The Difference Between a Cellular and Satellite SCADA System

Moving water, oil, or natural gas through pipes is a complicated process. Many things can go wrong along the way that the provider must address quickly. Pressure drops and burst pipes can cause environmental hazards as well as service disruptions. A well-designed SCADA system provides remote monitoring that allows for a fast response.

SCADA and the Advantages of Remote Monitoring

Supervisory control and data acquisition systems have applications across many industries. For water and wastewater management, SCADA has become a necessity. Even a small water distribution system covers a broad area. Without remote sensors, crews must go into the field frequently to perform inspections. SCADA equipment lets managers observe the performance of the entire system from a single location. When there is a problem, they can react immediately to minimize the effects.

In a SCADA monitoring system, sensors on the equipment send data to remote terminal units. These computers may have pre-programmed logic for automatic responses to prevent significant issues. From there, the signal travels to a master station that collects and interprets that data. At this point, managers can view and respond to the information on a human-machine interface. The HMI may be a computer in an office or a tablet or smartphone in the field in a cloud-based system.

SCADA with Cellular Communication

Communication is the key to a successful wireless SCADA setup. Data must travel without interruption so that managers receive alerts at the right time. For many municipalities, cellular communication provides the necessary level of information flow.

Cellular networks involve a series of cell towers that relay information, and each cell has several receivers and transmitters. Data travels from the sensor or remote terminal unit to the nearest cell in the network. From there, it travels wirelessly from tower to tower until it reaches the SCADA master station.

Many towns already have ample cell coverage, so a water distribution or wastewater management system can set up SCADA equipment without building additional infrastructure. Working with a cellular network is often the most affordable solution.

The downside of cellular communication is that land-based towers are vulnerable to the elements and the landscape. If a cell in the network fails, it will cause disruptions in communication. Just as cellphone customers may stumble into dead zones, utilities covering a large area may also find communication gaps.

SCADA with Satellite Communication

Working with satellite data communications addresses some of the problems with depending on cell service. In a satellite model, information travels from sensors to a satellite in space. The satellite then relays the data down to the master station.

Satellite communication does not depend on land-based transmission, so mountains and buildings will not block the signal. Satellite data communications may be the only solution for SCADA equipment in a remote location. In such out-of-the-way places, it may be unfeasible to erect cell towers.

While a satellite system allows for reliable communication across a broad area, it comes with a price. Sending satellites into space and maintaining them is an expensive proposition, and satellite providers pass on the cost to their customers.

Weather events can also impact the quality of satellite data. While the equipment will not suffer from the elements, thick clouds can delay the signal traveling to and from space.

A Comprehensive Approach to Cloud-Based SCADA Systems

High Tide Technologies specializes in cloud-based SCADA solutions for customers in the water distribution, wastewater management, oil, and gas industries. We take a comprehensive approach to SCADA system development. Our team will analyze your current needs and provide software and hardware to meet them. We will deploy a system that makes the best use of Ethernet, cellular, and satellite communication technologies. To learn more about how remote monitoring can benefit your company, contact us today.