What Is a SCADA System and How Does It Affect Me?

by | Jul 11, 2012 | Communications

Information is important, knowing the right thing can make all the difference in the world, but managing and monitoring the information can be challenging. The more complex the system the more difficult it is to monitor and gather the information required to make an accurate decision. In an academic setting this is why complex social systems such as those studied in the humanities provide less hard truths than those studied in the physical sciences. In a mechanical sense this is why a large building wide HVAC system can be harder to manage than a single fan. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) Systems with HMI (Human Machine Interface) allow people to make informed decisions by condensing as much of the information as possible into a single interface.

What a SCADA system does is gather information from various different parts of a system or a machine and present to a human user in a form they can understand and act on. For example a building wide water heating and filtration system has many different valves pumps and pressure readings that could be gathered manually by walking to each piece of machinery to check the readings. A SCADA system instead gathers that data and presents it to a user in a centralized location, this way they can see both the forest and the trees and make decisions if something needs to be changed. It also helps reduce the human error of having a crew of people having to go and check each valve. This is quicker than having one person manually check every possible location in a building but does run into the problem of different perceptions confounding the accuracy. With a single layout of the information for a single person to read conflicting perceptions won’t be a problem. If one filter is getting clogged they can redirect water and order the filter changed so there isn’t a total shut down later. With a properly functioning HMI and quick access to data early on, the problem can be handled at a convenient time and before it becomes a catastrophe.

SCADA systems play a major role in manufacturing as well, this is to be expected since their goal fits so well with efficiency in manufacturing. All told SCADA systems can be used in endeavors like industrial processes, infrastructure processes, and facility processes. Each different category of processes has different needs they place on a SCADA system, and the configuration of the SCADA for each is important. SCADA systems can also be built to withstand different conditions. In some situations failures can be catastrophic or even dangerous to human lives, and it’s important to have a strong system that can take the abuse it might be put through. Proper information flow isn’t just about the efficiency in these cases it’s about the safety of employees and anyone else potentially at danger.

Development of a proper SCADA system and its security can be vital for a company or governmental project. The systems may be at threat from physical or cyber attacks and so investors and public officials should be wary about which systems they take. Obviously for something important you need to do careful research, find companies that do regular maintenance on the digital aspects and provide good service and up to date physical tools. Having the right SCADA system properly configured under the right operational philosophy is worth the effort it takes of finding the right company to install and set it up for you.

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