Collaboration with IIoT and SCADA Technology

Reading through the many articles about IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) these days reminded me of conversations I’ve had on this subject over the last few years, generated by the collision of IoT hype, and the digital transformation of industry known as Industry 4.0. While Industry 4.0 and IIoT are often used interchangeably, they shouldn’t be. “Industrie 4.0” is a relatively well-defined movement originating in Germany a decade ago. It is a very broad initiative of which IoT/IIoT is but one component. For this discussion, I’ll focus on the SCADA/IIoT conversation.

The biggest challenge in this conversation is comparing a well-known term, “SCADA” with a nebulous, undefined term “IIoT,” which has some of the same hype issues as “IoT”.

I see SCADA continuing as the focal point for those tasked with monitoring and controlling critical processes, and most likely, maintaining a classic Purdue model for the control architecture. IIoT has a different focus – and architectural requirements. IIoT discussions relate to topics such as asset management (e.g. predictive maintenance), and process optimization (e.g. energy management).

Is there overlap with SCADA and IIoT? Yes! The common denominator is data. SCADA and IIoT both need data to achieve their respective goals. And, in many cases, they both use the same sources for data – “devices” also known as sensors. They just use the data for different purposes. Further, as a general statement, unlike SCADA, IIoT data is not critical data. As such, there are different implications on how data is obtained, transported, stored, and accessed. Safe to say the classic Purdue model does not hold for IIoT applications.

Of course, if there were clear lines of delineation between SCADA and IIoT, there would be no need for this discussion. The confusion comes from the blurring of lines between these functions. There are cloud-based SCADA systems – and big concerns over security and reliability. And, some business applications move data through SCADA systems which bring concerns of security for internet-connected systems, and potential access to critical systems.

In summary, we may be doing nothing more than arguing semantics. Regardless of the terms we use, the digital transformation of industry is upon us, and will only accelerate. Fortunately, we’re all part of an organization that will equip us, its members, to lead the conversation on this important issue.