Why Should I Care About the “C” in SCADA?

What is SCADA?

If you have not been part of the industrial world’s tendency to make everything into an acronym, the term SCADA may be a foreign concept. Getting past the pronunciation is just the beginning. SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, which is a standard industry term for a system of software and instrumentation that allows one operator to supervise and control many remote processes and machines.


The Supervisory and Data Acquisition parts are self-explanatory, but the word ‘Control’ worries people in the electrical power business. Almost all electrical protective devices provide some level of automatic control – for example, relays and trip units automatically detect faults or overloads and trip circuit breakers.

The “C” in SCADA and Why You Should Care?

SCADA Control

Control is powerful. Having the ability to control the devices we use every day goes underappreciated. Everyone loves life when everything is powered and the lights are on, but we rarely appreciate it until it’s gone. Ask anyone in the state of Texas after the blizzard of February 2021 and they will testify how much the loss of power impacted their lives.

On a small scale, control systems help to keep things operating within safe limits. For electrical systems, it is critical to perform actions at a safe distance. Electricity being that invisible utility that really can reach out and kill you, engineering controls help to keep power lines safe outside.

Branch on Down Power Line

For example, on a windy day, a tree branch falls on a power line and takes it down. Previously it would be hours before a team could be deployed to the site, determine the issue, and get things back online.

Growing Technology

Nowadays, technological advances allow commands to be sent to a substation switchyard remotely. These commands disable the down line while redirecting power flow around the problem to customers within a matter of minutes. Crazy right?

Moreover, these advances grant us the ability to service a buzzing transformer in a switchgear. The only way to get to it is to de-energize the gear by disconnecting the main by accessing the gear. Imagine the hazard of doing it by hand!? Good thing the system has a local/remote switch that allows for control of the main breaker at a safe distance.

Homer Simpson getting electrified

What You Can Do Now

The ability to control a system provides positive benefits when used correctly. First and foremost, it reduces the hazards associated with arc flash for operators of electrical equipment. It also can speed up the proper response to unsafe conditions to minimize equipment damage.

APT has a quarter-century of experience properly implementing power monitoring and control systems for customers and utilities. This article highlights just a glimpse of the power of ‘Control’ inherent in SCADA systems. Get us working for you to make sure you are always in control.

Click below to see case studies for some of the SCADA projects APT delivered for our customers.

Seattle HQ SCADA Case Study Stanford University SCADA Case Study

Donald Flowers II, Field Service Engineer APT