The Internet of Things is set to revolutionize the pursuit of operational excellence in the oil and gas industries, and SCADA will play a big part in this.
An IoT overlay on top of your supervisory control and data acquisition system (SCADA) will help you gain control to maximize asset optimization, providing the ability to inform and automate workflow processes.
The roots of SCADA go back to the 1960s, a lifetime in IT. SCADA technology is hardware-oriented, and can be difficult and costly to upgrade or scale. Also, the SCADA ecosystem is plagued with numerous, vendor-specific protocols, which are mutually incompatible, meaning that its systems are typically siloed. This is a significant challenge for organizations that need a system-wide view of operations, such as electric companies working toward a smart grid.
More fundamentally, SCADA systems are designed for managing day-to-day operations and providing information that lets operators react quickly to problems. They were never designed to support new architectures that let operators anticipate problems and deal with them before they cause trouble.
For all these drawbacks, SCADA is by no means without benefits. SCADA vendors offer hardened devices that can withstand the extreme temperatures and other adverse environmental factors frequently encountered in the oil and gas industry. SCADA systems also maintain logic when connections are broken or even in the case of power failures, which is extremely important for ensuring a safe shutdown. SCADA is a closed system that cannot be hacked and is therefore not subject to the same security risks as Internet-based systems. Finally, SCADA is a known quantity, one that has been field proven over decades.
Enter IoT. The most important advantage of asset management systems based on IoT technology is that they have been designed from the ground up to support the proactive integration strategies that new levels of operational excellence demand.
Besides providing an overall approach that supports future improvement through digitalization, IoT systems have other benefits. They are software-oriented, which makes them inherently more flexible than SCADA. Scaling is easier and less costly. IoT sensors are smart, high-data sensors and costs are rapidly falling.
IoT systems run on open, standard protocols that facilitate the incorporation of SCADA input, thus extending the value of legacy systems. And to state the obvious, they are Internet-ready. The Internet has become such a common feature of everyday life that it’s easy to forget its enormously important communication benefits, such as anytime, anywhere access.
IoT systems are also not without their drawbacks. They lack the “air gap” security of SCADA systems, which means they require web-based security measures. Strong passwords, encryption, blockchain technology, cloud-based security measures and the rise of a strong culture of security within organizations are all contributing to increasingly strong security within IoT systems.
In our next post, we will discuss how using the IoT and SCADA can propel your organization to the next level of operational excellence.
Meanwhile, take a look at our white paper below.