White paper: Open Automation in hydropower

Hydropower, Open Automation and IEC 60870-5-104

Open Automation initiatives are revolutionizing the status quo of today’s control systems, answering the many challenges that hydropower industry must overcome.

IEC 104 has been beneficial for the hydropower sector, improving interoperability between devices, control and electrical equipment; providing logical access to data; and controlling aging installed electrical equipment.


The challenge is not to settle for a “standardized” protocol to interface from control system to devices, but to reach the ultimate goal of a common language where components and devices natively understand each other.

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Open Automation is the future

Global industries agree that Open Automation is the way forward, and the reason is simple. Open standards prevent end users from being locked into closed proprietary control systems, which do not integrate (or poorly integrate) components from other vendors.

IEC 104 – The first step towards Open Automation

Bringing Open Automation to fruition still has some way to go. But in terms of interoperability between multiple vendors’ devices it has been operating successfully for many years through the IEC 60870-5-104 protocol.

The first Open Automation platform

ABB Ability™ Symphony Plus® includes not only IEC 104 protocol capabilities but a true IEC 104 backbone that is designed specifically to meet current and future needs of the hydropower industry. 
Having all components of Symphony Plus natively communicating over IEC 104 leverages many additional key benefits.

What lies ahead in Open Automation and the hydropower market?

OPAF and other Open Automation initiatives are making rapid progress to develop interoperable, plug-and-play automation. The goal is to develop a standards-based, open, secure and interoperable process control architecture that can integrate multiple control, safety, enterprise and other systems. Unfortunately this will not happen tomorrow but is likely to take several years.

The capability to connect and the availability of data will increase dramatically and as the IEC104 protocol struggles in managing large amount of data it opens the door to other more modern protocols as the emerging OPC UA protocol which most probably be the future standard of choice.

Nevertheless, for OPC UA to be completely adopted, the challenge of having a reliable communication infrastructure still remains. 

Read the paper to learn more.


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