SCADA vs. IIoT: Which is better for your operations?

IoT platforms are on the rise. But for those with legacy systems, the question becomes, “Don’t we already have a SCADA system for it?”

Much like Schrödinger’s cat, the answer is both yes and no.

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems allow for the monitoring, gathering, and processing of device information—as do IoT platforms. But it’s a disservice to equate the two. Here are three critical differences.

#1: How data is collected

SCADA collects data on-premises for real-time decision-making through a wired connection to a Programmable Logic Controller or Remote Terminal Unit (though wireless options are increasingly available).

IoT platforms, on the other hand, use wireless database connections to store data on-premises or in the cloud, which offers a bit more flexibility.

Additionally, SCADA systems focus on equipment status (speed, state, etc.), which provides good visibility and control over real-time operations.

In contrast, IoT platforms collect more varied data, from equipment to environment to submeter and more. Rather than acting solely as an alert system, these platforms are better suited for predictive maintenance and autonomous decision-making. SCADA systems tell you when things go wrong; IoT platforms show how operations can improve.

#2: How data is accessed

In SCADA systems, sensors send data to PLCs or RTUs, which feed data to a central system. This data is generally transmitted using machine protocols, usually OPC UA, which limits readability and data exchanges. After all, SCADA systems monitor and control specific industrial processes. Data silos are inherent (and logical!) to their purpose. But while IoT platforms can perform many of the same core functions, their use cases are more varied.

IoT monitoring translates machine languages into open internet protocols. Transforming the languages makes data more accessible and allows more specialized use cases. For example, those working in data analysis may prefer to access the data in an easily read format such as JSON.

Being able to pull data using JSON, SQL, and the like gives IoT platforms greater scope and ease of use than their SCADA counterparts.

#3: How it scales

SCADA’s traditional architecture puts it at a scaling disadvantage; increasing users degrades performance. Furthermore, while SCADA systems excel at real-time data, their limited processing power and holding capacity make increasing data load difficult. Finally, integrating new vendors—or even new equipment—can be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

IoT platforms lack many of these restrictions. The ability to transform data allows more accessible adaptation and integration with new technologies. Its serverless architecture makes scaling more achievable, especially with the flexibility to process and store data both on the edge and in the cloud.

SCADA vs. IoT: Which is right for me?

This is a bit of a trick question—both SCADA and IoT platforms have their areas of expertise. While IoT platforms can also fulfill the same purpose as SCADA systems, the reality is that SCADA systems are present in most industrial environments. Rather than rip out existing infrastructure, it may be better to augment the current system with an IoT platform.

After all, SCADA does an excellent job providing real-time alerts and remote control of operations—there’s no need to stop that. Integrating an IoT platform opens up new possibilities for large-scale analytics and optimizations. Working together, SCADA and IoT platforms can improve industrial operations on a large scale.

Article by: Faircom

Pedro Mier

Pedro Mier holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineer ing from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, MBA from ESADE and PADE from IESE. He is currently President of AMETIC (Association of Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications Companies of Spain), Shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of TRYO Aerospace & Electronics, Board Member of the Premo Group and Committee of CTTC. member of Space Angels Network and Member of the Sc ientific Advisory