4 Ways Mobile Devices Have Transformed Remote Monitoring and Process Control

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Mobile devices have changed many things about the way we live and work today. They’ve changed the way we interact with each other, consume new media, purchase goods and services – they have become essential lifestyle accessories in a relatively short period of time. This is true not only for individuals, but entire industries have been impacted in a significant way.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 4 ways in which mobile devices are changing remote monitoring and process control.

Remote Device Monitoring

Mobile devices can be used as portable HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) to monitor remote equipment in the same way that standard HMIs are used. Field operators can quickly and easily assess the current conditions of a process or piece of equipment without being tied to a workstation.

This can be particularly useful for checking the system-wide effects of repairs or configurations that are made to field equipment, rather than manually visiting each piece of equipment to take measurements or waiting until someone in the control room lets him/her know about any potential problems or abnormalities.

There may also be situations in which a problem can be diagnosed and corrected without even visiting the site. By giving field operators and technicians the ability to access real-time data from wherever they may be, it may possible to eliminate any travel time or expense, freeing the operator or technician to work on other tasks. This may also eliminate the need for the technician to call back to the control room for updated information. This means the control room operator now has more time as well.

 

Viewing Documents and Other Media

In addition to monitoring and controlling processes and equipment, mobile devices can also serve as a sort of repository for useful information, providing a handy reference for materials that would ordinarily fill several books and would be nearly impossible to carry around over the course of a work day.

New workers can reference training materials like manuals, pictures and videos. Use tablets and smartphones to access safety guidelines or troubleshooting procedures. View schematics and diagrams.  Review incident reports or outstanding work orders.

If you think of mobile devices as nothing more than a portable library of relevant media, this use alone is enough to justify the investment.

 

Filling out Forms or Checklists

Operators and technicians frequently have a need to add information to a database regarding certain tasks performed – or simply as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. Whether performing inspections, completing service orders, updating personnel files, or any number of other tasks, mobile devices can save employees a tremendous amount of time by allowing them to perform these tasks from anywhere at any time.

 

Field technicians can update the control system instantaneously from the field – without having to return to the control room to fill out a form or deliver the results to a control room operator over the phone.  It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a technician in the field, several miles from any control room, can use a single device to read a procedural document, review a checklist, enter relevant information into a form, then check to confirm that the information was entered completely and accurately – without any unnecessary travel time or phone calls.

 

Collaborating

One of the most profound applications of mobile devices is as a tool for instant collaboration. By allowing continuous access to live process data, personnel from different departments can collaborate and make decisions with up-to-date and accurate information at their fingertips.

Mobile devices can be used to document best practices by uploading pictures or videos of particular procedures and allowing these items to be reviewed by workers at other locations in other facilities. Smartphones and tablets allow personnel to access rich media at any time as a means of conveying a certain set of information to relevant parties. Use displays of real time and historical data in meetings or presentations. Mobile devices allow off-site personnel to participate in real-time activities with on-site personnel. Many possibilities are introduced by mobile technology.

Excerpted from the whitepaper “The Benefits of Data Mobility”, downloaded at www.scada.com.

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OPC UA: The Communication Standard for the Internet of Things?

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As we prepare ourselves for the expansion of the IoT (Internet of Things), many businesses today are looking ways to take advantage of the opportunities that are beginning to present themselves. Of course, as with anything new there are many questions and concerns.

Many organizations are struggling with interconnectivity. How do we get existing information systems to communicate with new information systems? If leveraging the IoT requires a wholly rebuilt information infrastructure and a complete reformatting of business processes – well, that’s just not going to work for most people.

There are also organizations who will have questions about how to make use of the unstructured data coming in real time from any number of different sources. How can they create the context to translate this endless stream of raw data into useful information?

And what about the scalability and flexibiilty needed to deal with growth and change. After all, if the changes implemented today need to be undone in order to keep up with the future needs of your organization, then is it really worth it?

Another common concern is that of security. Are we going to push sensitive information up to the cloud, where it may be exposed to any number of potential threats ranging from cyber-terrorism to corporate espionage? And even if our sensitive data is not being broadcast over the internet, how do we protect these interconnected systems from internal threats? How can we ensure that our employees and contractors have access to all of the information they need to do their jobs and nothing more?

These and many other questions are preventing some organizations from realizing the many benefits of the IoT. Some think it will be too difficult or expensive to implement; others may question the value of it. Fortunately for us all, these questions have been asked for several years, and there are answers.

