As an acronym for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, SCADA is a concept that is used to refer to the management and procurement of data that can be used in developing process management criteria. The use of the term SCADA varies, depending on location. In North America, SCADA refers to a distributed measurement and management system that operates on a large-scale basis. For the rest of the world, SCADA refers to a system that performs the same basic functions, but operates in a number of different environments as well as a multiplicity of scales. While the use of the term SCADA may not be uniform, many components are the same, regardless of the scale of the process.
Data collection and control of that data is essential to any SCADA process. Along with the task of acquiring the data, there also has to be a means of managing the data. It is this supervisory component that helps to make sense of the collected data and allow for its application in a number of different ways. A sound SCADA system will allow for quick and easy retrieval of the data as it relates to a number of different scenarios, such as market research, quality control, and even something as simple as marketing and sales brochure development.
In order for a system to be classified as a SCADA, there will be a number of hardware components required. A database with appropriate search and store software lays the foundation for the system. A programmable logic controller allows for the assimilation and classification of the collected data. A network to house the SCADA and allow for local and remote terminal unit access is also necessary. The formation of a central repository system allows for both a single point of control or monitoring function of the data, while also qualifying any remote access and use of the data. HMI, or human-machine interface, allows the automatic protocols to be suspended if necessary so that an individual with proper credentials can process the data that is under the collection and assimilation process.
Usually, a master station that includes the servers and software that allow for and monitor communication with field equipment that is used to gather data as well as allow for HMI access will pretty much complete the SCADA landscape. The result is a resource that is constantly expanding and can access data much more quickly than any other process currently within the limits of human technology. In some instances, access to a SCADA can come up with conclusions much faster than a standard computer/human interface. SCADA can help to quickly research obscure diseases, correlate the direction of a storm front, or perform any number of tasks involving the evaluation of data much more quickly than most systems that rely on human intervention to determine where to search for relevant information can accomplish.