Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is a type of control system architecture. This useful system is implemented in a wide range of industrial applications to facilitate numerous different services and benefits—from processing real-time data to facilitating remote industrial control. To learn more about what SCADA is and where it is used, continue reading this helpful guide.
What Is SCADA?
As previously stated, SCADA is a type of control system architecture. It is made up of both hardware and software components such as computers, graphical user interfaces, and networked data communications. Such a system is often used to monitor, automate, and control industrial processes for which human control is dangerous, impossible, or impractical. Without SCADA systems that provide access to sufficient real-time data and information from anywhere in the world, the ability to make optimal, data-driven decisions regarding industrial processes would be near impossible.
How SCADA Systems Work
To facilitate real-time monitoring and control—among other uses—a SCADA system collects a significant amount of data. In order to do so, the system is integrated with a variety of sensors and measuring devices in either digital or analog form depending on the application. Upon collecting the data, it is sent over to either a remote terminal unit (RTU) or programmable logic controller (PLC). Once it arrives, the collected data is translated into usable information and transferred to a human-machine interface (HMI) or a similar type of display. Through the use of the HMI, operators can analyze the data and interact with field devices such as valves, pumps, motors, and sensors.
Benefits of SCADA Systems
SCADA systems offer numerous benefits and advantages when used in industrial applications. Here are some of the many benefits of supervisory control and data acquisition systems:
- Automate Industrial Processes: Supervisory control and data acquisition systems are equipped with sensors and measuring devices that allow them to automate the control of industrial processes and machinery in instances where human control would not be feasible.
- Provide Remote Control of Industrial Processes:In addition to helping automate industrial processes, SCADA systems also offer the benefit of providing control over industrial processes from remote locations.
- Process Real-Time Data:Supervisory control and data acquisition systems can gather and process data 24/7 in real-time which facilitates efficient equipment monitoring.
- Reduce Downtime:By providing efficient, real-time equipment monitoring through the use of sensors and measuring devices, any malfunctions, abnormalities, or issues can be identified and resolved promptly before they become worse. SCADA systems can even respond to issues with a programmed automatic control function for immediate action. As a result, downtime in industrial facilities can be significantly decreased.
- Record and Log Events:To allow for future analysis of performance data, these systems are able to record and log events.
- Directly Interact with Field Devices: Through the implementation of a human-machine interface (HMI) software, a SCADA system has the ability to directly interact with a variety of field devices such as valves, sensors, motors, and pumps.
Where SCADA Systems Are Used
SCADA systems are critical for maintaining efficiency, processing data, and reducing downtime in a wide variety of industrial organizations. Some of the main industries that implement SCADA systems include:
Oil and Gas Industries
SCADA systems are often used in the oil and gas industry to facilitate remote control and monitoring of pipelines, pumps, refineries, offshore platforms, and other areas that are typically located in remote locations where human monitoring or operation would be highly inefficient. Furthermore, the efficient, real-time remote monitoring capabilities of SCADA systems greatly help distribute pertinent data throughout an operation, which allows for more informed decisions to be made regarding valuable resources.
SCADA systems are also widely implemented in the transportation industry. For example, SCADA systems provide the remote monitoring and control capabilities necessary to regulate traffic lights in a way that facilitates a smooth and continuous flow of traffic. In the same vein, these systems can help identify any malfunctions or out-of-order signals from stoplights so that the issue can be rectified immediately before significant traffic jams or accidents occur as a result of a faulty stoplight.
In addition to intersection monitoring, SCADA systems are also implemented in mass transit applications. The real-time remote control and monitoring capabilities of these systems make them highly beneficial for keeping track of and locating trains, busses, and other forms of public transportation. When public transportation journeys to remote locations, SCADA systems are helpful for regulating electricity.
Water and Wastewater Management
Supervisory control and data acquisition systems are also heavily implemented in water and wastewater management applications. These systems help facilitate the regulation of water flow, pipe pressure, water distribution, and reservoir levels. In addition, they also help monitor wastewater collection facilities and water treatment centers in remote locations.
SCADA systems are implemented in a variety of energy management industries—from nuclear energy plants to gas-fired power plants—to help facilitate the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. For example, SCADA systems can help remotely monitor breaker operations or control which power grids in operation. In addition, the RTUs or PLCs and HMI systems used by SCADA systems are often used by electric utilities to remotely detect the flow and line voltage of certain sites.
SCADA systems provide numerous benefits for manufacturing industries. The remote monitoring capabilities of SCADA systems help manufacturing industries keep a close eye on their processes in areas that would be dangerous for humans to traverse. These real-time monitoring and control capabilities are also highly advantageous for manufacturing industries that implement automated industrial processes.
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