SCADA Overview

2.0    SCADA Overview
SCADA is an acronym for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. SCADA systems are used to monitor and control a plant or equipment in industries such as telecommunications, water and waste control, energy, oil and gas refining and transportation. These systems encompass the transfer of data between a SCADA central host computer and a number of Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) and/or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and the central host and the operator terminals.
 A SCADA system gathers information (such as where a leak on a pipeline has occurred), transfers the information back to a central site, then alerts the home station that a leak has occurred, carrying out necessary analysis and control, such as determining if the leak is critical, and displaying the information in a logical and organized fashion. These systems can be relatively simple, such as one that monitors environmental conditions of a small office building, or very complex, such as a system that monitors all the activity in a nuclear power plant or the activity of a municipal water system. 
Traditionally, SCADA systems have made use of the Public Switched Network (PSN) for monitoring purposes.  Today many systems are monitored using the infrastructure of the corporate Local Area Network (LAN)/Wide Area Network (WAN). Wireless technologies are now being widely deployed for purposes of monitoring. 


SCADA systems consist of:

       One or more field data interface devices, usually RTUs, or PLCs, which interface to field sensing devices and local control switchboxes and valve actuators
       A communications system used to transfer data between field data interface devices and control units and the computers in the SCADA central host. The system can be radio, telephone, cable, satellite, etc., or any combination of these.

       A central host computer server or servers (sometimes called a SCADA Center, master station, or Master Terminal Unit (MTU) • A collection of standard and/or custom software [sometimes called Human Machine Interface (HMI) software or Man Machine Interface (MMI) software] systems used to provide the SCADA central host and operator terminal application, support the communications system, and monitor and control remotely located field data interface devices 

Figure 2.1: Current SCADA Communications Media



Figure 2.2: Typical SCADA System [4]

Figure 2.1 shows a very basic SCADA system, while Figure 2.2 shows a typical SCADA system. Each of the above system components will be discussed in detail in the next sections.


2.1 Field Data Interface Devices
Field data interface devices form the "eyes and ears" of a SCADA system. Devices such as reservoir level meters, water flow meters, valve position transmitters, temperature transmitters, power consumption meters, and pressure meters all provide information that can tell an experienced operator how well a water distribution system is performing. In addition, equipment such as electric valve actuators, motor control switchboards, and electronic chemical dosing facilities can be used to form the "hands" of the SCADA system and assist in automating the process of distributing water.  
However, before any automation or remote monitoring can be achieved, the information that is passed to and from the field data interface devices must be converted to a form that is compatible with the language of the SCADA system. To achieve this, some form of electronic field data interface is required. RTUs, also known as Remote Telemetry Units, provide this interface. They are primarily used to convert electronic signals received from field interface devices into the language (known as the communication protocol) used to transmit the data over a communication channel.   
The instructions for the automation of field data interface devices, such as pump control logic, are usually stored locally. This is largely due to the limited bandwidth typical of communications links between the SCADA central host computer and the field data interface devices. Such instructions are traditionally held within the PLCs, which have in the past been physically separate from RTUs. A PLC is a device used to automate monitoring and control of industrial facilities. It can be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a SCADA or other system.  PLCs connect directly to field data interface devices and incorporate programmed intelligence in the form of logical procedures that will be executed in the event of certain field conditions. 
 
PLCs have their origins in the automation industry and therefore are often used in manufacturing and process plant applications. The need for PLCs to connect to communication channels was not great in these applications, as they often were only required to replace traditional relay logic systems or pneumatic controllers. SCADA systems, on the other hand, have origins in early telemetry applications, where it was only necessary to know basic information from a remote source. The RTUs connected to these systems had no need for control programming because the local control algorithm was held in the relay switching logic.   

As PLCs were used more often to replace relay switching logic control systems, telemetry was used more and more with PLCs at the remote sites. It became desirable to influence the program within the PLC through the use of a remote signal. This is in effect the "Supervisory Control" part of the acronym SCADA. Where only a simple local control program was required, it became possible to store this program within the RTU and perform the control within that device. At the same time, traditional PLCs included communications modules that would allow PLCs to report the state of the control program to a computer plugged into the PLC or to a remote computer via a telephone line. PLC and RTU manufacturers therefore compete for the same market. 
As a result of these developments, the line between PLCs and RTUs has blurred and the terminology is virtually interchangeable. For the sake of simplicity, the term RTU will be used to refer to a remote field data interface device; however, such a device could include automation programming that traditionally would have been classified as a PLC. 


2.2    Communications Network 
The communications network is intended to provide the means by which data can be transferred between the central host computer servers and the field-based RTUs. The Communication Network refers to the equipment needed to transfer data to and from different sites. The medium used can either be cable, telephone or radio. 