The communication protocol often cited as the best fit for IoT applications has already been developed, tested and deployed in live environments around the world since it was fully released in 2009.

OPC Unified Architecture (UA) is platform-independent, service-oriented architecture developed and maintained by the OPC Foundation. As the interoperability standard for industrial automation, OPC has become an integral part of most SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems. As data systems expand beyond their traditional roles to include more sensor data and consolidate data from multiple systems, it makes sense that the OPC Foundation has remained at the forefront of the standardization process and and have developed a communication standard that has been embraced by proponents of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things – companies like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, GE, and many others,

OPC UA is universally embraced because it directly addresses the obstacles faced by organizations involved in IoT implementation projects. The problem of interconnectivity, for example, is exactly the problem that the communication standard was developed to address. Today, OPC drivers exist for thousands of different devices, and many devices today are manufactured with embedded OPC servers to allow for exactly this type of interoperability with other devices and systems.

The concerns about the usefulness of multi-system data is addressed by information modeling. The OPC UA information modeling framework turns data into actionable information. With complete object-oriented capabilities, even the most complex multi-level structures can be modeled and extended. Information modeling also makes an OPC UA-based system significantly more customizable and extensible. As virtual representations of actual systems, information models can be modified or expanded to meet the changing needs of a modern company.

Of course, one of the most important considerations when choosing a communication technology is security, which is one of the great benefits of OPC UA. Security is provided in a number of ways, including: Session Encryption, Message Signing, Authentication, User Control, and Auditing of User Activity.

While it is difficult to say that there is anything “standard” about the Internet of Things, OPC UA is the closest thing we have to a communication standard, and every day it is becoming more widely accepted and adopted. To learn more about the synergy between OPC UA and Industrial IoT applications, read the following whitepaper: https://opcfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/OPC-UA-Interoperability-For-Industrie4-and-IoT-EN.pdf

** B-Scada’s IoT software is built on OPC UA and leverages the full power of these capabilities to provide fully customizable and extensible applications that consolidate and organize data from disparate sources for secure real-time visualization on any device. Learn more at http://scada.com

The Integrated Enterprise – Are We Ready?

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There are many barriers to change in a commercial enterprise, and most of them start with a dollar sign. You are comfortable with what you’re doing. Your staff is comfortable. Sure, there may be some missed opportunities, but perfection is unrealistic. To implement enterprise-wide changes to something like your data management strategy would require cooperation across multiple departments, absorb numerous man-hours in implementation, and who can say how long it will take for all parties to get used to the new strategy and work with a level of comfort they already feel today? Is it worth it? How long will it take to recover the investment?

There are many legitimate questions to ask when considering whether or not to move toward an integrated data management strategy. How do we calculate the true cost of making such a change? A question that is very rarely asked is: What is the true cost of not making such a change?

First, let’s consider some of the reasons in favor of data integration.

Inconsistent data

One of the problems addressed by data integration is inconsistency between data on the plant floor and the business data further upstairs. Depending on the type of business, different departments typically have different goals and criteria for success. The plant floor supervisor wants to know where his products are; the executive upstairs wants to know how much his products are worth. Here is a case where we have different people querying for different bits of information about the same asset. Over time, the different goals and process definitions have led to departments using the same terms to describe different things, and different terms to describe the same things. This barrier to departmental collaboration in the manufacturing industry, for example, has led to the development of standards like ISA 95 to help facilitate the integration of manufacturing systems with business systems.

Redundant data

Another common condition is the tendency for different departments or divisions to have different ways of recording information about the same things. It is not at all unusual for large organizations to have multiple records of the same asset. For instance, if we imagine a particular production unit from the perspective of the plant floor operator, he will need to have information about where it is in the production process, its quality, the personnel involved in its production and testing, and when it will be shipping. At the same time, a manager will want to have information about how much it cost to produce this unit, how many units will be produced today, and how much we will get for it. We now have a situation where we are capturing and recording separate sets of data about the same thing.

Fewer Human Resources

This one seems obvious, but it a significant difference-maker when you analyze your bottom line. Making it easier to find needed data will allow personnel to spend more time focusing on other aspects of their jobs. It will allow for faster decisions and more immediate response to abnormal conditions. Your plant floor supervisor won’t have to make that call upstairs to find out why today’s production schedule has changed, or log in to a separate system to find out when a piece of equipment was last inspected. And the manager upstairs won’t have to call downstairs to find out why we are behind schedule today, or what happened to that shipment that was supposed to go out. Having the ability to quickly assess a situation leads to better-informed decisions made more quickly and with more immediate results.

