Industrial IoT is the new tech on the block, but can it take on the SCADA?

IoT is a very popular buzzword these days. We all heard the stories of how many devices will be connected until 2025, of the terabytes of data that will be generated each day and so on. Consumer media is awash with articles concerning the Internet of Things (IoT) and how smarter devices, the things in the IoT, are changing the world. Another topic that is on everyone’s lips right now is the cloud in all of its forms: cloud storage, cloud-based apps, cloud-powered mobile devices, cloud-hosted virtual machines and other applications.

The IoT and the cloud have much more to offer than consumer-grade conveniences. A fusion of IoT and cloud technologies has specific applications in the industrial automation sector, creating the Industrial IoT (IIoT). But currently, in the industry, there is a mature technology already in place for more than 20 years. This technology is packed under the name of SCADA.

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a system of software and hardware elements that allow industrial organizations to:

• Control industrial processes locally or at remote locations

• Monitor, gather and process real-time data

• Directly interact with devices such as sensors, valves, pumps, motors and more through human-machine interface (HMI) software

  • Record events into a log file

What are the components of a typical SCADA architecture?

• Remote Terminal Unit (RTU): The RTU is defined as a communication device within the SCADA system and is located at the remote substation. The RTU gathers data from field devices in memory until the MTU requests that information. It also processes orders from the SCADA, like the switch-off a transmission line.

• Master Terminal Unit (MTU): The MTU is defined as the heart of a SCADA system and is located in the main monitoring center. MTU initiates communication with remote units and interfaces with the DAS and the HMI.

• Data Acquisition System (DAS): The DAS gathers information from the MTU, generates and stores alerts that need attention from the operator because it can cause an impact on the system.

Human Machine Interface (HMI): The HMI is defined as the interface where the operator logs on to monitor the variables of the system. It gathers information from the DAS.

SCADA systems right now offer pretty much what all IoT solutions advertise:

• Remote monitoring: being able to see the equipment telemetry data

• Remote controlling: being able to remotely control the equipment

• Real-time alarms and log collection: alerts are displayed to the operator in real time and also equipment logs are collected

The prices of SCADA systems can go lower than those of an IoT system because IoT is not yet standardized in this industry and a lot of custom development is required.

An IoT system can go through several areas of the IT of a company. It integrates with machines or production lines, collect and uses all data, also from other systems like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to give better insights into the industrial processes. The main benefits are the increased productivity, the increased lifetime of equipment and machines and, in the end, the production cost reduction.

To understand better, you can see below an IoT sample architecture and the included components:

1. Factory Floor

· A production line or industrial device that is monitored

· Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) that control the production flow

· IoT Gateway that collects data from the production line and uploads the relevant data to the IoT Cloud

· A gateway can connect to PLC that are becoming smarter each day by exposing protocols that are compatible with Internet and cloud communication such as HTTP.

· Also, IoT Gateways have libraries embedded that can gather data from devices using industrial protocols such as Profinet and Modbus

2. IoT Cloud

Here is the place where all the magic happens and, usually, we have:

· A HUB (IoT HUB) which receives and sends messages to the devices. Also, the IoT HUB verifies the identity of devices based on different security mechanisms such as certificates or authentication keys, making sure that the data is consistent

· The IoT HUB can send data directly to the storage location, but it can also send it to a live stream analytics solution which curates the data and dispatches it to the right storage location. Also, the stream analytics solution can generate real-time alerts based on pre-configured rules.

· The data is usually stored in several places:
- Data that is used for device information is stored in NO-SQL databases
- Data that is used for reporting in SQL, such as databases or big data structures such as Hadoop
- Telemetry data is archived in low-cost storage structures such as blobs

· On top of the data applications, reports or mobile services can be developed to serve different types of consumers.

3. Integrations

IoT solutions have a significant advantage, that can fit very well in the company applications ecosystem:

· It can integrate with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions) to synchronize production data and OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness)

· It can integrate with a CRM or Case Management system for managing alerts. Alerts are generated in the IoT cloud, and the tracking of the case resolution (resources, people) is done in the CRM.

Going a step forward, IoT can be combined with current edge technologies such as Machine Learning (predictions) and Augmented Reality (remote service) as it follows:

Machine Learning

By using a large amount of data stored combined with existing results we can make predictions such as:

· Predict when equipment maintenance should be performed to prevent breakdowns

· Estimate when an equipment part replacement is needed

· Forcasting production

Augmented Reality (AR)

· By using AR glasses, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, technicians can train and fix equipment, even if it is not necessarily their speciality, thus adding savings to the maintenance costs.

What does IoT better than SCADA?

IoT has some strong points, like being able to access data from anywhere the user wants, whereas most of the SCADA systems are limited to a factory.

As the image below shows, by using IoT, you can leverage the tools that it provides to create comparative reports if, for example, you have different factories in different areas.The data you collect creates value, and you can detect production problems and fix them or even better, you will know in advance when something is going to happen through Predictive Analytics. Going in depth, using Predictive Maintenance you will know when something is going to break, why and you will know what to do.

You can compare:

· OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) between factories

· Production data

· Media consumption (Gas, Water, Power)

Can IoT replace SCADA?

SCADA and IOT System can coexist for the moment. SCADA systems are pretty standardized, while the IoT market is in early production in the manufacturing industry. But SCADA is limited to the factory floor. Data extracted from the devices are being viewed only inside the plant. IoT takes this data, gives insights to the user and makes it available anywhere, anytime, enabling new business models. This is the real digital transformation provided by an IoT solution.

How can IoT help you?

1. If you have a SCADA system in place

You can integrate the IoT solution with your SCADA system and collect the data from SCADA Data Acquisition Systems (DAS) machine. Leveraging the power and scalability of IoT you can use collected data to create a wide range of reports such as OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) reports, Production Data reports and Media Consumption reports (gas, water, power etc.) that can be compared across several factories or locations of the same factory in near real time.

In the future, all SCADA systems will evolve into IoT. Equipment and PLC become more intelligent and will be able to integrate different cloud platforms, new security frameworks such as Blockchain will ensure security and by using the cloud power of computing and gaining production insights, improvements that will save money can be performed.

2. If you have industrial equipment that is not yet connected, meaning that data isn’t collected in an external system, and you would like to do so, following steps can be taken:

1. If you don’t know where to start from, how to build your IoT case and what’s in it for you, find out more about our free IoT Customer Research.

2. We believe that starting an IoT project needs a comprehensive self-assessment of your business. To be able to do that, first of all, we’ll help you understand what you should expect from such a project and where you should look for its value. The first step before committing to a POC should be this no strings attached 1-day Workshop.

3. Create a small Proof of Concept with 1 machine or 1 production line.

4. Run the proof of concept for a couple of months.

5. Scale the proof of concept to the entire factory/enterprise.

Read related IoT articles:

  1. How do Equipment Manufacturers really feel about the Internet of Things? The coming age of IoT in Oliver’s company.
  2. Azure Cosmos DB | The perfect place for device topology for world-wide solutions. In the world of IoT, devices are distributed all around the world.
  3. Machines, How Do You Feel Today? Industrial IoT envisions a world where machines dialogue and factories become self-aware.
  4. The Migration Journey from Azure Event Hubs to Azure IoT Hub. As an emerging technology IoT has brought great potential to how enterprises can better connect their assets and access previously unexplored insights.
  5. Near real-time Analytics for IoT Technicians from the field — Azure Time Series Insights. Take a look around you and tell me if you see at least one smart device capable of sending data.