SCADA for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. It generally refers to an industrial control system: a computer system monitoring and controlling a process. The process can be industrial, infrastructure or facility based as described below:

Industrial processes include those of manufacturing, production, power generation, fabrication, and refining, and may run in continuous, batch, repetitive, or discrete modes.
Infrastructure processes may be public or private, and include water treatment and distribution, wastewater collection and treatment, oil and gas pipelines, electrical power transmission and distribution, and large communication systems.
Facility processes occur both in public facilities and private ones, including buildings, airports, ships, and space stations. They monitor and control HVAC, access, and energy consumption.
A SCADA System usually consists of the following subsystems:

A Human-Machine Interface or HMI is the apparatus which presents process data to a human operator, and through this, the human operator, monitors and controls the process.
A supervisory (computer) system, gathering (acquiring) data on the process and sending commands (control) to the process.
Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) connecting to sensors in the process, converting sensor signals to digital data and sending digital data to the supervisory system.
Communication infrastructure connecting the supervisory system to the Remote Terminal Units
There is, in several industries, considerable confusion over the differences between SCADA systems and Distributed control systems (DCS). Generally speaking, a SCADA system usually refers to a system that coordinates, but does not control processes in real time. The discussion on real-time control is muddied somewhat by newer telecommunications technology, enabling reliable, low latency, high speed communications over wide areas. Most differences between SCADA and Distributed control system DCS are culturally determined and can usually be ignored. As communication infrastructures with higher capacity become available, the difference between SCADA and DCS will fade.
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