The potential applications of SCADA technology are diverse, because many industries require the comprehensive monitoring and control capabilities that SCADA offers. In most applications, SCADA is used to manage a physical process (manufacturing and water processing are common). In other uses of the word "SCADA", a telecom or IT system of communications is being managed instead.
Here are a few of the most common applications for SCADA systems:
In manufacturing environments, SCADA is used to make sure that productivity targets are met and all systems run smoothly. The SCADA system in place on a production line tracks how many units have been produced and how many are in various stages of completion. Analog values like temperature at various production stages are also measured. Imagine how important it is to know the temperature of molten metal that must be formed into usable products.
Very similar to manufacturing, food production is a major SCADA application. If temperature is important for equipment manufacturing, it is absolutely critical for the mass production of delicate foods. If temperature varies more than a few degrees, entire batches can fall out of acceptable specifications. This generates a lot of wasteful expense, which makes deployment of a SCADA system absolutely critical. The movement of liquid and solid ingredients and mixtures through the production process is also tracked by SCADA.
Electric and Gas Utilities
Utility companies, particularly gas utilities, suffer the combined headaches of manufacturing and telecom companies. They have to move a physical product (electricity isn't considered very physical, but it creates many more concerns than data transmission) through their systems, and they are spread out across gigantic territories. This makes utility environments a natural application for SCADA devices. They need to control the movement of electricity and gas through the distribution chain and also keep the supporting telecom infrastructure online.
The conversion of wastewater back into potable drinking water can really be thought of as another type of manufacturing process that delivers the world's most critical commodity. Flow rate sensors are extremely common in wastewater processing centers, as are contaminant sensors.
Telecom and Information Technology (IT)
Although not generally known as "SCADA" in telecommunications environments, a large number of professional do use this term to describe remote monitoring and control systems in these industries. Realistically, telecom is simply a near-instantaneous production environment, with bits of data instead of parts or food products. Monitoring temperature of servers and other delicate equipment is common when SCADA is used in this particular application. Monitoring the dedicated alarm contact closures of various equipment is also popular, as is monitoring against physical intrusions into remote sites using magnetic door sensors and passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors.
Specific SCADA Equipment Examples:
To fully understand SCADA applications, it will be useful to look at some equipment examples. First, let's look at the RTUs (Remote Terminal Units) that are the front lines of a SCADA system. Whether you choose a professional HMI or a freeware solution (not recommended for serious business environments)
One popular device I like to reference is the SCADA-Guardian. Like any good SCADA RTU, this one has lots of sensor inputs and plenty of control outputs to go with them. It monitors its own ambient temperature, plus it can accept any combination of 24 industry-standard temperature sensors. You can use sensors for temperature, humidity, flow rates, water leaks, rotation, tank levels, and just about anything else you can imagine.
An increasingly valued element of SCADA sensor monitoring in recent years has been daisy-chainable sensors
Since monitoring is just one half of any true SCADA application, the SCADA-Guardian also includes 8 control relay outputs. These can be wired into other devices to turn them off or on at the right times. Similar to your sensor options, the sky is virtually the limit when setting up SCADA control relays. Anything that can accept a contact closure can be turned on, turned off, reset/rebooted, or otherwise toggled.
What puts the true "SCADA" application capability into the SCADA-Guardian is the ability to report alarms in DNP3 protocol. Along with Modbus, DNP3 is one of the most popular standard protocols used in SCADA communications. Especially if you work for an oil, gas, or power utility, it's likely that you're using a DNP3 master as part of your existing SCADA system. This makes the SCADA-Guardian a rugged remote that can interact with your existing SCADA HMI (master station) to integrate into your overall application.
Of course, it's also possible that you're using an SNMP manager, especially if your company is more focused on telecom and IT. That's why the SCADA-Guardian can also be ordered with SNMP protocol reporting capability.
Real-World SCADA Application Example:
Now let's review some SCADA projects from the last several years to get a better idea of the applications of SCADA.
Here's a message that we received about one particular SCADA application involving DNP3:
"Been a while since I received your return email, but I did want to touch base again with a couple of questions. I am with a major wireless telco and working with an engineering firm on a project in CT for a utility.
"What they are trying to accomplish is setting up communication for their vault transformers and monitoring and controlling them via a new SCADA system. They will be bringing a protocol called MODBUS into the substation, and then want to use DNP3 as their primary from that point forward.
"I have a utilities background and am trying to help my engineering firm client with their report to their utility customer in CT. I've suggested a SCADA system and would like to recommend a type of RTU for information gathering and such.
"Where wireless will come into play of course is the CDMA wireless portion from the vault transformers into the sub and then on to the utility, again utilizing SCADA for these functions. Your thoughts?"
This SCADA project was an ideal application for SCADA-Guardian deployment. It is rugged enough to survive the harsh conditions at many of the project sites, but it also had the DNP3 reporting capability that was a firm requirement for any RTU under consideration.
I hope that you've enjoyed this introduction to the applications of SCADA. For more information download any of the SCADA white papers from DPS Telecom or submit an online information request: