Automation creates a better world; SCADA helps nearly 100 ways

At the 2024 ScadaFest conference keynote session, Trihedral executives, part of the Delta Group, touted the power of advanced supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software.

By Mark T. Hoske March 22, 2024
Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

 

Learning Objectives

  • Understand that automation is a catalyst for a better world, and VTScada by Trihedral is helping that with nearly 100 new features since the last ScadaFest conference.
  • Learn how new features in VTScada software include drivers, scheduler, widget search, tag subset export.
  • Learn the report capabilities embedded in the latest version of VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company.

Advanced SCADA software insights

  • Automation is a catalyst for a better world, and VTScada by Trihedral is helping with nearly 100 new features since the last ScadaFest conference.
  • New features in VTScada software include driver features, scheduler, widget search, tag subset export.
  • Report capabilities are embedded in the latest version of VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company.

Advancements in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software include cost-effective licensing, all-in-one installation, redundancy and load distribution across multiple servers, built-in alarms, trending, analysis, reports, libraries and thin-client connectivity with unlimited concurrent users (Figure 1), as explained at the 2024 VTScada conference keynote session March 21, during the week-long Orlando event. A short video clip shows a Delta Group hardware demonstration.

Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company (Figure 2), provided perspective for today’s software advances, recalling that his computer science studies began with Fortran punch cards with 80 characters, without backspace or undo features. Compare that to 3.7-million lines of code in today’s VTScada software. It’s not just about more. Wadden gave examples of the need for ease of use, reliability and code quality, avoiding the technical debt created when errors add painful code fixes, rather than starting with correct coding.

Figure 1: VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, offers cost-effective licensing, all-in-one installation, redundancy and load distribution across multiple servers, built-in alarms, trending, analysis, reports, libraries and thin-client connectivity with unlimited concurrent users, among other features. The VTS part of the name stands for Visual Tag System, as explained in the 2024 ScadaFest event in Orlando in March.

Figure 1: VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, offers cost-effective licensing, all-in-one installation, redundancy and load distribution across multiple servers, built-in alarms, trending, analysis, reports, libraries and thin-client connectivity with unlimited concurrent users, among other features. The VTS part of the name stands for Visual Tag System, as explained in the 2024 ScadaFest event in Orlando in March. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Automation, a catalyst for a better world

Three years ago, Delta Group, a leader in power electronics with more than 85,000 employees, expanded its automation software by acquiring Trihedral, developer of VTScada software. The collaboration helps emphasize that what industry does is critically important to improve the world, Wadden said.

Figure 2: Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, said supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software needs to demonstrate ease of use, reliability and code quality, avoiding the technical debt created when errors add painful code fixes, rather than starting with correct coding.

Figure 2: Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, said supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software needs to demonstrate ease of use, reliability and code quality, avoiding the technical debt created when errors add painful code fixes, rather than starting with correct coding. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

“Automation is a catalyst for a civilized life,” he noted, improving health, safety, efficiency to make the world a better place, resolving challenges. “We focus on ease of use to leverage people’s time. People need to get their jobs done. I had a choice to study business or technology,” he said. “Technology was the right choice.”

Alan Hudson, U.S. sales manager, VTScada by Trihedral (Figure 3), touted application sessions at this year’s conference and encouraged VTScada users to get help in the developer room training sessions and by seeking feedback in sessions.

Figure 3: Alan Hudson, U.S. sales manager, VTScada by Trihedral, were among experts praising the value of training sessions at the 2024 ScadaFest.

Figure 3: Alan Hudson, U.S. sales manager, VTScada by Trihedral, were among experts praising the value of training sessions at the 2024 ScadaFest. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Figure 4: Barry Baker, vice president, VTScada by Trihedral, and president of U.S. Trihedral, praised 2024’s ScadaFest as the largest Trihedral event to date, noting that VTScada expertise is particularly valuable in mission-critical industries, such as aviation.

Figure 4: Barry Baker, vice president, VTScada by Trihedral, and president of U.S. Trihedral, praised 2024’s ScadaFest as the largest Trihedral event to date, noting that VTScada expertise is particularly valuable in mission-critical industries, such as aviation. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Barry Baker, vice president, VTScada by Trihedral, and president of U.S. Trihedral (Figure 4), said 2024 is the largest ScadaFest yet. Interest in the time savings that the software provides extends into job listings mention that VTScada as desired experience. Baker, emphasizing time-saving value, noted several famous related quotes (Figure 5):

  • “Time is the wisest counsellor of all.” Pericles

  • “The common man is not concerned about the passage of time, but the man of talent is driven by it.” Aurthur Schopenhauer

  • “Time is money.” Ben Franklin

  • “We must use time as a tool, not a crutch.” John F. Kennedy

  • “Your time is limited, so don’t use it living someone else’s life.” Steve Jobs.

Benefits of advanced VTScada skills include avoiding unwarranted code and support, leveraging features to reduce errors, more security and reliability, Baker said. All VTScada code has four sets of eyes on it, plus a security review to avoid lost time from coding errors. “Welcome to the SCADAverse,” he said.

Figure 5: There’s no time like the present to learn how to save time, suggested Barry Baker, vice president, VTScada by Trihedral, and president of U.S. Trihedral, at the 2024 ScadaFest in March in Orlando.