The use of cable is usually implemented in a factory. This is not practical for systems covering large geographical areas because of the high cost of the cables, conduits and the extensive labor in installing them.  The use of telephone lines (i.e., leased or dial-up) is a more economical solution for systems with large coverage. The leased line is used for systems requiring on-line connection with the remote stations. This is expensive since one telephone line will be needed per site. Dial-up lines can be used on systems requiring updates at regular intervals (e.g., hourly updates). Here ordinary telephone lines can be used. The host can dial a particular number of a remote site to get the readings and send commands. 

Remote sites are usually not accessible by telephone lines. The use of radio offers an economical solution. Radio modems are used to connect the remote sites to the host. An on-line operation can also be implemented on the radio system. For locations where a direct radio link cannot be established, a radio repeater is used to link these sites. 
Historically, SCADA networks have been dedicated networks; however, with the increased deployment of office LANs and WANs as a solution for interoffice computer networking, there exists the possibility to integrate SCADA LANs into everyday office computer networks.  

The foremost advantage of this arrangement is that there is no need to invest in a separate computer network for SCADA operator terminals. In addition, there is an easy path to integrating SCADA data with existing office applications, such as spreadsheets, work management systems, data history databases, Geographic Information System (GIS) systems, and water distribution modeling systems. 

 
2.3   Central Host Computer 
The central host computer or master station is most often a single computer or a network of computer servers that provide a man-machine operator interface to the SCADA system. The computers process the information received from and sent to the RTU sites and present it to human operators in a form that the operators can work with. Operator terminals are connected to the central host computer by a LAN/WAN so that the viewing

Screens and associated data can be displayed for the operators. Recent SCADA systems are able to offer high resolution computer graphics to display a graphical user interface or mimic screen of the site or water supply network in question. Historically, SCADA vendors offered proprietary hardware, operating systems, and software that was largely incompatible with other vendors' SCADA systems. Expanding the system required a further contract with the original SCADA vendor. Host computer platforms characteristically employed UNIX-based architecture, and the host computer network was physically removed from any office-computing domain.  

However, with the increased use of the personal computer, computer networking has become commonplace in the office and as a result, SCADA systems are now available that can network with office-based personal computers. Indeed, many of today's SCADA systems can reside on computer servers that are identical to those servers and computers used for traditional office applications. This has opened a range of possibilities for the linking of SCADA systems to office-based applications such as GIS systems, hydraulic modeling software, drawing management systems, work scheduling systems, and information databases. 


2.4    Operator Workstations and Software Components 
Operator workstations are most often computer terminals that are networked with the SCADA central host computer. The central host computer acts as a server for the SCADA application, and the operator terminals are clients that request and send information to the central host computer based on the request and action of the operators. 

An important aspect of every SCADA system is the computer software used within the system. The most obvious software component is the operator interface or Man Machine Interface/Human Machine Interface (MMI/HMI) package; however, software of some form pervades all levels of a SCADA system. Depending on the size and nature of the SCADA application, software can be a significant cost item when developing, maintaining, and expanding a SCADA system. When software is well defined, designed, written, checked, and tested, a successful SCADA system will likely be produced. Poor performances in any of these project phases will very easily cause a SCADA project to fail.  

Many SCADA systems employ commercial proprietary software upon which the SCADA system is developed. The proprietary software often is configured for a specific hardware platform and may not interface with the software or hardware produced by competing vendors. A wide range of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software products also are available, some of which may suit the required application. COTS software usually is more flexible, and will interface with different types of hardware and software. Generally, the focus of proprietary software is on processes and control functionality, while COTS software emphasizes compatibility with a variety of equipment and instrumentation. It is therefore important to ensure that adequate planning is undertaken to select the software systems appropriate to any new SCADA system.


Software products typically used within a SCADA system are as follows:
       Central host computer operating system: Software used to control the central host computer hardware. The software can be based on UNIX or other popular operating systems.
       Operator terminal operating system: Software used to control the central host computer hardware. The software is usually the same as the central host computer operating system. This software, along with that for the central host computer, usually contributes to the networking of the central host and the operator terminals.
       Central host computer application: Software that handles the transmittal and reception of data to and from the RTUs and the central host. The software also provides the graphical user interface which offers site mimic screens, alarm pages, trend pages, and control functions.
       Operator terminal application: Application that enables users to access information available on the central host computer application. It is usually a subset of the software used on the central host computers.
       Communications protocol drivers: Software that is usually based within the central host and the RTUs, and is required to control the translation and interpretation of the data between ends of the communications links in the system. The protocol drivers prepare the data for use either at the field devices or the central host end of the system.
       Communications network management software: Software required to control the communications network and to allow the communications networks themselves to be monitored for performance and failures.
       RTU automation software: Software that allows engineering staff to configure and maintain the application housed within the RTUs (or PLCs). Most often this includes the local automation application and any data processing tasks that are performed within the RTU. 
The preceding software products provide the building blocks for the application-specific software, which must be defined, designed, written, tested, and deployed for each SCADA system.

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