Reduced Risk

While we are on the topic of making informed decisions more quickly, this is a good time to consider the way that decisions are currently made in many enterprises. When a decision needs to be made quickly, and the data that could support that decision is not available as quickly as the decision is needed, owners and executives are left to make decisions based on intuition. Studies have suggested that about 80% of decisions are made this way. It may work and it may not. Having the right information when and where it is needed can significantly reduce the risk involved in the decision-making process.

There are many additional benefits that can be attributed to data integration. New business opportunities can be revealed. New calculations can be used to improve efficiency and coordinate processes. Improve inventory management, energy consumption, supply chain scheduling, etc. Whether you choose to use a system of data virtualization to integrate key data from different divisions, a system of data federation to consolidate all enterprise data, or opt for a complete data integration solution that re-engineers your entire data system, the benefits are very real and yes, so is the cost. The cost, however, is a short-term loss for a long-term gain; a temporary pain for permanent growth.

So, to revisit the topic of this article: Are we ready for the integrated enterprise? The answer is irrelevant. Those who are ready will continue to prosper. Those who are not will lose the ability to compete, and will ultimately have to get ready or get out of the way.

For more information on how you can integrate and visualize your business’s data, visit: www.scada.com

Change Management Systems – Is There a Better Way?

There is no denying that plant floor automation can dramatically improve efficiency and increase productivity, but there is an unintended consequence of automation that can make it problematic. That consequence is the increased dependency on new technologies like PLCs, PC-based control systems, SCADA systems, and HMIs. As long as everything is working as it should, the automated workplace proceeds as a well-oiled machine, meeting every quota and price point. Of course, when something is not working as well as it should things can get complicated.

Imagine if a type of hardware used in your process has proven to be ineffective and you’ve decided to replace it with another model. Not only does the hardware change, but changes must be made to your overall control logic. This is likely to require changes to your PLCs, your SCADA system, and your HMIs. And what if the new equipment is even less efficient and you decide to roll back to the previous version? All of these control logic changes must be undone.

Change Management Systems

These concerns have become of such major importance that many companies are investing thousands of dollars and countless man-hours in software designed specifically to help manage plant-wide changes. These Change Management Systems are intended to reduce the overall cost of implementing plant-wide changes by automating as much of the process as possible. A good CMS will provide the following features:

– A backup/archive of prior revisions of programs
– Tools for documenting changes
– A historical record of what and when changes were made, and by whom
– User- or role-based permissions determining who is able to make changes
– Disaster recovery procedures to recover from hardware failures
– Notification of changes

These change management functions have been performed manually in most cases, requiring enormous investments of time. Furthermore, the updates made to PLCs and SCADA systems typically require taking the process down while changes are made. This inevitable downtime creates another enormous gap in profitability. Even when a sophisticated CMS is employed, there is no way to avoid the fact that traditional SCADA and HMI systems are inextricably linked to the hardware that they are monitoring. Any significant change will require taking the entire process down and starting it up again after the changes are fully implemented.

Is There an Alternative?

If it seems that change management is just a fancy new way for software developers to make more money on some unnecessary product designed to solve imaginary problems, just think about what would be involved in making plant-wide changes in your enterprise. Would you have to make changes to your SCADA system? How long would that take? Would you have to update your HMI screens? How many of them? And how long would you have to take the process down in order to make these changes? Consider the cost of the labor. Consider the lost production due to downtime. And imagine if the change you made does not produce the intended result, and you want to roll the process back to a previous state. How much more time and money would that cost?

The benefits of change management are various and undeniable, but is it possible to realize these benefits without introducing another management system – another system that will itself need to be managed? What if your HMI/SCADA system allowed you to manage plant-wide changes with ease, and without extravagent investments in labor or lost production? One way this is possible is through the concept of Data Modeling. By creating a logical model of your plant and your processes, your control logic is abstracted away from the actual hardware and becomes much more flexible and scalable. A change made to a piece of equipment in your data model will automatically be in effect for anyone who is using that model. Data modeling also allows you to create templates of your HMI screens that can be used for all assets of the same type, so instead of making changes to dozens of different screens a change can be made to the template and will be automatically applied to all instances of that template. And since graphics are bound to data in the model instead of actual hardware, changes can be made to your HMI screens without taking the process down. As today’s enterprises become more automated, and as more data points become measurable, a SCADA system that employs data modeling is becoming more and more of a necessity. The good news is that such a system will surely pay for itself in a short time as efficiency is increased and downtime is reduced, providing a significantly lower total cost of ownership.


