Post updated: April 29th, 2018

The industrial world has long embraced the power of technology to build, monitor and control machinery. Inside a factory, out in a field, across a city, or housed in a power plant, are systems for collecting data and taking commands that have been in place for years.

Beginning in the 1960s, manufacturers employed supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to manage and control equipment across their sites. Inside a water treatment plant, for instance, SCADA is used for control, reporting and alarms, like when a leak is detected.

Manufacturers are faced, however, with several limitations when it comes to SCADA, which restricts their ability to innovate and be flexible. To address these challenges, innovative manufacturers are turning to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to create new value and revenue streams, gain actionable data analytics and deliver superior machinery to their end users.

Exploring SCADA and IIoT, where they converge, and how they are diverging, is key to understanding the next generation of manufacturing.

The SCADA Architecture

SCADA was born in the Third Industrial Revolution to address the growing size and scale of factories, agricultural sites and plants. The system alleviated the need for workers to manually operate each piece of equipment- the buttons, switches and dials for daily use- across large geographical areas.

To do this, SCADA made use of telemetry, in which specific outputs are transmitted to remote monitoring systems, which then take set action based on the input. Like in airports, where SCADA has been used for monitoring and controlling air temperature, building security, alarms and air traffic.

While in the past 50 years SCADA has become more advanced in terms of capabilities and flexibility, SCADA systems continue to pose several challenges for manufacturers:

1. The SCADA price tag – Many factories are unable to employ a SCADA system due to its high cost. In addition to the purchase cost of a SCADA system, which can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, companies must also invest in developing and inntegrating the system’s software and continually modifying it to meet new demands.

2. Expertise required – The development, installation, training, and changes needed to deploy a SCADA system, call for specialized personnel and additional company investment.

3. Limited data– SCADA was created for processing specific information and taking corresponding actions. The system is predetermined and predictable, so that it will “always produce the same outputs given the same starting-point inputs.” Likewise, the collection of data is preset to transmit a defined set of information directly related to the system functionality.

iot and scada

Electronics Hub, Generic SCADA Architecture

New Model, New Value

The Fourth Industrial Revolution comes in the form of IIoT.

Manufacturers are leveraging IIoT to turn existing machinery into superior smart systems. Unlike SCADA, IIoT is relatively easy to integrate, flexible to change, and accessible across different organizational departments.

You don’t have to run a multi-million dollar power plant or have in-house developers and engineers to take advantage of the benefits provided by IIoT:

1. Improve resilience by understanding how machinery and equipment are used in the field and quickly identifying the root cause of malfunctions.

2. Reduce upkeep costs with predictive maintenance for optimizing service schedules and alerting manufacturers of system faults for proactive repair.

3. Gain visibility into system usage with behavior analytics for making data-driven decisions and creating new value for customers.

In this new paradigm, you can get aggregated data across multiple plants, farms and cities that goes far beyond managing the daily operation of a site. With IIoT, companies can take advantage of transformative benefits while delivering value to their customers.

iot, plc and scada