Until recently, modern solutions for remote process-control and automation applications were limited to expensive retrofits, recurring subscription fees, and costly internal software development. Small- to medium-sized businesses often struggle with the balance of enabling these critical monitoring and control functions, while also focusing on the bottom line. Fortunately, the rise of open source software development has introduced new solutions that finally offer a more affordable option, with rapid ROI and measurably reduced OPEX and CAPEX. These solutions combine process-driven industrial app and edge intelligent platforms that can be implemented easily and affordably.
These platforms achieve enterprise-level process control, monitoring and automation by combining 900 MHz wireless telemetry with the ability to program and host third party apps for intelligent control and automation of remote sensors and devices. Picture a Linux-based Raspberry Pi embedded in a robust industrial Ethernet radio.
The beauty of these solutions is that they are designed for both experts and novices in the app dev space. Developers can program with any language that is compatible with a Linux kernel. Node-RED, in particular, has proven to be especially successful with the novice developer crowd, enabling fully functioning and visible small SCADA solutions that solve a variety of issues for small- to medium-businesses, namely the cost reduction of installation, maintenance and upkeep of more expensive hardware solutions.
With Node-RED, Industrial IoT (IIoT) apps are easily designed and hosted on the radio at the edge of the network – offering local intelligence, analytics and process control to cloud-based systems. These apps have even raised the possibility of eventually serving as SCADA replacement.
The programming possibilities are endless and the needs are vast, opening a significant opportunity for IoT developers to create apps that can be executed at the edge. This impacts many industries, but especially those with remote or geographically dispersed networks, such as those in oil and gas, precision agriculture, utilities, water/wastewater, and government/defense. In water/wastewater, for example, we’re already seeing the implementation of a Node-RED, complex water utility app.
Node-RED Complex Water Application
When a water utility has dispersed assets, such as tanks that are a large distance apart, there is a Node-RED SCADA app available that allows orchestration of both manual and automatic control of the system directly from the app dashboard without using expensive logic hardware. The Node-RED SCADA app also enables real-time alerts to potentially dangerous or damaging events via text or email – directly to their mobile devices. This is easily executed under Nod-RED programming and here’s a demonstration of how it works:
With the edge intelligence and process automation delivered in a programmable platform we’re already seeing increased uptime and lower on-site maintenance costs because of the enhanced ability to monitor and troubleshoot remotely. Because data is acted upon at the sensor, these edge intelligent and process automation platforms solve problems, remotely, that are not easily solved with traditional hardware solutions.
As we look towards the next generation of SCADA, it’s looking a lot more affordable and flexible. What types of apps would you like to see for water/wastewater?