Virtual panel discussion: Does IoT replace SCADA?

August 3rd, 2017, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


Does the internet of things (IoT) replace supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)? Can the two be integrated? And what is the difference between the two? These three questions were asked by Kudzai Manditreza in a recent LinkedIn discussion. We invited South African industry players to share their views on these and other important questions about the implementation of IoT, Industry 4.0 and the interaction with the well-established SCADA system. Here are some of the views:

The question that is so often asked: “Is IoT real or still hype?  Has it already been implemented in your area of operation? And to what extent?

Selvan Murugan, Royal HaskoningDHV.

Selvan Murugan, automation specialist, Royal HaskoningDHV says that IoT is definitely real. “There are also numerous statistics which cement the realness of the IoT concept, most notably that in 2008 there were already more connected ‘things’ than people on earth. Organisations that play in this space have also invested billions of Rand in sensor development, platform development, and application software development. There are already IoT products and services in use by the general public e.g. smartphone that track heath statistics, wearable heart rate monitors and my personal favourite, a wearable sensor that tracks my tennis rack speed, swing and number of strokes!”

All participants in the virtual panel discussion made similar comments supporting Murugan’s statement that IoT is not just hype. Here are some of the other comments:

Jaco Markwat, sales and marketing director, Wonderware Southern Africa: The industrial internet of things (IIoT), smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 are more than just buzzwords, they’re technologies and concepts being used today to optimise operations, identify hidden efficiencies, and improve asset reliability and performance. Operational technology (OT) systems running industrial applications must be improved upon to better visualise performance while seamlessly integrating with information technology (IT) applications. Adopters are finding asset and energy management to be fertile ground for IIoT initiatives that deliver meaningful results quickly and at relatively low cost.”

Jaco Markwat, Wonderware Southern Africa.

Dave Wibberley, managing director, Adroit Technologies: “If you consider what the real benefits IIoT/Industry 4.0 has been touted to deliver, we really need to extend into an enterprise wide solution that extends across business units, possibly globally. I think there are very few of these actually running and most customers are cautiously approaching and are still in the proof of concept phase. One of the big constraints is the cost of sensors and data to really make this possible. However, with networks such as SigFox, NBIoT being rolled out in SA, where the goal of these is limited data, low bandwidth and cost reduction specifically for IoT solutions, this will change.”

Tony Smallwood, executive head, Vodacom IoT for Africa: “Some industries are more mature than others such as vehicle/fleet tracking in South Africa, which was originally developed as a response to the high levels of car theft in the country. Another factor which will drive IoT adoption is the evolution of low power wide area networks (LPWA) opening up new use cases for the adoption of IoT and we believe one of the key verticals will be industrial and manufacturing.”

Ian Jansen van Rensburg, senior manager: technical pre-sales at VMware Sub-Saharan Africa: Implementing an IoT solution today is a huge challenge for enterprises, as they often need to cobble together offerings from various vendors with few standards and little guidance.”

What is the difference between SCADA and IoT?

Dave Wibberly, Adroit Technologies.

Quintin McCutcheon, software business lead, Schneider Electric: Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), as the name suggests, enables real-time acquisition of data from peripheral devices such as programmable logic controllers (PLC), intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) and even IoT sensors; and enables a user to manage or supervise a process through a graphical user interface. The IoT or IIoT is a network of sensors, actuators, physical devices and virtual devices that are connected and may or may not have embedded intelligence to self-diagnose or operate independently. These devices are able to detect each other and interact with each other.

“All the information generated by these devices is collected in some form of cloud-based application which can be hosted on-premises for time sensitive decisions or off-premise for non-time sensitive decisions. Machine learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence may be applied to the data that has been collected to support in optimisation of the business; however most IoT applications have not yet been implemented to this extent.”

Mark Dilchert, managing director, Integr8 & Autom8: “A SCADA platform is a great operational tool to give the user a view of the plant operation and happenings. All alarming processes are at a single point and site. This data holds little to no value in the bigger picture when comparing other plants and processes for efficiencies and sits as a silo of information for the user to decipher and respond to. IOT is the next evolution in this process, not only providing the user with data outside of the plant operation, but also linking multiple plants, applications and big data for further analysis and algorithms which can then be applied to a ROI which can be shown in numbers, visuals and applied to enterprise level, BI and cloud.”

Tony Smallwood, Vodacom.