Data Modeling is becoming more of a necessity in today’s data-driven enterprise

 

The need for a CMS can be eliminated in many cases by using an HMI/SCADA system that employs data modeling. And while data modeling alone will not replace the full range of features provided by a quality CMS, many of the benefits can be duplicated, and additional benefits can be derived from the ability to perform these change management tasks from inside of your SCADA system without having to deploy a separate system.

Consider the example of B-Scada’s Status Enterprise HMI/SCADA software, which takes full advantage of the data modeling concept. Status Enterprise allows you to deploy system-wide changes with ease, and allows these changes to be logged and accessed later for review. The packaged Database Utility allows you to create regular backups of your model and mimics so that they can be rolled back to an earlier version should the need arise. You can create user roles and workspaces to determine who has access to what information and what capabilities will be allowed. By combining the power and efficiency of high-quality SCADA software with the sophistication of data modeling, it is possible to incorporate capabilities that bridge the gaps between process control, maintenance management, change management, asset management and resource planning. With the dawning of the new interconnected industrial environment, industry 4.0 or the ‘Internet of Things’, there has never been a better time to change your expectations about SCADA software and what it can do to bring your enterprise into the 21st century.

 

 

U.S. Factories Manufacturing a Comeback?

Once a pillar of the American economy, the manufacturing industry suffered some major setbacks over the last couple of decades. Whether due to free trade agreements, international outsourcing, the general economic recession, or a combination of all three, fewer and fewer products are manufactured in the US. There are signs, however, that things may be changing for the better. 


Factories that have sat dormant for years are being purchased and reopened. Some are being opened by foreign companies, but those factories will be staffed by American workers. And the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing is not entirely dependant on foreign investment. Many American companies are also increasing their local manufacturing base – again, putting Americans to work. 

This resurgence is particularly important as manufacturing – even at its least productive – is responsible for a significant portion of the US economy. For example, in 2012 manufacturing contributed 12.5 percent of GDP. Right now, it is estimated that every $1.00 spent on manufacturing adds $1.32 to the economy, which is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that as manufacturing goes, so goes the U.S. economy. 


Manufacturing Production has increased during 9 of the last 12 months

 

The truth is that manufacturing output is increasing worldwide, due in large part to technological advances and the proliferation of factory automation. As SCADA technology advances, moving us ever closer to the next Industrial revolution – or Industry 4.0 – not only are manufacturing processes becoming more efficient, but manufacturing employees are becoming more skilled and higher paid than in previous generations, meaning there is more disposable income for purchasing manufactured goods. Greater demand encourages greater supply, and the cycle continues.

Automation is also likely to level the international playing field somewhat, as technology is eliminating the need for cheap, unskilled labor. Manufacturing employees in the new industrial environment will be technically savvy and skilled.  As we move toward a more automated future, there will be little advantage to an American company opening factories in other nations or outsourcing manufacturing projects. Americans are still among the world’s most veracious consumers, and the ability to eliminate the cost and complication of international shipping will provide incentive for local companies to keep their manufacturing base right here in the U.S.

U.S. factories continue to re-open, and new ones are being built. And the most important product issuing from these new assembly lines? Prosperity.

Data Modeling in the Oil & Gas Industry

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The Oil and Gas Industry faces a number of new challenges in the coming years. From the obvious challenge of managing a finite resource to ever-changing environmental regulations and the consequent competitive pressures, it’s easy to understand why industry leaders are continually striving to find ways to optimize and improve operational efficiency.

The new digital landscape of the industry has led to a proliferation of data, with greater frequency, at every stage of the business lifecycle. This abundance of data has led to new ideas about how this data can best be managed to maximize its value. The standards introduced by PPDM 3.8 include 53 subject areas intended to give executives a model for a Master Data Management solution.

A data management model is necessary largely because of the separate data sets that must be monitored – such as location data, well data and production data – which have traditionally been grouped and viewed separately. Now, research is showing that the proliferation of these information “silos” and the lack of a unified view can lead to a number of undesirable consequences, including:

  • Project delays
  • Escalating costs
  • Lack of regulatory compliance
  • Inability to utilize full production capacity (missed revenue opportunities)

If an integrated data management system can increase efficiency and productivity, improve safety, ensure regulatory compliance, and reduce costs, it becomes obvious that data integration is well worth the investment.
 

