DCS and SCADA are monitoring and control mechanisms that are used in industrial installations to keep track and control of the processes and equipment; to ensure that everything goes smoothly, and none of the equipment work outside the specified limits. The most significant difference between the two is their general design. DCS, or Data Control System, is process oriented, as it focuses more on the processes in each step of the operation. SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, focuses more on the acquisition and collation of data for reference of the personnel who are charged with keeping track of the operation.

DCS is process state driven, while SCADA is even driven. DCS does all its tasks in a sequential manner, and events are not recorded until it is scanned by the station. In contrast, SCADA is event driven. It does not call scans on a regular basis, but waits for an event or for a change in value in one component to trigger certain actions. SCADA is a bit more advantageous in this aspect, as it lightens the load of the host. Changes are also recorded much earlier, as an event is logged as soon as a value changes state.

In terms of applications, DCS is the system of choice for installations that are limited to a small locale, like a single factory or plant, while SCADA is preferred when the entire system is spread across a much larger geographic location, examples of which would be oil wells spread out in a large field. Part of the reason for this is the fact that DCS needs to be always connected to the I/O of the system, while SCADA is expected to perform even when field communications fail for some time. SCADA does this by keeping a record of all current values, so that even if the base station is unable to extract new information from a remote location, it would still be able to present the last recorded values.


  • DCS is process oriented, while SCADA is data acquisition oriented.
  • DCS is process state driven, while SCADA is event driven.
  • DCS is commonly used to handle operations on a single locale,while SCADA is preferred for applications that are spread over a wide geographic location.
  • DCS operator stations are always connected to its I/O, while SCADA is expected to operate despite failure of field communications.
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