In 2018, expect cloud-based SCADA, more power quality issues, and additional application functionality.
By: Allan Evora
What should facility professionals and instrumentation experts hold in store for SCADA, instrumentation, and controls? I want to talk about some of the hot topics and trends I see in my crystal ball for this year. Here are my predictions to keep an eye on to make the most of 2018.
Cloud-based SCADA & EPMS
Facility managers are transitioning from wanting local applications to cloud-based SCADA or EPMS monitoring solutions. Why the sudden abandonment of local applications?
- Cloud-based is more cost-effective (minimum hardware required)
- Cloud-based reduces the upkeep hassle of an onsite computer (maintaining hardware, updates, disaster recovery)
- Cloud-based supports highly distributed architecture
- Cloud-based is viewable anytime and anywhere (mobile)
- The cloud itself is overall more acceptable in business
With a cloud-based application, facilities can continue to use SCADA or EPMS solutions through the cloud. Obviously, local devices such as submeters to capture data, and a mechanism to transition local information to the hosted SCADA solution are still required. However, the cloud has removed many sources of irritation of typical monitoring solutions.
Managed service providers (such as system integrators) realize the benefits of these solutions. They’ve started to host SCADA and EPMS software on behalf of the customer. After a simple submeter installation at facility sites, integration is basically done.
Even though they don’t have an onsite computer hosting the SCADA solution, facility owners and managers can still access the web version of that solution to view their data online. Meters store data locally, sync up to the cloud, and update SCADA or EPMS data.
All in all, it’s a great way to save on costs in 2018, while still getting a comprehensive solution that’s available to on-the-go stakeholders.
Renewed interest in power quality
Disturbance direction detection is providing a renewed interest in power quality. It guides an owner where to look (upstream or downstream) for causes of electrical disturbance. This trend has even led to some firmware updates for meters such as the Schneider Electric ION 75XX/76XX power quality meter to enable disturbance direction detection capability.
Adding a power quality meter with disturbance direction detection to the electrical service entry point allows an owner to not only determine when they have a voltage or power disruption, but also where it comes from. This gives them a leg up in determining who to have a conversation with; their electric utility or their electrical maintenance department.
As the grid continues to add non-firm distributed generation, and the installation of energy efficiency technologies continue to expand, we see a resurgence of power quality related events. Grid disruption along with the prevalence of solutions that can both cause and be susceptible to poor power quality (i.e. VFDs, LED lighting), has caused owners to gain better understanding of power quality within their facilities.
Many industrial facilities were quick to retrofit their high bay lighting with LEDs a few years ago, and experienced a high rate of failures. This was due to a failure to recognize the issues with voltage fluctuations and harmonics that existed within the facility. This was a painful lesson to both manufacturers as well as owners who were early adopters of high bay LED lighting. While I am sure warranty costs were significant for OEMs, owners were stuck footing the labor bill to replace failed product.
I see a future where part of the specs for certain types of products will include a spec for power quality, just like operating temperature and humidity. When this happens, owners will need the tools to assess their power quality.
Advanced capabilities such as disturbance direction detection and simple power quality dashboards like Schneider Electric's PQ Performance Module will go a long way towards demystifying power quality for a large majority of industrial and mission critical facility owners.
More built-in application specific functionality
"There's an app for that." One of the trends I see is the emergence of niche applications or add-on modules that address specific needs within a vertical market. This helps reduce the need for complex and often costly control systems customization in 2018.
For example, Iconics provides very specific modules that allow you to manage assets or build dashboards, analyze alarms, or track energy. Another great example is Schneider Electric’s Power Monitoring Expert (PME). Within PME are additional modules such as their generator performance module, UPS performance module, and power quality performance module, to name a few. Customers can choose which modules apply to their facility, and extract further insights that help them save man-hours, identify equipment issues or reduce expense.
These add-on modules do more than just re-package information. They take a much deeper dive into your information and provide insights to help reduce costs and mitigate risk.
The cool thing about niche applications is when they can work with your existing investment even though they are developed by a different solution provider. We have seen several examples of this in the area of OEE, fault detection, and diagnostics.
A word of caution: make sure you understand what you’re getting. Does the solution you’re considering come with subject matter expertise "baked in" or provided by your solution partner? Or does it merely provide a framework for you to populate with "intelligence?" I can't tell you how many owners I’ve talked to who invested in the next big thing to save them money only to find out they needed to invest a boat load of time to "make it smart."
2018: a year of optimization
No matter what happens in 2018, we can definitely expect to see an uptick in methods to extract the most from your existing automation and data acquisition systems. With the sheer amount of new connected devices being created, integrated, and connected, the market is ripe for solutions that can take what may appear to be chaotic or overwhelming and make it predictable, insightful, and accessible – anytime, anywhere.
Allan D. Evora is a leading expert in control systems integration and president of Affinity Energy with over 20 years of industry experience working in every capacity of the power automation project life cycle. With a background at Boeing Company and General Electric, Allan made the decision to establish Affinity Energy in 2002. Allan is an alumnus of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, graduate of the NC State Energy Management program, and qualified as a Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP).
Throughout his career, Allan has demonstrated his passion for providing solutions. In 1990, he developed FIRST (Fast InfraRed Signature Technique), a preliminary design software tool used to rapidly assess rotary craft infrared signatures. In 2008, Allan was the driving force behind the development of Affinity Energy's Utilitrend; a commercially available, cloud-based utility resource trending, tracking, and reporting software.
Allan has been instrumental on large scale integration projects for utilities, universities, airports, financial institutions, medical campus utility plants, and manufacturing corporations, and has worked with SCADA systems since the early ‘90s. A passion for data acquisition, specialty networks, and custom software drives him to incorporate openness, simplicity, and integrity into every design in which he is involved.