Controlling and monitoring assets in remote operations is a significant challenge for industries such as water wastewater and oil and gas. Remote operations encompass the control and monitoring of assets distributed throughout large geographical areas. These areas may be rural and can be in a harsh environment (e.g., polar, desert, tropical or more). Remote operations can include locations with limited or no cellular service, so other forms of communication, such as data radios or satellites, will also be used to transmit information from remote terminal units (RTUs) to their supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
Normally, maintaining and servicing an area containing multiple remote assets requires an on-hand technician with direct access to the SCADA system to effectively monitor the status of the facilities. But now, through Schneider Electric’s SCADAPack™ 470i and 474i Smart RTUs, remote assets can be controlled and monitored from anywhere using at-hand devices like laptops or smartphones.
With this new solution, the remote asset operators will be able to simplify the design of their telemetry network, using SCADAPack as a data concentrator, impressing the data from their remote sites onto a smaller package that could be communicated over data radios. But this is only the beginning of this solution’s capabilities.
Open in every aspect of the word
RTUs have been around since the 1970s handling remote applications, and current programming standards utilizing IEC 61131-3 since the 1990s. However, a new generation of needs is emerging with machine learning and artificial intelligence to assist in operating and maintaining these remote systems autonomously, with energy efficiency as a prime need. Up until today, the need for this advanced capability has necessitated a second edge device to work with the RTU. This second device adds complexity and components that can fail.
To solve this problem, we believe we need a new generation of RTUs. We believe the future of remote operations is open. That’s the approach we took in designing our next RTU. By combining a real-time operating system (RTOS) with a Linux-based applications processor, the SCADAPack 470i and 474i provide a dedicated platform for advanced edge computing services and protocols; these capabilities mean the SCADAPack 470i and 474i are open to legacy and next-generation solutions.
RTOS provides the legacy capability companies need and expect from an RTU and programmable logic controller (PLC). It also enables the critical performance needed for monitoring inputs and outputs for control of instrument communications, in addition to support for the legacy telemetry protocols, as well as for IEC 61131-3 logic.
We also wanted to make this solution open in terms of where it can be deployed. When it comes to remote operations, devices must be able to handle harsh environments. The new SCADAPack series can operate across a wide temperature range, from minus 40 degrees to 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as high levels of humidity, vibration and shock.
By drawing on more sources of information, better decision-making can occur in whatever industry the control application is being used in, like water and wastewater, oil and gas, etc. That decision-making can include production automation and optimization in the form of pump automation, leak detection, analytics, and a whole slew of applications. This information is then gathered from the site itself and can be combined with information from other sources, such as from the cloud or SCADA system.
The immediate detection and reporting of any abnormalities from these remote sites, and the ability to automatically make corrections, is what this type of IoT technology is evolving towards.
Why Linux makes all the difference
Security features are weaved into the core of these new RTUs, from conception to design and through implementation, runtime and communications; indeed, the SCADAPack 470i and 474i conform to IEC 62443 SL1 cybersecurity standards. There’s flexibility for users to implement those security features in their solutions quickly and easily, and the RTU still can perform core operations once they have access to it. A secure boot chain helps to prevent tampering with the SCADAPack itself.
Better yet, thanks to the incorporation of RTOS, sophisticated decision-making using various sources of information can all be done in real-time.
For example, if you have a set of pumps used for a contract with an electrical company for power spot prices, we have the ability now to draw real-time cost information to, say, slow down a pump during power spikes. These small, cost-saving practices go a long way, especially if utilities ask companies to minimize operations. Another example might be sensing undesired mixtures in an oil pipeline and adjusting a separator accordingly.
Flexibility around communication serves as an immediate benefit. But the capabilities of smart assets — IIoT-enabled products imbued with machine learning or artificial intelligence — is the future of process automation.
SCADAPack RTUs offer better edge capabilities
This marriage of Linux-based application processor with RTOS paves the way for more resilient and efficient remote operations for many years to come. It provides a dedicated platform for advanced edge services, data, protocols, and applications; and it does this while addressing IT and cyber-driven requirements.
These and other components will extend the life of any remote operations, aiding the digital transformation journey and IT-OT convergence along the way supporting your current as well as future needs in a single rugged device.
To learn more about SCADAPack 470i and 474i and how it can have a profound impact to the resiliency of your operations and efficiency of your workforce, visit the SCADAPack website.