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Why choose an open and interoperable supervision solution?

Expert article

An essential criterion when choosing a supervision solution is its interoperability and openness. AREAL takes a look at the subject in four questions to Aymeric DUBLED, sales engineer and key account manager.

Question 1: Can you tell us what is meant by an open and interoperable solution in the world of supervision? 

The interoperability of a supervision solution is its ability to work with different existing or future products (hardware) or systems (software platforms), without restrictions on access or implementation.  
To be interoperable, SCADA software must be based on open standards, i.e. means of communication, interconnection or data exchange whose specifications are known and accessible to all. In the world of automation and supervision, we talk about communication protocols - to exchange information with PLCs, controllers, IoT, etc. - or IT connectors - to exchange information with PLCs, controllers, IoT, etc. - or IT connectors - for exchanges with third-party platforms: CMMS, GIS, MES, ERP, data validation, AI platforms, etc. - open and standardised. 

Question 2: What are the advantages of an open and interoperable solution ?   

Today, the need to interconnect systems is crucial to optimising asset management and operational efficiency. 
Choosing an open and interoperable supervision solution means easier integration into your company's information system. It also guarantees that it can be adapted to any hardware or software environment. Gone are the days when SCADA software could live on its own, in its own corner! The SCADA solution also needs to be able to open up to new technologies with a minimum of constraints. I'm thinking in particular of the booming IoT. 

Question 3: In concrete terms, what are the most commonly encountered interfacing standards? 

First and foremost, it is important to emphasise that SCADA software performs two essential functions. One consists of collecting data from various sources with the possibility of interacting (control) with them. The other is for exchanging data with third-party systems, usually software platforms, by making real-time or historical data available, with the ability to receive information from these same systems. 
Open and standardised connectors can be the same in both situations: OPC UA (client and server), Webservice (client and server), database (read and write), Modbus TCP (master and slave), flat files (generate and read), etc. Among the normalised or standardised communication protocols, I can mention DNP3, IEC-60870-5-101/104, or the Bacnet protocol. They usually correspond to a particular profession. 
When drawing up a specification for the acquisition of SCADA software, it is important to remember to mention these elements exhaustively. This is to ensure that the proposed solution is as open as possible, and that you don't get stuck in the future.  

Question 4: Does the Topkapi platform meet the need for openness and interoperability? 

Openness and interoperability have always been in AREAL's DNA. As proof of this, all the connectors and protocols mentioned above are available with the Topkapi SCADA software. We go even further by natively developing protocols for many equipment manufacturers that are not standardised. Our philosophy is to make it as easy as possible for our customers to configure their applications. The longevity of our solutions and their adaptation to new technologies are a constant concern.