Dave Wibberley “Technically there is no difference – it is telemetry to SCADA. There are standards such as MQTT being offered by both vendors of sensors and SCADA/IoT solutions offerings. Most IoT platforms offer the ability to connect their machines/devices into a cloud solution. Very often they are using standard cloud offerings from Microsoft, Amazon, SAP Hanna clouds etc. which all have API’s that allow SCADA companies to read and write down to these ‘things’ by implementing a driver interface at the SCADA. The big difference in the industrial SCADA guys is that they offer far more mature and open products that can deliver real-time visualisation, reports and analytics off-the-shelf. Amongst SCADA vendors there is a far greater understanding of challenges facing the implementation, security etc. I believe SCADA is very well entrenched and will interact seamlessly with ‘edge computing’ solutions which in turn will interact with cloud solutions, particularly in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies that would process and pass optimisation support solutions back into the production environment. Examples of this would be optimisation of set points and other production parameters based on big data and optimisations algorithms being offered by SAAS vendors in the cloud.”

Jaco Markwat: “For manufacturers and other industrial organisations, one of the major market pressures is to cut down on costs and drive towards achieving operational excellence. To be successful, it is imperative to understand how to leverage information technologies and operational automation, provide visibility, manage compliance and squeeze efficiency out of the operations, in real-time. SCADA delivers the connectivity between field devices, automation systems and software applications, but also enables the real-time and contextualised integration between IT and OT. No enterprise can simply rip and replace an existing IT/OT infrastructure. The new IIoT opportunity is based on leveraging the availability of low cost and reliable sensors or new smart devices, to gather additional points of operating information, gain fresh insight and drive operational improvement without having to re-engineer or adapt the existing automation infrastructure.”

Will loT replace SCADA? Or can the two be integrated? If so what is required to achieve integration and which organisation should take the lead?

Ian Jansen van Rensburg, VMware.

Tony Smallwood: “In the future I believe that the top SCADA platforms will offer more ‘IoT-like’ functionality and Industrial IoT platforms will provide more ‘SCADA-like’ functionality until there won’t really be a difference between the two. Until that happens, businesses will need to decide on a technology based on their requirements and what they have already invested in. For businesses that have already deployed SCADA but want the benefits of IoT, they can integrate their SCADA into an IoT platform. For this to be possible, at a minimum both the SCADA and IoT platforms should have a complete API to enable the exchange of data and commands between the two. In terms of the lead, this will depend on the primary business goal. If the goal is only to make your operational data available to other parts of the business then the SCADA provider can probably lead. However, if the goal is to integrate the operational data across a business, as well as potentially vendors and customers and ultimately take advantage of the benefits of big data analytics, then the IoT partner should probably lead.”

Selvan Murugan: “I see the integration of IoT concepts, platforms and solutions being integrated with SCADA technology and functions. The result will be a consolidated platform which can be deployed both at the plant (IIoT) and the cloud (IoT) levels, depending on the application requirements. SCADA vendors have already begun implementing IoT concepts into their solutions. I do not think that any single organisation will take the lead to provide these consolidated platforms, but each OEM will endeavour to develop their own product in order to be relevant in the market. In a sense, this is probably the best way of consolidating and sharing the benefits from both technologies as it will offer users differentiating benefits and opportunities to drive down costs during the selection of these systems.”

Petrus Klopper, managing director, Ai2SA: “ speculates how architecture of the future will differ from today. One of the scary changes relates to a potential future system of bypassing the middle layers of PLC, SCADA and even MES whereby I/O could be directly connected to an ERP system so in a way it could be argued that IIoT/IoT could replace SCADA.”

What standards are there in place for IoT, and who should coordinate these? ETSI? IEEE?

Quintin McCutcheon, Schneider Electric.

Mark Dilchert: “Currently there is very little along the lines of standards as the world of IOT is evolving too quickly to actually stop and take stock. Once again, a reputable company with credentials is important to gauge the level of success and implementation. There are also industry guidelines given by most vendors who are involved in the technology. Once you’ve read a couple you will see a fairly clearly guided path between all of them. We look at certain focuses like edge computing as part of our standards to reduce the amount of data and information driven up, unless the client has the need for it.”

Selvan Murugan: “The IoT as an all-encompassing interconnect platform has no central IoT standards and no real oversight over the development of the various sensors, communications of platform technologies. One key thing to understand is that the IoT requires numerous technologies in order to function effectively, from wireless communications, to data security, to intercommunications with other devices. A single standard isn’t likely to cover all this, any more than a single standard covers the way your laptop/PDA works. It is very likely that standardisation will be driven in a layered approach focusing on applications, services, network and the access layers. Application layer standards are being developed by standard bodies such as IETF, OASIS, OMSA and W3C, services by organisations like oneM2M, OIC, AllSeen, networks by organisations such as IEEE, Bluetooth SIG, 3GPP etc.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), founded in March 2014, is working on guidelines related to industrial applications of the IoT. It’s mainly backed by large enterprises, including GE, IBM, Cisco, AT&T, and Intel. (These five companies have permanent seats on the IIC Steering Committee.)

