It’s Only a Cloud Away from SCADA to the Internet of Things

Here we are, on the threshold of Industry 4.0, which has seen the evolution from steam engines and electricity to computers as the result of the constant struggle for efficiency and effectiveness of the operations and the production process. SCADA is ruling the market today but IoT technology with constant and ground-breaking developments is not a distant reality anymore. SCADA can be explained as a control system which not only supervises the processes in an enterprise but also helps in the management of the manufacturing and operational systems in a business.

It is a system of software modules which helps in gathering and analyzing data. The data is gathered by different sensors which are specialized in measuring the heat, pressure and other relevant parameters during the process of manufacturing. Not only sensors send the information from the plant floor, but also there could be manual inputs with the use of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) which are responsible for feeding the data to the SCADA system. Usually, these systems are connected to SCADA by LAN or WAN or in some cases are wired.

HMI holds an important position in the whole process, as through it helps in controlling and supervising the work remotely from a workstation. HMI lets the operator to interact with the machines and systems, hence helping the employees with the decision making by using the data provided. SCADA is not only efficient but also secure, as generally it’s a closed network with security protocols, so neither data is leaked, nor its control is compromised. It has been used in many industries like Power, transportation and food and beverage industries.

All this might sound like SCADA and IoT are competitors and with the rise in IoT, SCADA technology is bound to be obsolete. But on the contrary, they are complementing technologies, with IoT having all the features of SCADA. Hence IoT in the future will help the SCADA technology grow but in a more complex and advanced form. The isolated SCADA systems would be able to communicate and interact with the help of Cloud.

When you are talking about cloud, it includes everything from storing your files on cloud storage systems, to even updating your status on a social media website. The cloud combined with the technology which SCADA provides is able to tackle many of the modern eras’ industrial problems. Manufacturers believe in the power of synergy, and hence want greater cooperation between different offices and production sites. A central cloud-based platform could result in better operations as all the data and resources will be jointly available.

What gives cloud the edge?

· Cost effective: There has not been any cheaper and effective substitute for cloud. As any other product generally includes cost of the hardware. The operations tend to be smoother with the help of cloud, with its features like predictive maintenance. Further to the service provider, the payment basis is according to the subscription which allows you to budget your expenditure and keep it in control.

· Data Security: If any organization does not use cloud, it could lose a lot of data over the time period due to breakdown of the systems or servers. Creating a back-up over the cloud would ensure easy retrieval of the data even if it gets deleted from the systems.

· Accessible and easier: The cloud services providing companies have made it easier to control and receive data even on the compact mobile devices. To monitor and control the data, you just need to have internet access and the required application on the smartphone. Real time data about the machine and production becomes available with parameters like time period, rate of production, etc. All this is secured, as the access to this information is controlled by authorization protocols and passwords. Even if you are thousands of miles away, still you are updated about critical information about manufacturing process.

· The key role: Internet of Things would be practically useless without its analytics. With the development of edge technologies, the analytical capabilities are added to the sensors itself, reducing the latency and the time period of response. The machine would be able to take decisions without human interference like detecting and stopping any malfunction. Some analytical abilities have been imbibed in these sensors so that they can differentiate between valuable and useless data.

Hence, adoption of cloud with all the functions of SCADA would make different individual systems in an enterprise interact with each other, thus giving the way to Internet of Things.