SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), along with PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), DCS (Distributed Control Systems), and BMS (Building Management Systems) are widely used across industries to deliver the intelligence and control necessary to manage complex processes at a large scale. These industries include, but are not limited to: refineries, utilities, water and wastewater treatment, mining, and food processing.

Equipment failure can result in a catastrophic impact to supply chain, company KPIs, and profit. To maintain system integrity, many companies are now deploying IoT (Internet of Things) and condition monitoring technologies to complement existing supervisory systems. The goal is to notify users when a failure is imminent. Users can also visualize exactly what issue arises through a powerful IoT concept called ‘Digital Twins.’

When Systems Fail

There are two main classes of failures that IoT and Digital Twin systems address, equipment failure and process failure. Equipment failure happens when the equipment deteriorates over time or fails catastrophically without warning. When this happens, the root cause can be difficult to pinpoint. Process failure conditions occur when an external failure results in decreased product quality or other inefficiencies.

In a process failure, the final product does not meet predetermined quality standards and process engineers and operators must figure out why. While SCADA and DCS systems are designed to keep the process running under known conditions, it is when conditions change that IoT systems can provide additional diagnostics and insight to quickly remedy the problem.

What is a Digital Twin?

The concept of Digital Twins is integral to Industry 4.0 and product lifecycle management. Originally conceived by General Electric, the concept has taken hold in many disciplines where virtual software is used to model complex physical systems to optimize their performance, deliver troubleshooting diagnostics, and provide simulated environments for testing and training purposes. Today Digital Twin technology can be found in industrial, consumer and medical products to name only a few.

7 Reasons to Augment your Existing Solution with IoT

1. Smart Sensor Capability

Vibration analysis, anomaly detection, systematic grading over time, and other measurements, can provide visual indicators and alerts of equipment and process performance. Best in class IoT sensor solutions can provide a mix of digital and analog sensor integration capabilities.

2. Fast, Simple Installation

IoT sensors offer a quick and easy-to-install way to monitor equipment without the need for hardwired installation. Adding sensors to traditional systems requires expensive engineering and programming.

Alternatively, IoT sensors can complement SCADA, DCS, and BMS, and are well suited for hazardous or hard-to-reach areas.

3. 24/7 Failure Diagnostics

IoT sensors can be selected to detect the slightest variation in performance. They provide high-speed data capture for equipment that is experiencing difficult to diagnose intermittent problems. These sporadic issues are often missed by traditional supervisory systems.

4. Uncover Valuable Process Information

IoT sensor platforms can be used to quickly tune, optimize, or increase the speed, quality, and efficiency of production. Areas of opportunity can be discovered when evaluating new sources of sensor information to support continuous improvement initiatives.

5. Digital Twins

IoT can be used to create Digital Twins – powerful diagnostic tools used to manage equipment and identify process failures. Digital Twins focus on equipment maintenance and troubleshooting. SCADA, PLCs, DCS, and BMS primarily focus on managing the process when everything is running smoothly. These systems are not typically engineered to predict or diagnose equipment malfunction. Digital Twins excel in this area, simplifying troubleshooting by visualizing the asset and highlighting data driven anomalies.

6. Remote Connectivity

IoT solutions provide fast and easy remote connectivity for off-site monitoring of critical equipment. Users can examine critical equipment’s present and historical data to determine if action is needed. Remote access to data allows operators and maintenance staff to be more proactive without necessarily needing to physically visit the facility. Facilities that are physically difficult to reach, or numerous in quantity, are easily monitored from anywhere in the world.

7. IT Friendly and Cyber Secure

Modern IoT systems transmit data over a secure and encrypted wireless connection. Data can be transmitted directly to both the cloud and mobile apps without requiring corporate network access. Staying outside the corporate Internet Technology (IT) systems allows for greater security, flexibility, and eliminates the need for system integration work.

How IoT Integrates with Existing Systems

SCADA, PLCs, DCS, and BMS form the backbone of many process systems. IoT is an affordable, fast, and easy-to-install method to create Digital Twins, which enhance process performance with detailed diagnostics. Traditional systems installation require hardwiring, custom software, and third-party engineering and design.

IoT systems are more plug-and-play oriented. IoT empowers plant personnel to quickly focus on the problems they need to solve. IoT will never replace traditional control systems for the core control functions they perform. While IoT avoids the need to hardwire sensors, it is possible to exchange the data between traditional and IoT systems using standard industry protocols or Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). IoT is proven to be effective at enhancing and improving process uptime and productivity by preventing failures and identifying ways to optimize performance. Overall, IoT complements existing control solutions, rather than replaces them.

SCADA, PLCs, DCS, and BMS help operators access actionable data and manage equipment. Wireless battery powered long range IoT sensors work seamlessly with existing control systems to quickly analyze and visualize data from industrial equipment. Some critical measurements taken from the equipment may include temperature, vibration, pressure, power and more.

Why it Matters

IoT and Digital Twin technology enables predictive maintenance, which improves the uptime, quality, and safety of industrial facilities.

When existing supervisory systems are combined with an IoT condition monitoring system, the operation becomes more efficient. Monitoring the equipment allows for data trending, failure detection, and predictive analytics. The two systems are collaborative, and provide incredible value to end users, service providers, and OEMs alike.

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About the Author 

Aaron Ganick co-founded Preddio Technologies in early 2020. Aaron has degrees in electrical engineering from Boston University and has led numerous start-ups and corporate technology ventures. He spent the last 5+ years in the commercial and residential IoT/smart energy industry and is excited to bring these technologies into the industrial and enterprise markets. In his free time Aaron enjoys woodworking, projects around the house, and spending time with his wife, 2-yearold twin girls, and French bulldog (Einstein).

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