Top 10 modern SCADA system features

A modern supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system should be designed to help manufacturers take advantage of digital transformation and should run on modern technology.

By Thomas Burke August 25, 2022
Courtesy: Iconics, New Products for Engineers Database

SCADA Insights

  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems can gather and interpret data from many different systems. The Internet of Things (IoT) enhances these capabilities.
  • A modern SCADA system should be IoT ready as well as provide real-time information in a clean manner that can be easily interpreted on the screen.
  • Real-time and accurate communication is more important than ever and the SCADA system is at the middle of the information gathering process.

Industrial operational data is mostly obtained from devices such as sensors, switches, and relays through input/output (I/O) modules but is also acquired from higher level devices such as controllers and remote terminal units (RTUs). It then makes its way to a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which has the primary function of data acquisition and data logging.

A SCADA system acquires and transforms the captured data using SCADA software, which can also be programmed for control and fault detection. The data is then presented through a human-machine interface (HMI) and transformed into visualizations such as pictorials, graphs, data charts, tables, etc. These can be interpreted and used by operators for better operational understanding thus leading to informed decisions.

Top 10 features of a SCADA system

First, a top SCADA system should be built on 64-bit technology to allow to access faster processors with the higher memory capacity of 64-bit computing and with the ability to run faster and scale larger than other older SCADA systems. Digital transformation is our reality nowadays, so future-proofing the system by using industry standard 64-bit servers to drive data logging is essential.

1. Universal connectivity and IoT ready:

A SCADA system should leverage universal connectivity allowing users to connect to any data in the system from anywhere, which makes operations IoT ready. It should allow for data acquisition from “protocols” inclusive of BACnet, OPC, databases, web services, Internet of Things (IoT), simple network management protocol (SNMP), message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) and structured query language (SQL) so users can aggregate or connect almost any data with firewall-friendly communication methods. The SCADA system also should allow users to integrate data from business systems.

2. High performance data capture:

A SCADA also should have the capability of high-speed, data collection through a historian that can log data at a speed greater than 100,000 tags per second and that can work with data sources across the enterprise. It should have a secure historian that supports store-and-forward technology and that allows users to source and merge data from any open database.

3. 2D and 3D visualization:

A SCADA system should be versatile and practical, so it should provide fast, scalable and secure visualization on desktops, web browsers and mobile devices. It should support rich WPF and script-less, thin client HTML5 technology that allows for consistent visualization on all platforms.

4. Live, self-service dashboards:

An advanced SCADA should offer configurable, self-service key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards to allow management to understand the operational big picture quickly and at any given time. These systems should allow users to drag and drop data, configure widgets, split screens and leverage preconfigured gauges, process points, trends, alarms and grids for quick data visualization. At a minimum, the SCADA system should provide on-the-spot display creation for visualizing data when and where it is needed.

5. Mission-critical redundancy:

SCADA systems should be designed to negotiate internal communications for redundancy, load balancing, and scalability throughout the enterprise. It should be designed for large, distributed, or mission-critical applications being fully redundant, at multiple levels and at modular levels.

6. Fault analytics and energy monitoring:

SCADA systems should visualize, aggregate and summarize energy usage in real-time through custom, secure and mobile-friendly energy monitoring dashboards. It should allow users to continuously commission factories and buildings by weighing the probability of equipment failure and advising personnel of preventative actions before faults occur.

7. Advanced alarming:

A SCADA system should come with enterprise-wide alarm and event management. It should allocate and filter alarms from any alarm system or subscribe to multiple alarm servers and enhance normalized alarms with live data sources.

8. Integrated SMS/e-mail alerts:

A SCADA system should provide alert notifications via email or SMS text. More desirably, it should be able to distribute enterprise-wide alarm notifications via email, voice, text-to-speech, phone, instant messaging, and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, and on boards, task trays and video.

9. Cloud-ready and modular scalability:

A SCADA should be cloud-ready and be able to run on cloud-based virtual. It also should be equipped to handle the entire expanse of a global enterprise from a few hundred to millions of tags daily.

10. Project development tools:

The ideal SCADA solution should be easy enough to use at the end user level, yet flexible enough to meet the needs of system integration firms and domain experts. The ideal SCADA will offer a great deal of configurability, one that supports 99% of application requirements and one that only resorts to software development or scripting in the rarest of cases.

Integrating software and hardware

There’s a lot of talk about advanced automation though Industry 4.0, smart factories, digital transformation, edge computing, the cloud and IT/OT convergence. However, it is important to understand that factories and process control require SCADA and control systems to achieve the level of automation that is the foundation for these unique opportunities.

This leads to the final piece of the automation puzzle – the integration of the proper software and hardware. Having in place automation software and hardware with standardization and technical innovation serves as a platform for data and the corresponding analysis to turn it into useful information. This combination will result in operational optimization with flexibility and agility that will lead to efficient and profitable operations.

Thomas Burke is global strategic advisor at CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA), a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,

Author Bio: Thomas Burke is global strategic adviser for CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA). He is the founder of the OPC Foundation and spent much of his career developing software, hardware and firmware for industrial automation, including at Rockwell Automation. CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) is a CFE Media and Technology content partner.