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The potential of unifying IoT, SCADA, DCS systems

By Henning Vermaas, Head of Technology at IoTdc

Johannesburg, 20 Jun 2023
Empowering growth through IOT innovation.
Empowering growth through IOT innovation.

Have you ever wondered about the relationship between IoT, SCADA and DCS systems? Most haven't, but it's a topic we see come up more frequently than before, and when thinking about it, it becomes clear why it's an intriguing topic to explore. The debate surrounding these technologies has sparked fascinating discussions, prompting us to explore their commonalities and the potential for collaboration. Let's delve into the intricacies of these systems and uncover how they can work together harmoniously, if at all.

Let's start by understanding the origins of these systems. SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition, emerged in the 1960s to transmit vital data from remote sites to monitoring equipment. Its dominance in the industrial sector remains strong to this day. DCS, or distributed control systems, also emerged in the 1960s with the advent of microprocessors. DCS introduced looped systems with human-machine interfaces (HMIs) at various operational levels, revolutionising industrial control. On the other hand, IoT, the internet of things, has a more elusive beginning. However, its impact became evident in the 1980s when programmers remotely logged into vending machines to monitor drink availability and temperature. Since then, IoT has permeated every industry, transforming how we interact with technology.

Traditionally, experts have opted to keep SCADA, DCS and IoT as distinct entities, each serving its unique strengths. SCADA and DCS have excelled at automating and controlling industrial applications, while IoT has been most commonly associated with use cases like smart homes, asset monitoring and resource usage. However, this perspective needs revision. IIoT (industrial internet of things) has introduced advantages such as cost-effectiveness, enhanced control and seamless integration with intelligent third-party systems. As a result, IoT is gradually replacing SCADA and DCS solutions.

While some argue that SCADA and DCS systems offer unparalleled accuracy and real-time critical performance, IoT technology is rapidly catching up and, in many cases, surpassing their capabilities. The advancements in IoT have led to increased control, simplified deployment and the availability of intrinsically safe devices with low latencies. Rather than viewing these technologies as competitors, a more productive approach might be to find common ground and leverage all their strengths to create a unified ecosystem that maximises efficiency and control.

As technology progresses, the boundaries between these systems are becoming increasingly blurred. IoT is making its way into the industrial sector, while SCADA and DCS systems embrace IoT principles to enhance their capabilities. Understanding this convergence and recognising the potential for collaboration and synergy is essential. By doing so, we can achieve seamless integration, improved operational efficiency and optimised performance.

In conclusion, unifying IoT, SCADA and DCS systems is an ongoing process. Rather than segregating these technologies, we must embrace the changing landscape and envision a seamless future where they work together. By harnessing their collective potential, we can unlock new possibilities, drive innovation and create a more connected and efficient world for industries across the globe.