savings: This interface helps you measure and compare energy savings through comprehensive energy management and optimization system. Understanding of processes: In-depth knowledge of your metering systems, SCADA systems, programmable logic controllers, production systems, etc. is essential to shedding light on the performance of your processes in real-time. Thus, you can take the necessary measures to reduce your costs and improve the yields of your equipment and processes. Reliability: Clarity allows you to predict future failures of your equipment. So you can act before they happen and therefore reduce unplanned downtime. This allows you to maximize the profitability of your plant.
What about interface security?
When it comes to software and data security, Clarity developers recognize that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of user and customer data are essential. With a progressive approach to cloud security, they have implemented the most reliable data protection systems on the market. These systems allow them to continuously monitor applications and processes and then optimize them to meet growing demands and cybercrime risks.
You don’t have to be an expert to know that technology changes at a rapid rate. Manufacturers are also aware of this fact, which forces them to determine the best course of action to adopt in order to optimize their operational processes and increase their return on investment. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to adopt reliable and scalable SCADA software. This technology is currently used in many industries, thanks to its ease of management and its many advantages. Clarity is a complete software that uses the SCADA system to enable manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of their businesses. This system allows you to control and optimize many processes involved in the operation of your factory business and increase its profitability