The uses of SCADA technology are vast. Why? Because many industries require the many monitoring and control capabilities that SCADA offers. In most uses, 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 uses for SCADA systems:
In manufacturing, SCADA is used to make sure that productivity targets are met and all systems run smoothly. The SCADA system on a production line tracks how many units have been produced and how many are in various other stages. Analog values like temp at various production stages are also measured. Imagine how important it is to know the temp of molten metal that must be formed into usable products.
Very similar to manufacturing, food production is a major SCADA application. If temp is important for making gear, it is vital for the mass production of foods. If temperature varies more than a few degrees, entire batches could be bad. This generates a lot of wasteful expense, which makes deployment of a SCADA system absolutely vital. The movement of liquid and solid ingredients through the process are also tracked by SCADA.
Utility companies, mainly gas utilities, suffer the combined headaches of manufacturing and telecom companies. They have to move a physical product through their systems, and they are spread out across big areas. This makes SCADA devices a good fit in utility environments. They need to control the movement of power and gas through the distribution chain. They must also keep the supporting telecom infrastructure online.
The conversion of wastewater back into drinking water can really be thought of as another type of manufacturing process. It delivers the world's most vital item. Flow rate sensors are very common in wastewater centers, as are contaminant sensors.
Many people don't use the term "SCADA" in telecom environments. Still, many people do use this term to describe remote monitoring and control systems in telcos. Telecom is simply a instant production environment, with bits of data instead of parts or food products. Monitoring temp of servers and other delicate gear is common when SCADA is used in this type of application. Monitoring the dedicated alarm contact closures of many types of gear is also popular. Also common is monitoring against physical intrusions into remote sites using magnetic door sensors and passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors.
To fully know SCADA applications, it will be useful to look at some gear 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 combo 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 highly valued object 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 to integrate into your overall application.
Of course, it's also possible that you're using an SNMP manager. This is likely 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.
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. They would then be 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 main from that point forward.
"I have a utilities background. I'm 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. It will again be 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. It also had the DNP3 reporting capability that was a firm requirement for any RTU.
I hope that you've enjoyed this introduction to the applications of SCADA. Want more information? Download any of the SCADA white papers from DPS Telecom. You can also send an online information request:
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