The Future of SCADA and IoT
- Aug 29, 2023
- Ayobami Adebiyi
- Joseph Nguyen
- Noah Schaffer
Computer-based systems including supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), industrial control systems (ICS), distributed control systems (DCS), and similar internet of things (IoT) technologies are progressively impacting our digital world and have the potential to reshape a vast number of industries.
The advancements and evolution of these technologies will have notable influence on how we perform routine activities, as well as increase efficiency on resources needed to perform them. This includes critical business and managerial processes and the use of continuous controls monitoring (CCM) to assist in governing technology controls, as well as automation, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and the integration of clean/renewable energy sources.
Practical Applications for SCADA and IoT
SCADA and other IoT technologies are becoming more data-rich and ripe for advanced analytics. The plethora of information and amount of big data being generated by these connected devices is exponentially growing and providing more opportunities where these technologies can provide more benefits to businesses. Utilizing these advanced analytics to identify and map out issues before they become problems helps key process owners gain deeper insight and understanding to make more informed and prudent risk decisions.
SCADA is important toward the integration of clean and renewable energy sources. As utilities such as solar and wind power are put in play, the need for informed ways to manage and integrate these sources into the power grid become vital. SCADA systems will help manage these renewables by monitoring and controlling the flow of energy sources and maintaining the stability of the grid.
If searching for an example of SCADA technology being used today, look no further than traffic control. It’s currently estimated that the average American commuter spends nearly 50 hours per year in traffic, and that traffic in the U.S. accounts for up to $160 billion per year in wasted time and resources. That said, certain areas around the country such as Sonoma County, California are making changes to cut down these costs and wasted time. Renovations to the traffic systems were made as the county’s traffic intersections were connected via a wired SCADA system at a cost of $750,000 per intersection. This allowed operators to download new software to the entire system at once, giving officials the ability to alter signal sequences in real time, helping control traffic congestion. These renovations not only cut down congestion but costs as well. Prior to renovating, the cost of 24/7 operation was $220,000 a year. After the changes were made this was cut down by 93% to $16,000 a year. The system was able to pay for itself in 4 weeks.
The added efficiency of SCADA, ICS, and IoT technology are imperative in making real-time decisions as seen through use cases like traffic control. With its rapid growth, it is also key that the technology is used properly and not for nefarious purposes.
Be Prepared for SCADA and ICS Governance
As SCADA and other IoT related systems are becoming more critical to national security and critical infrastructures, the need for overall governance becomes increasingly paramount. There are steps to be taken such as strengthened cybersecurity regulations, industry specific client standards, and data privacy/ownership to further the evolution of these systems and maintain proper and effective controls:
Cybersecurity Regulations for SCADA Systems
Given the critical nature of SCADA systems and their susceptibility to cyber threats, it is likely that governments will continue to enhance cybersecurity regulations. New legislation could mandate specific security standards, regular audits, and risk assessments. The NIST Special Publication 800-82 Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security is an example of a standard that currently exists. This framework provides guidance on how to secure ICS, including SCADA systems, DCS, and other control system configurations such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), while addressing their value as it relates to performance, reliability, and safety requirements. NIST Special Publication 800-82 provides an overview of ICS technology and system landscapes, detects typical threats and vulnerabilities to these systems, and offers recommended security countermeasures to mitigate associated risks.
Data Privacy and Data Ownership Concerns for SCADA and IoT Systems
SCADA and other related IoT systems are generating a vast amount of information and sensitive data, and this will only increase in the future. Due to this, there is a heavy focus on data privacy and data ownership. Legislation will inevitably need to be created to define data rights, data retention periods and how data can be stored and used by different parties.
Other Compliance Standards
There is potential for industry-specific and government-promoted compliance standards to play a part in future governance and oversight of these technologies. Different industries that utilize SCADA and other related IoT systems may introduce these types of standards to address the challenges and requirements that are unique to their sectors. This effectively leads to more tailored governance frameworks for these systems across all sectors.
The Future of SCADA and IoT Controls for Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM)
SCADA is envisioned to be heavily utilized for future business and operational processes. It has the potential to not only efficiently leverage billions of devices simultaneously, but also employ huge volumes of data to automate diverse business processes. The introduction of SCADA and related IoT technologies into CCM could make a major impact on the industry inherent toward saving time, energy, and resources.
The future of SCADA and related IoT in relation to CCM can be characterized by increased integration, automation and enhanced data analytics and predictive capabilities. SCADA systems can be equipped with sophisticated anomaly detection algorithms that can instantly recognize deviations from normal operating conditions. With the potential to leverage AI and machine learning techniques, these systems could adapt and improve over time to increase efficiency of pattern recognition and threat detection.
The integration of CCM with advanced predictive maintenance capabilities will enable SCADA/IoT systems to anticipate discrepancies prior to them becoming problems/failures. By continuously monitoring performance and data trends, the systems can provide early warnings, allowing time to perform preventive maintenance and avoid downtime. To build upon this, SCADA systems could be designed in the future not only to detect an anomaly before it happens, but to allow the system to take corrective actions without human intervention, known as automated response and controls. This utilization of SCADA systems has the potential to minimize risk and improve operational efficiency.
The future of ICS and SCADA is uncertain, but it certainly has the potential to improve crucial business processes across multiple industries. Early instances of this technology being used such as smart traffic lights and CCM are believed to just be the tip of the iceberg. It is of utmost importance that we are proactive in governing this technology as these systems are becoming more critical to national security and critical infrastructures. If these steps are taken, they can enhance the future of SCADA as one that further opens the door to innovation and technology enablement.
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