The Next Evolution for SCADA will include M2M

Next Generation Communications Blog

The Next Evolution for SCADA will include M2M

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Is machine-to-machine (M2M) technology the future of SCADA?

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is widely used by railways, highways management, power utilities and the oil & gas industry, among others. It brings an end-to-end supervisory system which acquires data from the field through Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) or Intelligent Electrical Devices (IEDs) and connects it to sensors through a communications network.

The oil industry employs SCADA technology to monitor offshore and onshore extraction, for instance.

Some pundits are predicting the end of SCADA in the near future.  However, a recent TrackTalk article by Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation, Oil & Gas Segments, Alcatel-Lucent, entitled with the same question posed above, Is M2M killing SCADA?, arrives at a different answer.  Sens argues that SCADA instead will adapt and include M2M, which is closely related to the Internet-of-Things (IoT) megatrend currently sweeping the consumer world.

After three-generations of SCADA (standalone SCADA, distributed SCADA and networked SCADA), industries such as the railways are now using M2M for part of their SCADA needs.

“M2M is revolutionizing SCADA by offering standardization and openness,” noted Sens. “Indeed several communication protocols between a backend and a machine have been standardised by the Open Mobile Alliance and the Broadband Forum. M2M is also providing scalability, interoperability, and enhanced security by introducing the concept of middleware.”

With middleware, the fragmented SCADA solutions with individual sensors talking only to their respective backend applications can be eliminated.

“Middleware collects, syndicates and manages all flows using open communication standards and exposes the data through standard APIs and Web Services,” noted Sens. “This has enabled the development of business applications and business analytics software on top of this middleware which can compute the information collected from millions of devices.”

Once example of this is the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). They have been pioneering the use of M2M to improve the efficiency of applications in use on 3039km of lines across its network with the ultimate goal of reducing costs by up to 15 percent by 2018. Their step-by-step rollout is looking to deliver efficiency savings and an improvement in operations, and does not emphasize a single technology or specific area; it covers telecoms, operations in areas such as point maintenance, fibre optic systems and rolling stock fleet monitoring, as well as other areas.

“M2M is considered the next phase in the evolution of SCADA and logical platform for an upgrade when the time is right,” concludes the Alcatel-Lucent blog post on the topic. “It finally offers a standardized, scalable, inter-operable and future-proof solution that does not tie a customer to a single supplier but still delivers the improved efficiency and reduced costs associated with SCADA applications over the past 40 years.”

And that’s a good thing.

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