SCADA is an acronym for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. SCADA systems are used to monitor and control production processes in a wide range of industries, including: manufacturing, water treatment, mining, oil refining, transportation and power distristribution, among many others.
A SCADA system is composed of both hardware and software components that work together to allow people to remotely monitor processes and production assets, typically employing real-time data visualization and alarms to help workers improve production efficiency and reduce waste.
The acronym, SCADA, originated in the 1960’s with the advent of mainframe computers, but the concept is actually much older – dating back to the 1930’s, when telephone companies began using magnetic stepping switches for switching telephone circuits. Electric utilities quickly adopted the technology, and the notion of remote supervisory control was born.
The earliest efforts to remotely monitor electrical systems were not as automated as today’s. For security, a human operator was involved in the process. Communication between the master station and the remote terminal would be checked and verified by a human operator before changes were made. This select/check/operate scheme is still used today in some cases.
Around 1950 companies began using a telephone type pulse counting system to relay information from one terminal to another. Information was conveyed by both the length of pulses as well as their frequency. This quickly proved to be a very reliable system, and was adopted by electric utilities, gas companies, oil pipelines – even airport control towers.
It was around this time that manufacturers began competing over this technology. Major players included Westinghouse, Visicode and General Electric. This competition led to more rapid advancement as we approached the 1960’s and the development of solid state supervisory control technology.
Manufacturers adopted the new solid state technology almost immediately.
Westinghouse introduced REDAC; GE had GETAC, and Control Corporation introduced a system called Supertrol. These first solid state systems were really just solid state versions of the systems already in place.
The term SCADA came into use around 1965, when computer based master stations became common. By this time, computers were capable of real-time functions, which now included scanning and monitoring data, alarming for changes, and displaying the data on digital displays.
By the end of the decade, CRT displays allowed for more advanced HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) and periodic data logging was introduced. Better computer technology led to more complex monitoring and more advanced displays, and the introduction of network technology paved the way for today’s world of industrial automation and process control.
In the same way that the advent of the microchip and computer technology revolutionized industry, a similar revolution has coincided with the advent of the world wide web and wireless networking technology. Today, industrial enterprises have different needs and expectations regarding SCADA technology - in particular, SCADA software.
Modern SCADA systems that employ updated software are likely to leverage new technologies that allow for a number of advanced features like:
Most SCADA systems in place today were installed more than 20 years ago, forcing many industries to layer additional management systems on top of their legacy SCADA systems to provide some version of these additional functions and others.
Using B-Scada's Status Enterprise as an example of modern SCADA software, the many differences from traditional SCADA software are apparent:
Status Enterprise leverages the power of OPC UA to connect different devices, databases, and systems in a unified information model, enabling high level visualization and analytics on any web device, serving as an Alarm Server, Historian, Analytics Platform, Workflow Server, Maintenance Management System, Reporting System, and Web Server.
Whether cloud hosted or on premise, Status Enterprise can be deployed as a stand-alone SCADA system or used to integrate data from multiple existing systems and provide interoperability and higher level functions, like HTML5 publication for Web and Mobile access.
Data connectivity includes OPC UA, OPC DA, SNMP, MQTT, Domoticz, RFID, SQL and ODBC data sources, Excel workbooks, Allen Bradley, Modbus and Siemens S7 devices, as well as Libelium, Advantech Wzzard, and B-Scada sensors. Custom data sources can also be supported.