Established in June 2015, the International Telecommunication Union has an emerging standard that is designed not only to cover the IoT but also smart cities and communities (SC&C). The SG20 standard “is responsible for international standards to enable the coordinated development of IoT technologies, including machine-to-machine communications and ubiquitous sensor networks.

In my opinion, the development of standards for the IOT should be driven from a data security and risk perspective, with end solutions to be de-risked by suitably qualified and competent persons.”

Petrus Klopper, Ai2SA.

Jaco Markwat: “There are many protocols to accomplish connectivity between industrial devices and platforms. Some are proprietary and others based on open standards driven by various organisations, which include OPC UA, OPC DA, HTTP (REST/JSON) and MQTT. MQTT seems to be the protocol of choice due to its efficiency, security and scalability. These and many future protocols will co-exist, the more important question is whether your platform is firstly system hardware agnostic, and secondly allows for native and easy integration of new client protocols as they emerge.”

If IoT or the similar German version Industry 4.0 is the future in industry, are there any obstacles that slow down implementation and if so what are they and how can they be overcome?

Quintin McCutcheon: “Several barriers will need to be overcome before next generation IIoT systems are widely adopted across industry, such as the establishment of industry standards around IIoT. This goes beyond the simple communication protocols, and involves the creation of standard semantics and mechanisms that will allow smart devices to discover each other and interoperate.

Mark Dilchert, Intergr8 & Autom8.

The advent of the IIoT is accelerating the need for cyber security in industrial control systems. The complexity of IIoT will mean that cyber security must be designed into the components that make up the automation system. The adoption of industrial security standards with certification will be essential to the advancement of IIoT because it will ensure the security not just of individual assets but also of the larger systems of systems.

The skill-sets required to design and operate an IIoT-based system are somewhat different from those needed to run a classical automation system. A significant amount of re-training will be required for existing operators and maintenance staff to manage such systems. The good news is that the IIoT systems will use technologies that are familiar in everyday life, and the new generation of young operators will have no problems adapting to this new approach.”

Ian Jansen van Rensburg: “Although most companies agree with and want the obvious benefits of implementing IoT, they struggle to put it to work because IoT is hard to implement on an enterprise scale. Companies run into issues including, but not limited to, the following: lack of standardisation, security; adaptability and scalability. The real potential of IoT can only be realised by connecting the physical and digital worlds, it also mandates the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

Despite their historical differences, IoT is only possible if industrial-grade OT equipment can smoothly transition to the internet and communicate to other devices on the same connection. Mission-critical OT equipment operates in harsh environments, remote locations, and were never designed to connect to the internet. Moreover, a strong resistance to change in both organisations and a serious lack of trust for each other, only exacerbates the problem. The impact of these two organisations operating separately not only poses a serious security risk but also slows down innovation, risking an enterprise to lose its competitive edge.”

Dave Wibberley: “There are many obstacles. We as vendors are famous for creating new markets, IIoT being one. Whilst the potential is there I think we are way off in the industrial sector from delivering on the vision. Customers are conservative and cost aware, and adoption is very slow due to uncertainty. We are seeing more interaction with the large consulting firms such as Deloitte, who are chasing this from an enterprise CFO/CIO level, and where they are comfortable in the analytics, business process and ERP/CRM layer where they measure the results. They are equally uncomfortable in the real-time world which at the end of the day will generate the data that needs to be reliable, consistent and relevant.”

Selvan Murugan: “The IoT is a key technology in the Industry 4.0 project conceived under the German federal government’s strategy focusing on information and communication technology (informatics). The goal is the intelligent factory (smart factory), which is characterised by adaptability, resource efficiency, and ergonomics, as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes.

For me, the biggest limitation to the IoT is regulation. Almost all data will be transmitted over the internet where the owners of these networks also offer these networks and services to other clients. This essentially means that the users of these networks are subject to network reconfigurations, data throttling and denial of services – all intelligently managed by hosts who are not connected to the factory.”

Thank you to the participants in the virtual discussion. While IoT (and IIoT) is still in its development stage, SCADA platforms will in future offer more “IoT-like” functionality and industrial IoT platforms will provide more “SCADA-like” functionality until there won’t really be a difference between the two. Your comments matter to us and your readers. Share your views in our letter column. Send your comments to

Note: IoT and IIoT are used interchangeable. While in some industrial sectors the community prefers to distinguish industrial IoT (IIoT) from IoT, the trend is moving towards incorporating all versions of IoT under one name.


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