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

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Many are wondering: With SCADA systems already in place, why would we need an IIoT platform?

With the rise of the Industrial IoT comes a shift in operations. Many newcomers to the industry have turned to IIoT platforms to handle the vast amount of data being generated at the edge. But for those with legacy systems, the question becomes, “Don’t we already have a SCADA system for it?”

Similar to Schrödinger's cat, the answer is both yes and no.

SCADA vs. IIoT platforms

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems help monitor, collect, and process device information. IIoT platforms can also perform similar functions; however, relegating these technologies under the same umbrella disservices them both.

Here are four critical differences to consider when looking at SCADA vs. IIoT platforms.

Top Four Key Differences Between SCADA and IIoT Platforms

Table comparing SCADA systems and IoT platforms.

Difference #1: Data Collection Methods

An essential distinction between SCADA systems and IIoT platforms is how they collect data. SCADA collects data from sensors and devices on-premises for real-time decision-making. This data is held and processed inside the factory, but SCADA computers outside factories can still view it.

In the past, the sensors used by SCADA systems needed a wired connection to some type of controller. Now, wireless options are becoming more common. IIoT data management products like FairCom Edge use wireless connections to store data on-site or in the cloud, offering more flexibility than older SCADA systems.

SCADA systems collect data on equipment statuses like speed and state to alert overseers of any issues in the infrastructure. The plant managers can then control the line from a single Human-Machine Interface. This method provides good visibility and control over real-time operations.

In contrast, IIoT platforms collect more varied data, from equipment to environment to submeter and beyond. Instead of being limited to sending alerts, these platforms collect data from monitored devices that’s better suited to  monitor devices to predict maintenance needs and make autonomous decisions. While both can store historical data, the scope and quality of data collected by IIoT platforms is better suited for data analytics. SCADA systems tell you when things go wrong; IIoT platforms show how operations can improve.

Difference #2: How Users Access Data

In SCADA systems, sensors send data to Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) or Remote Terminal Units (RTUs), which then feed that data to a central system. From there, operators can access that data via a Human-Machine Interface.

You can find this panel on a terminal or workstation computer. Users need a specific setup to access real-time data from anywhere. Usually, machines send this information using protocols like OPC UA. Often, machine protocols only send binary data, making it unreadable, and machine-specific protocols prevent communication between devices.

This siloed approach can make it challenging to integrate new devices, meaning SCADA systems aren’t suited for integration.

That’s why FairCom Edge translates the machine languages to open internet protocols. Transforming the languages makes the data accessible outside an HMI.

It also allows for more specialized use cases. For instance, data analysts may prefer JSON for easily readable data. To achieve this, SCADA systems would require IT teams to set up various data adapters. However, IIoT platform automations allow for instant integration and data transformation capabilities.

Difference #3: How Platforms Transform Data

IIoT platforms help collect, connect, and manage data from various devices. FairCom Edge has a built-in transformation engine that allows data access regardless of API and enriches the data during transformation. This makes for a level of interoperability that SCADA systems can’t achieve.

After all, SCADA systems monitor and control specific industrial processes. Data silos are inherent (and logical!) to their purpose. But while IIoT platforms can perform many of the same core functions as SCADA systems, their use cases are more varied.

Transforming data with an IIoT platform creates more chances to use data effectively. This can include analyzing data on-premises or moving it to the cloud for more advanced AI analytics and machine learning. Industrial IoT programmers and engineers can access data in their preferred language using JSON and SQL queries. This gives IIoT platforms greater scope and ease of use than their SCADA counterparts.

This ability to retrieve data in different formats is beneficial for professionals in the field. That’s why FairCom specifically built an Edge database to allow factories to work more efficiently and effectively.

Difference #4: Scalability

For any successful manufacturer dealing with Industrial IoT, the issue of scaling will inevitably come up. It could involve adding more machines, processing more data, or other situations that need more computational power.

SCADA’s traditional architecture puts it at a disadvantage; increasing the number of users degrades performance. Furthermore, most SCADA systems hold a limited amount of data for a fixed period; they excel at real-time data, but the limited processing power and holding capacity make increasing the data load difficult. In addition, protocol limitations make it challenging to add new vendors or equipment.

IIoT platforms lack many of these restrictions. Platforms with the ability to transform data, like FairCom Edge, allow more accessible adaptation and integration with new technologies. Our edge platform’s plug-in architecture simplifies scaling for manufacturers. It can process and store data on the edge or in the cloud according to factory needs. This tailored approach enables architects to enhance IIoT data management processes.

The database takeaway

SCADA is excellent for providing real-time alerts and remote control of operations. If you already have one in place, there’s no reason to have it stop performing these functions. However, integrating an IIoT platform opens new possibilities for large-scale analytics and optimizations. Working together, SCADA systems and IIoT platforms can improve industrial operations on a large scale.

In addition, combining SCADA with IIoT platforms creates a cohesive ecosystem within the data. The IIoT platform can give insights and recommendations to the SCADA system based on the data shared between them. Overall, integrating SCADA systems with IIoT platforms like FairCom Edge lets industrial operations become more agile, responsive, and efficient, improving productivity and reducing costs.

Solve the SCADA vs. IIoT debate with a FairCom product demo

Both SCADA and IIoT platforms have their areas of expertise. While IIoT platforms can do many of the same things, most modern industries still use old SCADA systems. Rather than rip out existing infrastructure, it may be better to augment the current system with an IIoT platform. FairCom Edge is the leading Industry 4.0 and edge computing solution for a number of industries. To learn more and see how these solutions can work for you, schedule a FairCom product demo and find the right database product for your needs.

Written by:
Victoria Jones
Last Update:
June 20, 2024
FairCom Edge