What is SCADA system? Learn About its Application in IoT Projects

What is SCADA system? Learn About its Application in IoT Projects

In this article, our Industrial Automation and IoT developers have helped us understand various features of a SCADA system and what are its applications in Home and Industrial automation based IoT projects.

We will also share brief information about technologies, frameworks and platforms that power a fully-functional SCADA system.

What is a SCADA Software System? – An Introduction

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition.

SCADA software system is a device monitoring and controlling framework. The supervisory control includes, taking action and control through remote locations for various control mechanisms and processes.

Various kinds of data can be acquired from network of devious (connected through wireless/wired communication systems) for storage, processing and analytics to aid decision making.

Frontend of a SCADA software solution is a graphical user interface (GUI/UI).

In a nutshell, a SCADA software solution is a real time monitoring, supervision and control system from remote and/or local physical location.

How does The SCADA software system work:

SCADA Software

Let’s try to understand the functional blocks of a SCADA based IoT system, with the help of the simplified IoT framework as shown above

  • The User Interface(UI) of Mobile App or Web based dashboard represented above is the HMI of the SCADA system.
  • This, along with the backend business logic, database (cloud server) and a Gateway constitutes of a SCADA solution for control and monitoring of devices in an IoT network.
  • The IoT gateway ensures compatibility between IoT sensor network and cloud server. Through the gateway, the sensor data is stored in the cloud server.
  • The cloud server is the hosting spot for the algorithms that implement the business logic.
  • The sensor unit detects the change in the environment like change in temperature, sound and also acts as a data accumulating unit.

There can be a number of devices or machines connected within a SCADA solution based IoT project. For an instance, in case of home automation system, various home appliances such as AC, lights, refrigerator can be a part of connected smart home.

Hence SCADA solution is an intelligent software system with an intuitive UI (for data representation) connected with cloud server for data processing and predictive and descriptive analysis.

Let us see the detailed features of a SCADA software system

Features Supported by SCADA:

  1. System Management Features:

    The interactive user interface of the SCADA system has evolved over a period of time.It includes graphical representation of the whole system, showing data in a consolidated manner.

    Typically a SCADA solution will support following two types of system management features:

    • Device Management: The number of nodes or devices being monitored or maintained is visible from the UI and can be subcategorized further into different parameters.

      For instance, in case of industrial automation, the control units installed in a particular production floor can be categorized under geographical location and admin level of that particular system.

      Also an overview of the whole production floor can be seen, with the total number of such control units installed. The number of devices installed, depend on the type of network topology used.

    • User Management: The permission and roles can be defined under user management panel with respect to the level of users. The specific admin roles can be assigned and limited access to other level of user for various data and for the interface as well, can be imposed.
  1. Device and System Control Features:

    In the SCADA system, both remote and local access is prevalent and ranges widely on the basis of the users and industries for which the application has been built.It is interesting to take into consideration that SCADA software has the intelligence to recognize the different communication signals of different devices installed.

    For example, let us consider the home automation system, the doors are automated using proximity sensors but the AC communicates with the IR sensor technology. SCADA can be designed to ensure compatibility.The interoperability is ensured by the IoT gateways that are part of the SCADA system architecture.

    Another important feature of Control mechanism is system failure management. The SCADA system has defined algorithms and business logic to trigger a specific alert in case of any gateway or device failure.

    Here the question of data loss arises, which again is meticulously handled by the SCADA software system. The signal containing packets of data does not get lost in case of data failure but simply stored in the memory, pipelined for immediate communication when the health of the device or gateway is redeemed.

    One queer and interesting aspect in SCADA software is IFTTT (if this then that). This special method of logical looping gives the user a control in the interface of the UI for better handling or option of a changed maneuver of the series of operations.

    There are various logics that can be customized to control the pattern of data flow. The SCADA on a large scale is able to do the parallel processing of a large data simultaneously.
    This is an utmost important feature w.r.t industrial automation application where bulk processing is needed. Also the logics can be altered depending on the business need and the pattern of flow can be modifies if and when required.

  2. Monitoring Features:

    The inevitable benefit of SCADA based system comes into play while performance optimization. Data is available both in structured and unstructured format and can be recognised and processed efficiently by the SCADA system. There are two types of data analytics that SCADA supports:

    • Descriptive Analytics:The descriptive analysis of data gives the user a proper idea of comparative efficiency on genuine parameters of a particular device.For instance, from the business perspective the decision making on what services to use or how to generate revenue or propel business is based on analysis of past data of the quality of services provided and the outcome.This process is known as judgement analytics and it is based on pattern recognition of the adaptive behavior intelligence of SCADA

     

    • Predictive Analytics:The future or predictive analysis of a system are logical algorithms to analyze the past data and generate a predictive alert in case of any threats or anticipated failure in case of devices.This area is yet under speculative research and development which has a large prospect of implementation, in scope of various manufacturing industries. The medical industry has been using the predictive analysis of data for effective treatment methodologies.
  3. Support for automated and customized reporting:User defined reports can be synthesized using backend programming. Automated reports are mainly a health check of a particular functionality which can be generated in form of automated mailer alerts or specific admin alerts. This feature also helps in data acquisition and analysis in terms of user or industry admin operation and maintenance of a functional module.

Technologies, Frameworks and Platforms that Power a SCADA Software Solution:

The implementation of the SCADA solution project requires know-how of certain specific technologies and platforms. Also, a SCADA software system can be custom design to work on a specific Operating system.

Following are the suggested set of technologies best suited for SCADA software solution development:

  • Operating System which supports SCADA: LINUX
  • Technologies for SCADA software application development (Frontend User Interface) : HTML5, CSS, Bootstrap, Javascript, Ajax, HighCharts
  • Data Storage or Database for analytics and processing: PostgreSQL, which is a relational database
  • Platform for implementation : Python Scripting
  • Mode of communication between the server and the gateways : MQTT
  • Web framework based on which the system is developed : Django
  • Mode of communication between the devices and the server : MQTT, REST APIs
  • Both HTTP and HTTPS servers can be used based on the required access and priority for secured activity. Nginx or Gunicorn are some of the HTTP servers that can be used.
  • Big Data analytics: To support Streaming Analytics and Complex Analytics once can integrate Apache Spark ( a cluster-computing framework for big data processing)

SCADA system like any other, needs to have a robust Data Encryption/Decryption, which is the process of securing the data while communication. Also cryptographic protocols like TLS/SSL should be followed while coding. All this ensures that you build an fully functional, secured and powerful SCADA software system.

Applications of SCADA in IoT projects:

Features offered by a SCADA system such as monitoring of various parameters like current/voltage, reporting in case of failures and analytics for pro-active or predictive maintenance, has made it a solution of choice for implementation of various Industrial Automation based IoT projects.

Following are some of the popular industry use-case examples of a SCADA system:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Food processing
  3. Telecom and Information Technology
  4. Waste water treatment
  5. Power systems
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