Figure 5: There’s no time like the present to learn how to save time, suggested Barry Baker, vice president, VTScada by Trihedral, and president of U.S. Trihedral, at the 2024 ScadaFest in March in Orlando. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Nearly 100 new features in VTScada since the last ScadaFest

Wadden said VTScada software has nearly 100 new features since the last ScadaFest, and users have the option to accept them incrementally over time, annually or longer intervals. Control Engineering research, independent from Trihedral, shows many wait too long to upgrade SCADA software, however.

Wadden said general features (Figure 6) include:

  • Security enhancements to harden the product and make it more resilient.

  • Security guidelines manual updates.

  • Numeric entry widget allows entry of historic data values on screen with a time stamp.

  • Control locks and control tokens operate like a padlock on equipment for subset of a tree in the system; one area can have control while another area is locked out to avoid conflicts.

  • Alarm shelving from right-click context menu takes an alarm out of service for period of service. This avoids false alarms during maintenance, for instance.

  • Improvements to alarm suppression avoid the risk of disabling them with re-enabling them. For example, when a pump is off, it avoids a low-flow alarm. It’s automated now.

  • Recipe import is added.

  • Support for TLS 1.3, the secure encryption model’s latest revision.

  • HDV text size adjustment. Want to see the screen at a glance from across the room? It can be more visible now.

  • Voice over internet protocol (VOIP) redundancy and encryption was added after VOIP was added last

  • Daytime/night modes for alarms.

  • Default values for memory I/O and calculation tags

  • Better shutdown times for multiple application.

Figure 6: Since the last Trihedral ScadaFest, nearly 100 features have been introduced. Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, covered some of his favorites in the keynote session of the 2024 ScadaFest.

Figure 6: Since the last Trihedral ScadaFest, nearly 100 features have been introduced. Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, covered some of his favorites in the keynote session of the 2024 ScadaFest. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Idea studio features in VTScada

Developments in VTScada’s Idea Studio include:

  • Radial gauge that uses high-performance graphic concepts (with thanks to Toyota), because an angle is easier to understand at a glance than a number value (Figure 7).

  • Tag browser remembers last location when linking tags.

  • Coordinates in the object properties are adjustable using spin boxes.

  • Pasted graphics at the current mouse coordinates, rather than in the center of the screen.

  • File open dialog remembers the previous filter.

  • Support rotation for custom widgets

  • Efficiency of widget creation for large applications is improved.

Figure 7: High-performance graphics designs for human-machine interface and SCADA software suggest that gauge angle conveys information more quickly to operators than a numerical representation, said Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, at the 2024 ScadaFest in March in Orlando.

Figure 7: High-performance graphics designs for human-machine interface and SCADA software suggest that gauge angle conveys information more quickly to operators than a numerical representation, said Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, at the 2024 ScadaFest in March in Orlando. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Driver features in VTScada

Driver features in VTScada include the following:

  • Driver redirect tag is moved to the main product from the VTScada oil and gas offering. It allows easy representation of another driver without duplicating effort.

  • Open charge point protocol (OCPP) driver for electric vehicle (EV) chargers.

  • Import tags from Delta PLCs.

  • Toyopuc PLC driver.

  • DFS reading analog values from RIM and digital values from analog cards.

  • Mitsubishi Q Series driver.

  • Enron Modbus driver reading custom formatted history

  • New version of the ABB Totalflow driver.

  • Address assist support for DriverMUX and WorkstationStatusDriver.

  • Com fail attributes to history for Modbus, Enron and Delta drivers to tell if scada or com link was shut down.

Coming soon: Scheduler, widget search, tag subset export

Other features coming soon include:

  • Scheduler for Building Automation and Control Networks (BACnet).

  • Widget search tool.

  • Export a subset of tags to Excel, allowing selection of a subtree to be download, worked on and uploaded.

Figure 8: VTScada Report Studio benefits are available in VTScada version 12.1.39, said Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, at the 2024 ScadaFest in March in Orlando.

Figure 8: VTScada Report Studio benefits are available in VTScada version 12.1.39, said Glenn Wadden, president, VTScada by Trihedral, a Delta Group company, at the 2024 ScadaFest in March in Orlando. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Report capabilities are embedded in VTScada

A preliminary Report Studio (Figure 8) showed reports capabilities embedded in the current update of VTScada. Simplicity is part of this update, with drag-and-drop config, practical for ad hoc reporting, with related features to be enhanced over time. Reports capabilities, unlocked with a code in version 12.1.39, include:

  • PDF, Excel and HTML output.

  • Schedule file and emailed reports.

  • Ability to avoid IT issues, without added installations, no certificates, no Excel installation and no issues about running a Microsoft Windows service.

  • Synchronized and version controlled.

  • Report widget for page reports.

Hudson invited about 30 people from Trihedral at the 2024 ScadaFest conference to join him on stage for a photo (Figure 9).

Figure 9: About 30 from the Tridhedral team gathered on stage during the 2024 ScadaFest keynote presentation, in March in Orlando.

Figure 9: About 30 from the Tridhedral team gathered on stage during the 2024 ScadaFest keynote presentation, in March in Orlando. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Supervisory control and data acquisition software, SCADA

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Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.