The whole concept of digital transformation is how data and information are integrated between IT and OT. The ability to analyze data and turn it into useful information is the key, and this is why SCADA is so crucial to optimizing operations. SCADA is a relatively mature market with early products introduced in the mid-1980s.

Today, these systems are quite advanced and typically fall into two categories: those better suited for system integrator (SI) implementation and those optimized for end user implementation. The end user implementation type is more commonly referred to as no/low code configuration (or plug-n-play). It’s definitely a top SCADA trend that benefits the end users, so it's a good one to shoot for. And here’s why. 

A Desirable Scenario for End Users 

A desirable scenario is one where end users, the owners of the SCADA, are in charge of their own destinies, meaning that if a new asset or variable is introduced into the system, they should be able to add support quickly and easily. If new data needs to be historized, they know how. If alarm scenarios need updating, once again, it should be a quick and straightforward process. Not every aspect of the system design should be easily implemented by the end user, but the more, the better. At the end of the day, users usually want to be able to add to and change their automation systems which includes integrating new devices and applications.

Some Costs Associated with SI Designed Systems

In many situations, system integrators (SIs) develop solutions that are technically oriented and that include code (SI developed software modules) to perform customized functionality. Some end users choose to defer basic system management and maintenance to the SIs who installed these. Those that don't are faced with understanding and maintaining this unique code. And while code is commonly a euphemism for “we can do anything”, it does come at a cost. These costs can include:

  • scheduling time for updates from external parties
  • developing the new functionality
  • testing and validating new and custom functionalities

And obviously, there are the costs when end users are not able to implement changes quickly and easily when they need these most. If “time is money”, then clearly, being in charge of your own destiny is a good way to go whenever possible. But make no mistake. No/low code architecture is also beneficial to system integrators. They can focus on developing a solution that adds strategic business value rather than on the mundane coding tasks that are routine. And to add, the development of unique specialized code should not be necessary.

Development of No/Low Code SCADAs Takes High Expertise & Extensive Experience

The developments required to deliver the best technology in SCADA are generational in nature. Technologies will come and go with time, but only the most adaptive vendors, retaining the best of their past and embracing the opportunities of the new, have delivered the no/low code platforms needed for today and the future.

In fact, the development of no/low code solutions requires that the SCADA vendors give significant thought to the internal architecture of their products, building modular and robust platforms that are high performance, scalable, and reliable, and that embrace techniques for high availability and redundancy. So why would vendors go to such extents when the alternative sounds so much easier? Because the benefits end users realize from this type of SCADA are well worth the effort.

Some Reasons No/Low Code SCADAs Benefit the End Users

No/low code solutions are beneficial for end users for several reasons:

  • Ease of use: No/low code platforms provide a visual interface and drag-and-drop functionality allowing users to build applications or automate processes without writing code. This simplicity makes it accessible to individuals with limited programming knowledge, empowering them to remain domain experts and use a powerful tool to create their own solutions.

  • Rapid development: No/low code solutions enable faster development cycles since these eliminate the need for traditional software development processes, such as coding, compiling, and debugging. Users can quickly prototype and iterate on their ideas, resulting in shorter time-to-value for their projects. Additionally, testing is both minimized and simplified as development is based on leveraging a combination of existing features, rather than developing these.

  • Reduced dependence on developers: With no/low code solutions, end users can take more control over their projects and reduce their reliance on professional developers. This independence allows for faster iteration and customization without the need to involve a development team for every minor change.

  • Lower costs: No/low code platforms can significantly reduce development costs since these eliminate the need to hire developers or outsource development work. Organizations can leverage existing staff members to create solutions tailored to their specific needs, resulting in cost savings.

  • Increased agility: No/low code tools enable end users to respond quickly to changing business requirements. They can easily adapt and modify applications or workflows themselves without waiting for development resources. This agility is crucial in today's fast-paced and ever-changing business environment.

  • Employee empowerment and innovation: No/low code solutions democratize software development, enabling individuals from various backgrounds to contribute their ideas and create innovative solutions. This collaboration fosters a culture of innovation and empowers employees to solve their own problems, leading to increased productivity and creativity within organizations.

However, it's important to note that while no/low code solutions offer many advantages, these may not be suitable for all types of projects. Very complex or one-of-a-kind applications or highly specialized software may still require custom development using traditional coding approaches. To address these unique applications, no/low code solutions can support standard extensibility interfaces and specialized tools to enable the addition of custom features and functions. Now, let’s look at a top supplier of no/low code SCADA.

ICONICS – a Leading No/Low Code SCADA Supplier

An excellent example of a no/low code SCADA supplier with the crucial expertise and experience to develop such advanced software is ICONICS, a group company of global automation leader Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. The ICONICS Suite is an extremely flexible platform for SCADA applications, leveraging key technologies that deliver scalability and performance beyond that of many other vendors. With a common code base across its entire suite, every functional component of the suite is kept modern and up to date. An improvement in underlying technology is reflected across the entire product portfolio, unlike many offerings that have grown through product or company acquisitions.

By focusing on the delivery of a no/low code platform for all applications across multiple markets, ICONICS has developed extensive and rich feature sets in all aspects of product functionality. In addition, ICONICS’ SCADA is combined with an open configuration database, enabling system integrators to create their own productivity tools, but more importantly, the platform itself also delivers easy to use productivity tools for engineers such as cloning and multiply.

A Continued Focus on No/Low Code SCADA Systems

ICONICS was founded in 1986 at a time when HMI/SCADA was first introduced to the market, and competition was fast and furious. At this time, architectures and internal technologies were new, and there were winners and losers. Nowadays, many companies have fallen by the wayside. But not ICONICS. This company has grown and continues to deliver leading technology making amazing strides in many vertical markets including manufacturing, utilities, water and wastewater, oil and gas, food and beverage, transportation, smart buildings, data centers, digital workplaces, and others. In 2019, Mitsubishi Electric fully acquired ICONICS to leverage the success of ICONICS as a global software supplier, reinforcing the company's strengths in its existing vertical markets and helping it to grow new markets in robotics, machine control, machine learning, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).

No matter what, customers continue to demand innovation, and in the SCADA market, end users and system integrators are valuable drivers. Additionally, to address customer needs, it is important to have a SCADA system that provides the necessary functionality and flexibility that not only system integrators but also end users can manage and make the most out of. This is where “plug- n-play” no/low code SCADA systems come into play. But regardless of the technologies used in the platform, the one constant is a continued focus on no/low code system configuration since these systems truly benefit the end users.

Learn more about high performance modern SCADA systems in our blog: Top 10 Features of the Best SCADA Systems | ICONICS Software Solutions.