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SCADA - Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

SCADA  - Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a control system architecture that uses computers, networked data communications and graphical user interfaces for high-level process supervisory management, but uses other peripheral devices such as programmable logic controller (PLC) and discrete PID controllers to interface with the process plant or machinery. The use of SCADA has been also considered for management and operations of project-driven-process in construction.

The operator interfaces that enable monitoring and the issuing of process commands, such as controller set point changes, are handled through the SCADA computer system. However, the real-time control logic or controller calculations are performed by networked modules that connect to the field sensors and actuators.

The SCADA concept was developed as a universal means of remote access to a variety of local control modules, which could be from different manufacturers allowing access through standard automation protocols. In practice, large SCADA systems have grown to become very similar to distributed control systems in function, but using multiple means of interfacing with the plant. They can control large-scale processes that can include multiple sites, and work over large distances as well as small distance. It is one of the most commonly-used types of industrial control systems, however there are concerns about SCADA systems being vulnerable to cyberwarfare/cyberterrorism attacks.

Large and small systems can be built using the SCADA concept. These systems can range from just tens to thousands of control loops, depending on the application. Example processes include industrial, infrastructure, and facility-based processes, as described below:

  • Industrial processes include manufacturing, Process control, power generation, fabrication, and refining, and may run in continuous, batch, repetitive, or discrete modes.
  • Infrastructure processes may be public or private, and include water treatment and distribution, wastewater collection and treatment, oil and gas pipelines, electric power transmission and distribution, and wind farms.
  • Facility processes, including buildings, airports, ships, and space stations. They monitor and control heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), access, and energy consumption.

However, SCADA systems may have security vulnerabilities, so the systems should be evaluated to identify risks and solutions implemented to mitigate those risks.

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F.A.Q about SCADA - Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

What does Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) mean?

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) refers to industrial control systems (ICS) that are employed to control and keep track of equipment or a plant in industries like water and waste control, telecommunications, energy, transport, and oil and gas refining. SCADA is a computer system used to gather and analyze real-time data. This data is processed by the computer and is presented on a regular basis. SCADA also saves and make logs for every event into a log file that is saved on a hard drive or is sent to a printer. SCADA gives warnings by sounding alarms if situations develop into hazardous scenarios.

SCADA systems were initially employed in the 1960s. They include both software and hardware components. The hardware collects and enters data into a computer with SCADA software.

SCADA systems consist of:

  • Field data interface equipment, generally programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or remote terminal units (RTUs). These connect to field sensing devices, local control switchboxes and valve actuators. Field-data-interface equipment forms the core part of SCADA systems.
  • A communications system. This is employed to move data between different pieces of field data interface equipment and control units, and the computer systems employed in the SCADA central host. The system may be telephone, radio, satellite, cable, and so on, or a combination of any of these. The communications network is designed to offer the way by which the data can be transmitted in between the field-based RTUs and the central host computer servers.
  • A central host computer server(s). This is often known as a master station, a SCADA center, or a master terminal unit (MTU). The central host computer is usually a single computer or a computer server network.
  • A set of standard and/or customized software systems. They are helpful in delivering the operator terminal application and SCADA central host. This supports the communications system, and monitors and controls the remotely located field-data-interface equipment.

Some of the software products usually used within the SCADA system include:

  • Central host computer OS
  • Operator terminal OS
  • Central host computer application
  • Operator terminal application
  • Communications protocol drivers
  • RTU automation software
  • Communications network management software