Rising energy demands, fluctuating oil prices, renewable integration, aging infrastructure and changing regulatory requirements are all challenges facing the energy industry today. While multiple approaches exist for addressing these realities, one constant remains -- technology will be at the heart of the majority of solutions. Whether it's sensors and cameras monitoring utility and oil and gas assets, drones that perform high-risk inspection operations, or machine learning tools that identify energy efficiency opportunities, technology innovation is critical for the future of the industry. The shift to smart electricity grids and digital oil fields does not come without risk. The technologies proliferating in the energy industry are also endangering it -- opening up critical systems to cyberattacks.
While most commercial and government organizations have a corporate network to handle administrative, sales, and other back- or front-office data, a growing number of organizations also have implemented one or more supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. These systems incorporate software and hardware elements that allow industrial organizations, utility companies, and power generators to monitor and control industrial processes and devices, including sensors, valves, pumps, and motors. Today's SCADA systems also allow organizations to harvest data from these devices, and then to analyze and make adjustments to their operational infrastructure to improve efficiency, make smarter decisions, and quickly address system issues to help mitigate downtime. A typical SCADA architecture consists of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or remote terminal units (RTUs), which are small computers used to communicate with manufacturing equipment, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), sensors, and other end devices, and then route the information from those objects to computers equipped with SCADA software. The SCADA software collects, processes, distributes, and displays this data, helping operators and other employees analyze the data and make important decisions.
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said philosopher and writer George Santayana. The same is true for Internet of Things (IoT) rollouts. The IoT landscape is changing rapidly. Emerging startups offer software stacks that standardize the rollout process. Bigger players are buying up smaller fish in an effort to become one-stop shops.