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What is a SCADA system and what are its top 10 features?

SCADA systems are industrial control systems comprised of both hardware and software components for the purpose of gathering, analyzing, and displaying real-time data from devices to monitor and control industrial processes. These systems are fundamental in allowing industrial organizations to understand their processes, so they can make data-driven decisions for optimizing operations.  

From a 64-bit high-performance architecture to the power of “OPC to the Core” and the ability to connect to virtually any equipment, the ICONICS GENESIS64 Suite is uniquely differentiated from any other HMI/SCADA solutions. It’s easy to install, configure, and maintain by end users and includes behind-the-scenes interfaces for automated configuration by system integrators.

Koning & Hartman has extensive expertise in data integration, connectivity and smart (building) solutions. We listen to your story and your needs and devise smart solutions together with you.

The Top 10 Features of a SCADA System

  1. Universal Connectivity & IoT Ready: A top SCADA system should leverage universal connectivity, thus allowing you to connect to any data in your system from anywhere, i.e., making your operations IoT ready. It should allow for native implementations of BACnet, OPC, databases, web services, IoT, SNMP, MQTT, and OData (and that’s just to name a few), so you can aggregate or connect almost any data with firewall-friendly communication methods. And SCADA is not just for data from the manufacturing operational level but can also be used to seamlessly integrate data from business systems. These systems may include Inventory Management, Asset Management, Production Scheduling, Quality Management, and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MESs).

  2. High Performance Data Capture: A top SCADA should have the capability of high-speed, mission-critical data collection through a historian that can log data at a speed greater than 100,000 tags per second and that can work with the aforementioned data sources across your enterprise. It should have a secure historian that supports store-and-forward technology and that allows you to source and merge data from any open database.

  3. Rich, Powerful 2D and 3D Visualization: A top SCADA should be versatile and practical; thus, 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, meaning you can access your real-time data on any mobile device or web browser while providing advanced features without the need for additional configuration. The end goal here is to help your people run your operations efficiently and easily, so your SCADA should have the capacity to render real-time animated graphics that can incorporate interactive HMI features (alarms, trends, and historical data), combine 2D objects with 3D views, create smart symbols, and insert interactive controls.

  4. Live, Self-Service Dashboards: An advanced SCADA should offer configurable, self-service KPI dashboards to allow executives and managers to understand the operational big picture quickly and easily, and at any given time. These systems should allow you 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: A top SCADA system should be designed to seamlessly 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, not only at multiple levels but also at modular levels (e.g., data connectivity, historian, alarm, and client-level redundancy).

  6. Fault Analytics & Energy Monitoring: The top SCADA system should visualize, aggregate, and summarize energy usage in real-time through custom, secure, mobile-friendly energy monitoring dashboards. It should allow you to continuously commission your factories and buildings by weighing the probability of equipment failure and advising personnel of preventative actions before faults occur. The goal, of course, is to save energy and carbon consumption, to reduce downtime, and to improve maintenance efficiency.

  7. Advanced Alarming: An advanced SCADA system should come with enterprise-wide alarm and event management systems that can handle the most demanding applications. It should allocate and filter alarms from any alarm system or subscribe to multiple alarm servers and enhance normalized alarms with live data sources. It should offer extensive tools to deliver and view real-time and historical alarm information.

  8. Integrated SMS/Email Alerts: At minimum, a top SCADA should provide alert notifications via email or SMS text. More desirably, it should be able to distribute enterprise-wide alarm notifications via email, pager, fax, voice, text-to-speech, phone, instant messaging, and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, and on boards, task trays, and video.

  9. Scalability – Cloud-Ready & Modular: A top SCADA should be cloud-ready and be able to run on cloud-based virtual machines that would in turn enable you to distribute your application to scale and get instant access to KPIs and critical information from any device. Additionally, an advanced SCADA should be equipped to handle the entire expanse of your global enterprise from a few hundred tags to millions of tags daily. As tags are polled dynamically, even when tag configuration grows, the server CPU should not be burdened.

  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. Most SCADA installations are done by domain experts, either a knowledgeable engineering team at a large corporation or an independent contractor (system integrator). System integrators need a solution that is powerful for their variety of applications and that delivers tools for rapid and automated development. Moreover, end users benefit from configurable solutions that don’t require software development “code”. While SCADA solutions that are code-based would seem to be able to handle anything, it comes at a price - a more challenging development cycle, higher support costs, and the inability to easily learn and take ownership of the end solution. 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.

Additional Aspects of a SCADA System to Consider

  • Workflow: A top SCADA solution will offer a powerful infrastructure for workflow management; in other words, it will trigger processes to perform actions and engage users in standardized procedures.

  • Project Documentation: There is an old saying, “The job’s not finished until the paperwork is done.” In the world of SCADA, that means application documentation. Advanced SCADA solutions will offer tools for generating reports and other project documentation. Many SCADA solutions overlook this functionality and rely on manual exports and hours of offline/external formatting to get the paperwork done. This approach is both time-consuming and error-prone and will result in poor or outdated system documentation. Documentation is typically put off until the end of a project when time and money are running out. Therefore, application documentation as a core component of SCADA is extremely valuable to both system integrators and end users.

  • Common Technology Throughout the Product Portfolio: SCADA solutions from leading vendors can be the result of internal developments or company/product acquisitions, the latter being much more prominent in today’s market. Having to manage a portfolio of products that has been cobbled together over time with different initial developers, different development philosophies, and different underlying technologies is extremely costly and will slow down positive product evolution. The ideal SCADA will offer the use of common technology throughout the product portfolio, thus maximizing the development of every component and eliminating the replication of functionality in a product suite.

  • Vertical Market Support: Many SCADA vendors specialize in vertical markets such as water and wastewater, oil and gas, food and beverage, power, building automation, and CNC manufacturing, among others. These markets are often segmented through the availability of device connectivity but also benefit from canned analytics and symbol libraries. While SCADA solutions can be applied to any application by the right system integrator, your chosen SCADA vendor should also help in support of vertical markets with specialized SCADA functionality for that market by providing specialized support and expertise that has been cultivated over years of experience.

  • Pricing: Ultimately, you get what you pay for. If you purchase a bare bones SCADA system, sure, you’ll save on the license cost, but you’ll pay more for development, support, documentation, and maintenance. If you purchase a full featured system, your one-time license cost or subscription fee may be higher, but you will have a solution that is easier to learn and maintain, faster to implement, and much more reliable in the long run.


How Microsoft cut 22% of their energy usage using ICONICS

A prime use case of a top SCADA system can be found at Microsoft headquarters, where energy usage was cut by 22% after implementing ICONICS software. This not only had tremendous impact on the environment, but also resulted in saving millions of dollars annually. Want to learn more about this use case? Read our blog!

Contact us

If you want to find out more about a top SCADA system, we can tell you all there is to know about ICONICS GENESIS64 HMI/SCADA. Koning & Hartman Belgium advises and supports your smart building projects using the ICONICS intelligent building software. With our years of experience and know-how, we help companies transition to a smarter and sustainable future.


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