The last few years have witnessed a quiet revolution in our homes. From systems that understand our behavior and automatically take care of heating and cooling for us to voice assistants that can be told to order a pizza and get it delivered. All of this with minimal human intervention. While the most prominent smart devices are thermostats and voice assistants, smart appliances, security and medical devices are increasing their share in the smart home market which is expected to reach 57B USD by 2025.
Why is this relevant?
In contrast to the advances in smart homes, the adoption of smart technologies in industry has been terribly slow to say the least. SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems are the de-facto management systems for operational technology for many industries. A SCADA system is composed of SCADA software, the equipment that is controlled and monitored and the underlying communications infrastructure. With perhaps the exception of SCADA software, these systems have not changed much in the last decades. PLCs and RTUs are still the “brains” of infrastructure equipment with not much embedded smartness. Communications protocols developed in the 1980’s (BACnet, Modbus, DNP3 and others) are still the dominant protocols and although continue to be developed, are still behind. Wired connections are still the dominant communications infrastructure.
For SCADA systems to catch up, the entire operational technology stack needs to be revamped. RTUs and PLCs must adopt new protocols and communications subsystems need to allow for wireless and mobile connection characteristics. The technologies that have enabled smart homes like artificial intelligence, edge computing, cloud scaling and resiliency and newer security protocols are to be leveraged to enable the new generation of operational technologies.