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Introduction to SCADA Systems and Their Components

A Quick Tutorial on How the System and its Components Work Together:

SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems are used in industrial settings to monitor vital gear and environmental values. SCADA systems can be used to monitor many different kinds of gear, such as PLCs, RTUs, and Masters in many different kinds of environments. In fact, you're likely to find SCADA technology in public utilities, refining actions, major telecoms, transportation/transit companies, and more.

SCADA system diagram
NOTE: "SCADA systems" is a synonym for "SCADA Solutions"

If a company has a computer network that's spread out across a wide-area, they'll use a SCADA system to monitor and control important aspects of that network and the revenue-generating processes that it supports. In short, SCADA helps smart companies to monitor, manage, and control their facilities -- on-time, on budget, and with increased profitability.

Imagine what it would be like to manage a large-scale operation without the advantages provided by SCADA systems, you'd instantly be reduced to guessing. You wouldn't know the temperature, humidity, fuel levels, and gear status you need to keep your operation running smoothly.

This is exactly what makes SCADA systems so vital. No matter what the size of your organization, you need to leverage SCADA systems if you want to manage actions that are spread out across a large space. If you don't us SCADA systems you'll frequently find yourself driving to remote sites just to get a simple status check, flip a switch, or push a button.

But just because SCADA systems are so important doesn't mean that you can ignore your basic responsibility to research before you buy.

You must be careful or you might end up with a system that is not much help to you at all. SCADA has the potential to save you a lot of money and boost your profitability, but a large percentage of SCADA projects that are started each year turn into quagmires of cost overruns and delays.

Perhaps more likely, you'll get a mediocre system that meets your current needs - but doesn't have the horsepower and growth potential to meet your needs 10 years from now.

Use the detailed information in this article to make informed SCADA decisions. By spending just a few minutes to read this article now, you could potentially save yourself weeks or months of wasted effort later by avoiding common SCADA pitfalls.

What exactly are SCADA systems, anyway?

SCADA doesn't just refer to one technology, but rather to a single kind of application. SCADA systems collect data from a primary system in order to control that primary system.

This SCADA systems definition has two main components: the process you want to control and monitor, and a system of electronic gear that allows you to control and monitor that process from a central location.

As you can tell by this broad definition, SCADA systems can be built from many different types of technologies and protocols and still fall under the umbrella of "SCADA systems".

In what industries are SCADA systems used most often?


SCADA systems can be used to monitor and control any kind of gear, process, or operation. Most commonly, they automate complicated industrial processes where manual monitoring and control by human staff just isn't feasible. This includes:

  • Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution.
  • Oil and gas
  • Water and sewage
  • Buildings, facilities, and environments
  • Manufacturing
  • Mass transit
  • Traffic signals

These are only a few common examples, however. SCADA systems are a global reality.

How does monitoring and controlling in real time increase my uptime, return on investment and my profit?

Here's a short list of the tasks you can perform using SCADA systems.
  • You can pull up measurements of vital process values (both the current value and trends over time).
  • You can spot and solve problems before they even start.
  • You can keep your eye on long-term trends and threats.
  • You can find and attack bottlenecks throughout the enterprise.
  • You can effectively manage bigger processes with a smaller staff.

The SCADA transportation of information allows you to keep a very close eye on your operations. You can deploy sensors and control relays at important places to get a highly detailed "birds eye view" of your revenue-generating activities. With SCADA, you will incur less cost while doing more. This is the definition of a profitability boost.

How are Typical SCADA systems commonly structured?

You can divide the functions of SCADA systems into four major categories:
  1. Data acquisition
  2. Data communication
  3. Data presentation
  4. Control

Read part two of the SCADA Systems Tutorial...