New SCADA features and functions, Part 4

In an August 15, 2023 webcast, "SCADA series: New SCADA features and functions," Avanceon’s Matt Ruth and Nichols Imfeld joined Control Engineering to answer audience questions asked after their presentations. Read part 4 of the edited transcript below.

By Control Engineering February 22, 2024
Courtesy: Control Engineering

SCADA insights

  • In an August 15, 2023 webcast, “SCADA series: New SCADA features and functions,” Avanceon’s Matt Ruth and Nicholas Imfeld joined Control Engineering to discuss the key innovations in SCADA software packages that can improve efficiency and outcomes for end-users.

  • In Part 4, Matt Ruth, President at Avanceon, and Nicholas Imfeld, operations manager at Avanceon, answer audience questions asked after their presentations.

  • Read Part 1 for more information on the common drivers of SCADA system upgrades, Part 2 for more information on the key SCADA features that can make an upgrade worth the investment, and part 3 for a SCADA upgrade case study.


Software for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) has advanced to provide greater capabilities with less programming. What are key traits of SCADA software packages that make an upgrade worth the investment? Advantages include integration of certain standards; built-in communications and connections to other devices, software and systems; extensive libraries of code; integration with cloud capabilities; easier porting to mobile clients; and analytics. In an August 15, 2023 webcast, “SCADA series: New SCADA features and functions,” subject matter experts joined Control Engineering to discuss these topics and more. The featured webcast instructors were:

  • Matt Ruth, President, Avanceon

  • Nicholas Imfeld, Operations Manager, Avanceon

Courtesy: Control Engineering

Courtesy: Control Engineering

Below, the transcript of their presentations has been provided with minor edits and adaptations.

High-performance colorless graphics seem reactive to me—Like waiting for something to go wrong and then highlighting it. What does a system like this do to keep the process from deviating in the first place?

Nicholas Imfeld: In one sense, the information presented on the screen is the same data that you’ve always ever had. It’s just represented in a different way. So, if you had a certain set of performance data on your screen that was previously under traditional data that is now displayed using high-performance graphics, it’s just formatted differently to draw your attention to the things that you do need to actually react to. In that sense, yes, it is a little bit reactive. But how do you keep the process from deviating in the first place? Well, I think that’s an automation, design and process question. To solve that issue, end-users should ask, “Wow did we design the actual controls? Is this a loop-tuned situation where we’re trying to track temperature or some other process?” In that sense, it’s all in how you design your system. The automation itself is what’s going to keep you from deviating. Visualization is just visualization. Even the best-tuned system sometimes has a sensor that breaks or does something that it’s not supposed to do, and then you’ll have a quick splash of color that draws your attention, letting you know that you actually need to address it.

Matt Ruth: I would add that this style of the presentation is scientifically proven to be effective basedon the way people react to seeing color against a contrasting background. End-users will still define the same limits and the same windows. As you’re starting to get close to the problem area, you may put some color on the screen to alert someone. As you get closer, it may still be a different yellow, and then, as you get closer still, the red alarm. But you’re still taking those same levels of alarming, and presenting them differently in a way that allows someone to look across the room and easily know what’s going on.

Are there any cloud-based SCADA solutions in sight? Can you discuss the impact of those cloud-based solutions on historical data storage, trend analysis and remote access capabilities?

Nicholas Imfeld: Sure. So I’m not aware of a fully robust SCADA system that is cloud-based in and of itself. I am aware of cloud-based historian systems. That said, though I am also aware of SCADA systems using a traditional architecture, however, hosted on, like an Amazon web service. So then by default, they become cloud-based. And that is something that can be done. Now there’s a risk to that obviously because of accessibility, what if your internet connection goes down? And no, you don’t have control. Those are definitely some considerations you would want to make when evaluating that approach.

But in terms of it, the second part of your question about historian, that is becoming more and more common and is actually becoming a foundation for some of those advanced applications that I mentioned very briefly in the historization slide. What is becoming pretty standard is for data to be stored in an on-prem historian and then sent to a cloud-based solution as a tier-two historian, though you don’t necessarily have to do that, you can go straight to the cloud. And then from that cloud, you then have access to that historical data and trending anywhere and cloud-based applications that are built on that, for example, lower MES functionality, analytics, predictive maintenance that solution providers develop can then apply right to your historical dataset.

What was the title of the HMI design book recommended in the presentation?

Nicholas Imfeld: The High Performance HMI Handbook by Bill Hollifield, Dana Oliver, Ian Nimmo and Eddie Habib.

Matt Ruth: Also, if you look up ISA-101, content from the book is now an ISA standard as well. The guidance has now been incorporated and adopted by ISA as ISA-101.

You mentioned toolkits in various sections. I assume this is the HMI development platform. What are the most commonly used products in this area?

Nicholas Imfeld: The nice thing about a lot of these is, because they are concepts, they can apply to any platform whatsoever. It’s just a matter of the end-user applying them. Within those platforms, some of those vendors have done the work of developing, to a greater or lesser extent, some of the pieces and parts into toolkits that can then be applied right out of the box. When I referenced standardization toolkits, I was speaking generally, and so that can be a toolkit that comes with a platform, but typically that only gets you so far, whether that’s 60%, 90%, or somewhere between 60 and 90%, or a toolkit that you develop yourself or a blend of the two.