Data Modeling Tools

The OPC Foundation first introduced the Unified Architecture specification in 2006, taking a major step toward a cross-platform service-oriented architecture for process control. The OPC UA information model provides a logical framework for an integrated data management system. Additionally, other software tools have been engineered to facilitate the transition toward a more integrated model.

Recently, SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and HMI (Human Machine Interface) software has made progress toward allowing a fully integrated data visualization system that aligns with the needs and expectations of the modern oil and gas industry. Some of the ways that SCADA has embraced the notion of integration include:

  • OPC UA Compatibility
    Many HMI/SCADA developers have embraced OPC Unified Architecture, giving their software the ability to communicate with hundreds of different devices. The enhanced security and multi-platform support of the latest OPC specification helps facilitate an integrated information management system.
  • Data Modeling
    Although data modeling in an HMI/SCADA system is still quite rare, some innovative developers have developed software with integration in mind. Finding a powerful HMI/SCADA system that incorporates the concept of data modeling is an essential step toward creating a fully integrated data management system.
  • Mobile Device Support
    Not quite as rare as data modeling, but still not fully embraced, several software developers or ISVs have added mobile device support to their product offerings. As the oil and gas industries begin transitioning toward a unified system of data visualization, the benefits of mobility become more apparent.

Using the right SCADA system can significantly reduce unplanned downtime or unexpected delays, while simultaneously improving efficiency and safety.

** B-Scada’s Status Enterprise HMI/SCADA software provides a perfect example of how a modern SCADA system can truly embrace the modern, data-driven industrial landscape. Learn more at http://scada.com.

Better HMIs for Better Decision-Making

Today’s workplace is much more automated than in the past, and work is increasingly done by computers and other machines. The role of the human worker has changed, with many relegated to operating the machines that do the work rather than doing the work themselves. It’s hard to argue that most production environments have become more efficient and more productive as a result of automation. Much research has been done to compare the value of using a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and HMI (Human Machine Interface) system to the value of not using a SCADA/HMI system. What is often overlooked, however, is the cost of using a poorly designed HMI system compared to the cost of using a well-designed, user-centered HMI system.

A recent study by OSHA in Europe has compiled statistics on HMI-related errors in the workplace. Interestingly, research shows that the majority of problems are caused by human error, but not entirely because of mental and physical fatigue. More often, errors are caused by poor decision-making related to the way that information is processed.

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Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

A certain amount of human error is to be expected, as is a certain amount of machine failure, but errors caused by a lack of information (i.e. common safety procedures, maintenance procedures and history, expected machine performance, etc.) should be nearly unheard of in today’s information-driven world. All of this information can and should be made available in real time to all operators and key decision makers. Poor HMI design may be acceptable when everything is working well and without any abnormal conditions, but when something abnormal or unexpected happens, the HMI needs to be as transparent as possible so human operators can see what they need to see to make quick decisions. Too often, the HMI serves as a barrier to problem-solving rather than an ally.

Learn more about the value of more intelligent HMIs at www.scada.com

HTML5 is Taking SCADA to New Places

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For those web developers who keep up with the new standards in web development, HTML5 comes as no surprise. The internet has changed so much since the last iteration of HTML was standardized in 1999, new innovations were inevitable. With the widespread deployment of broadband internet connections and the prevalence of multimedia on today’s web, HTML5 was designed to bring HTML standards up to date. Some of the changes are staggering.

HTML5 introduces a number of new features to enhance web browsers’ abilities to create graphics, display multimedia content, and deploy web applications with ease. New elements and attributes have made the latest version of HTML much more robust and sophisticated, and CSS3 has introduced a number of new style elements that are certain to change the face of the worldwide web. As more and more browsers are coming to adopt the new standard, web pages and applications created in HTML5 will load and run more quickly and with fewer errors. This will allow for higher quality video and audio content, more detailed graphics, and more intelligent applications.

While not every browser had fully adopted the new features of HTML5, it won’t be long before the new standard changes the way we see the web. And, subsequently, it will change the way HMI/SCADA systems work as well. With most mobile browsers supporting HTML5 – including iOS, Android and Blackberry devices – the new technology will allow SCADA developers to design software that can be as mobile as today’s workers.

Control operators will no longer be chained to a workstation. Engineers in the field can view HMIs with real time data on their phones and tablets. Executives can use real time information to make important decisions from wherever they may be in the world. With SCADA becoming mobile, businesses can become more agile and responsive to key indicators. The gap between management and production will be all but eliminated. It is now possible to share live data across multiple channels spread all over the country or the world.

