SCADA vs IoT: the role of SCADA systems in Industry 4.0

We are all witnessing the boom of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the demand for “digitalization” within Industry 4.0. However, we have questions based on SCADA systems related to the IoT that seem ignored or unanswered. Will the IoT replace the supervision, control and data acquisition systems? Can the two be integrated? SCADA and Distributed Control Systems (DCS) are clearly predominant automation standards, but in this new wave of data from IoT surfaces, what role will they play in the factories of the future?

The origin of the SCADA systems

The purpose of the first solid state SCADA systems was to collect data and monitor processes through slow and expensive computers or mainframes. This paved the way for data logging technology. Historians were presented to do just that; store and analyze the large amount of data captured by the SCADA system. Now, however, with 64-bit equipment, massive configuration tools, and next-level graphical user interfaces native to most SCADA products, there are no longer any traditional barriers to entry. The question is, what will be the role of these process control systems when we move to the next phase of manufacturing, also called industry 4.0?

SCADA in the smart factory

The reality is that SCADA as an operator interface, and the features that make it mandatory (such as schematic display, alarms, data logging, real-time monitoring, and data passing to data historians), are not going to be completely denied by IoT technology.

There is no doubt that Edge Computer, a system that processes or stores critical data locally and pushes all received data to a data center or storage repository in the cloud, will begin to encompass certain control functions and will rationalize the amount of data that we decide introduce into the cloud over time, but the Industrial Internet of Things will not negate the need to open and close valves, safely start or stop motors, or reset an actuator.

Ultimately, one cannot compare IIoT solely to Data Acquisition (DA) and forget about Supervisory Control (SC) and the need for reliability, security, fast aggregation, and complex data storage.

4th generation SCADA: the adoption of IoT

One trend that is emerging in Industry 4.0 is the move towards the IIoT cloud. Traditionally, data collected from industrial sensors has moved from proprietary Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA) for analysis, with many layers in between. But cloud IIoT is opening up all of this and reducing the number of layers from data capture to actionable intelligence.

IoT and SCADA, complementary technologies for Industry 4.0

Digitalization is driving changes in the way manufacturers operate. The hierarchical nature is slowly changing as a peer-to-peer model opens up through the IoT.

So will IIoT replace SCADA systems? For critical high-value industrial processes, I conclude no. Can the two concepts ever be integrated? Yes, despite traditional SCADA systems operating in the “micro” environment of manufacturing, collecting and visualizing the day-to-day operations of a factory or process, a more powerful SCADA is here to stay. And yes, Industry 4.0 and IIoT belong to the “macro” environment.

The information generated from SCADA systems acts as one of the data sources for IoT. SCADA’s focus is on monitoring and control. The IoT approach is firmly focused on analyzing machine data to improve your productivity and impact your top line. How can we meet consumer needs faster, cheaper and with better quality? SCADA / IoT platforms are the fourth generation visualization that will answer this question.