SCADA is an acronym that denotes Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. SCADA is a control system with applications in managing large-scale, automated industrial operations. Factories and plants, water supply systems, nuclear and conventional power generator systems etc are a few examples.
The SCADA system consists of one Central Terminal (which could be several miles away from the site of operations) and one or several remote sensor terminals close to the site of operations. The sensor units send data to the central terminal which monitors and manages this data. Communication devices, a user interface and the software to make it all work together complete the picture of what makes a SCADA system.
Where SCADA Scores
There are several systems that have been in use for decades now, used for similar purposes. These are collectively called Distributed Control Systems (DCS). Such systems are highly effective in a closed area like a factory complex. But these systems cannot be used for large territories which come into the picture in the case of gas/oil pipelines, water supply systems and so on. There are also instances like nuclear fusion facilities where the operations are remote controlled due to safety considerations. SCADA is a system tailor-made for such requirements.
Benefits of SCADA
A SCADA system when applied properly can help industries to save time and money. One reason is that with SCADA, you can eliminate the need for site visits by your personnel for inspection, adjustments and data collection. SCADA software enables you to monitor the operations in real time. It can also make modifications to the system, auto-generate reports and trouble-shoot.
Thus once the system is installed, it reduces operational costs and improves the efficiency of the set-up. SCADA systems are equipped to make immediate corrections in the operational system, so they can increase the life-period of your equipment and save on the need for costly repairs. It also translates into man-hours saved and personnel enabled to focus on tasks that require human involvement. Further, the auto-generated reporting system ensures compliance with regulatory principles.
The Future of SCADA
The large territories and huge volumes of data SCADA can handle form a formidable combination. Today’s SCADA systems can manage anything from a few thousands to one million of input/output channels.
The technology is still evolving in terms of sophistication as well. SCADA systems as they are now can perform a large variety of tasks and some systems have artificial intelligence built into them. They are also more network-enabled, thus paving the way for voice-data-control data convergence. With proper planning and a custom-made installation, a SCADA system becomes a valuable asset.