So, HTML5 is making SCADA systems more accessible than ever before. The next challenge is to find the best way to take advantage of these new capabilities and maximize the impact of mobility. Are you up to it?

What’s Wrong with My Antique HMI? It’s a Classic!

You would think that if you plan to pay someone to sit in front of a screen (or a bunch of screens) all day every day, you would want those screens to be as effective and performance-oriented as possible. You would think that every possible effort would be employed to ensure that this employee was given all of tools available to assist him/her in performing his/her assigned duties. That’s what you would think.

Unfortunately, for many process control operators and technicians, this is not the case at all. They are relegated to using screens designed 20 years ago or more, using outdated graphics and without any concept of the HMI design best practices that have been developed over the last couple of decades.

You would think that the research on industrial accidents that has pointed unequivocally to poor HMI screen design as a primary contributing factor in process failures that have cost millions of dollars – even killed several people – would lead our captains of industry to recognize the hidden cost in employing outdated screens. You would think all kinds of things that are apparently not true if thinking is something that you’re into.

So, why is nobody upgrading their HMI displays? Money. The cost is too much when people are of the belief that what they have works just fine. The problem is that it is not easy to quantify the cost of what could be, and so people are left with just the cost of what is. And, frankly, what is isn’t good enough.

What makes a good HMI screen? There are different schools of thought on that, but there are some factors that most agree are necessary in a high performance display:

  • Clarity – Graphics are easy to read and clearly show the process state and conditions. Graphics will display relevant information and not just data. Alarms and indicators of abnormal conditions are clear and prominent.
  • Consistency – Graphics are standardized and consistently formatted. Interaction requires a minimum of keystrokes or pointer manipulations. Navigation is arranged in a logical, heirarchical manner.
  • Feedback – Controls will function consistently in all situations. Important actions have confirmation mechanisms to prevent inadvertent activation. Design principles are employed to reduce user fatigue.

Of course, much more can be said on the subject, and much more has been written. There are numerous best practices and techniques that can be used to ensure your HMI screens are efficient and performance-oriented. Too few of them are.

It is a researched and verified fact that an improved HMI means fewer accidents, less downtime, less human error, greater efficiency, and greater anticipation and control of abnormal conditions.

The next time you consider how much it would cost to upgrade your HMI displays, do yourself a favor and consider how much not doing it is already costing you.

The Evolution of SCADA

Like the first legless mammals that flopped ashore from a primordial bog to eventually walk, talk, fly airplanes and eat hamburgers, SCADA too has come a long way since its origins. And much like our swimming forebears, the early iterations of SCADA were hardly recognizable as the SCADA we know today.

The acronym SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) originated in the 1960’s with the advent of mainframe computers, but the concept is actually much older – dating back to the 1930’s, when telephone companies began using magnetic stepping switches for switching telephone circuits. Electric utilities quickly adopted the technology, and the notion of remote supervisory control was born.

Proto-SCADA

The earliest efforts to remotely monitor electrical systems were not as automated as today’s. For security, a human operator was involved in the process. Communication between the master station and the remote terminal would be checked and verified by a human operator before changes were made.  This select/check/operate scheme is still used today in some cases.

Tone/Pulse SCADA

Ok – technically, we’re still not talking about actual SCADA, but it’s getting closer.

Around 1950 companies began using a telephone type pulse counting system to relay information from one terminal to another. Information was conveyed by both the length of pulses as well as their frequency. This quickly proved to be a very reliable system, and was adopted by electric utilities, gas companies, oil pipelines – even airport control towers.

It was around this time that manufacturers began competing over this technology. Major players included Westinghouse, Visicode and General Electric. This competition led to more rapid advancement as we approached the 1960’s and the development of solid state supervisory control technology.

Manufacturers adopted the new solid state technology almost immediately.

Solid State SCADA

Westinghouse introduced REDAC; GE had GETAC, and Control Corporation introduced a system called Supertrol. These first solid state systems were really just solid state versions of the systems already in place.

The term SCADA came into use around 1965, when computer based master stations became common. By this time, computers were capable of real-time functions, which now included scanning and monitoring data, alarming for changes, and displaying the data on digital displays.

By the end of the decade, CRT displays allowed for more advanced HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) and periodic data logging was introduced. Better computer technology led to more complex monitoring and more advanced displays, and the introduction of network technology paved the way for today’s world of industrial automation and process control.