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Web-based SCADA grabs more support

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, December 10, 2012

Power utilities are increasingly taking advantage of the constantly changing world of smart grid communications and networking technologies, which is helping to shape the future of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) practices and expand the automation technology into new devices.

According to Automation World, more companies are beginning to understand what SCADA has to offer, now that major improvements have been made to the system. The enhancements have helped reignite the fire for SCADA, which now gives utilities several options.

Perhaps the most important improvement to SCADA has been the quick and remote access utilities now have to their devices.

"The single greatest advance in SCADA is probably digital communications," said Gerry Browne, engineering manager at Phoenix-based Honeywell Process Solutions. "It’s never been as inexpensive or easy to get a network connection to a device anywhere in the world."

With such technology now available, companies can use it to create networks that are synced up with intelligent electronic devices that are spread out across a utility's entire field, no matter how remote the substations or devices are.

"A few years ago, field equipment would have only a serial port," Browne added. "Today, the same equipment might have its own Web server and methods that expose all its operating parameters. Remote data is now available immediately, allowing users to make better decisions."

According to the news source, with information on grid infrastructure now accessible over a variety of communication platforms, companies and smart grid technology vendors can perform a number of SCADA and maintenance tasks from a central operating location. This has led many to cut back on the number of workers needed to maintain grid reliability, as well as several other ways of improving operational efficiency.

However, as many benefits as there are from easier access to SCADA information, it also comes with the risk of vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Many utilities are taking the time to also install cyber security onto their systems to lower the chances of an external, unauthorized source tampering with data.

According to Smart Grid News, efficiency can be driven up with SCADA and substation automation in several ways, including less drive time for controllers, the ability to access devices from mobile phones and real-time data flow.

SUBNET helps utilities install these smart grid technologies, and also ensures these products are done so in accordance with NERC CIP regulations, which are enforced to improve utility cyber security. 

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