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SCADA vs IoT

Published on 21 June, 2018

SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) is a system that monitors and controls industrial processes in infrastructures based on physical installations. A SCADA system is made of several hardware and software elements and devices in four levels: 1. Instrumentation; 2. Remote Terminal Units (RTUs); 3. Communications; and 4. Control Centre.  SCADA is a mature technology, used mainly for the daily work of an industrial plant.

IoT or IIot (industrial internet of things) is a scenario with interconnected computer devices (sensors, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or individuals) with unique identifiers and the capacity to transmit data through the internet without human or human-machine interactions. The main use of IIot is the standardisation of data collected by the sensors and, in the long term, the analysis and assessment of different solutions.

Similarities between SCADA and the Internet of Things

The SCADA systems new offer practically everything advertised by the IoT solutions:

  • Remote monitoring: one or several operators can supervise one or several processes at the same time.
  • Remote control: being able to control and act form afar.
  • Warnings and storage of histories: the warnings are displayed to the operator in real time and the registries or the equipment are also collected.

Differences between SCADA and the Internet of Things

When thinking about control layers, SCADA has a sensor, a control and a level of supervision; on the contrary, IoT acts on the sensor/control level interacting between them. SCADA is just on the highest layer of the control system, and can or cannot be included in the data flow chain, depending on the architecture. This is undoubtedly their biggest difference, but there are many other reason to distinguish between SCADA and IoT:

  • Different hardware and software: the brands manufacturing and distributing them are independent and work in a parallel way. The big manufacturers in the IT sector (Microsoft, SAP, Google, Amazon, HP) are beginning to propose platforms to integrate IoT systems. On the other hand, the classic companies of operation technologies (Schneider or Siemens, among others) keep the SCADA systems in their supports.
  • SCADA usually refers to centralised systems, which is totally opposed to the decentralised idea of the element of the Internet of Things.
  • The prices of the SCADA systems are lower, as there are already developments and standards, while IoT systems have not been regularised yet and require a tailored development.
  • SCADA offers efficiency in the operation, veracity and accuracy in digital transmissions.
  • With IoT you can access from anywhere, as the data are available in the cloud through the Internet, while most of SCADA systems are limited to a factory. However, nowadays there are SCADA WEB systems set up at VMWARE and accessible through the Internet.
  • IoT systems can be integrated in the TI areas of a company, acquiring all data to use them later with other tools (ERP´s, CRM, MES). This allows a greater compression of the industrial processes.
  • IoT systems increase productivity. The analysis of the behaviour of data prolongs the working life of the equipment or reduces production costs.
  • IoT systems are less secure: Firstly, the security of the device: so many access points to the Internet means more possible doors for hackers to attack. Secondly, the security of the data collected in the cloud: their integrity must be ensured. Thirdly, the need for the handling and documentation of the IoT system’s life: software installed, encryptions, identities of devices, passwords and tokes, etc. These are the weak points of IoT that must be reinforced.
  • IoT se puede combinar con las herramientas más punteras, como Machine Learning (predicciones) y Realidad Aumentada (control a distancia).

Union of IT and TO

SCADA and IOT will coexist for the next few years. It is possible that they will be complementing each other more and more and that SCADA may be used to monitor and control IoT at a more abstract level. IoT will be like SCADA’s elder sibling and local systems (manufacturing, collection and display, the factory’s daily tasks and processes) will be ignored in favour of a global scenario, searching for the optimisation and keeping the information available for its analysis and treatment. The control of the supervision and the security are not forgotten, but instead they complement the current infrastructure.