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intelligent electronic device (IED)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

An intelligent electronic device (IED) is a device that is added to industrial control systems (ICS) to enable advanced power automation.

There are many types of IEDs made by manufacturers and used for a host of purposes in power monitoring, metering, control and communications.

Found everywhere industrial control systems such as such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) or distributed control systems (DCS) are used, IEDs are part of the systems used in several processes, including:

  • Agrochemical and fertilizer
  • Automobile manufacturing
  • Boiler controls and power plant
  • Chemical plants
  • Environmental control
  • Food and food processing
  • Metal and mines
  • Metallurgical process plants
  • Power plants
  • Petrochemical (oil) and refineries
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Pulp and Paper Mills
  • Quality control
  • Sewage treatment plants
  • Sugar refining plants
  • Water management
  • Water treatment plants

IEDs are a part of the power regulation used in many industrial processes like control circuit breakers, capacitor bank switches and voltage regulators. These settings are controlled by way of a settings file. The creation and testing of the file are part of the largest tasks involved in IEDs.

Utilities that operate power transmission stations were some of the first to use IEDs. This early adoption was implemented not only to meet compliance requirements but also to save money. One instance of this implementation is the IEDs for power fault reporting in the event of failures. The use of IEDs here meant that a highly paid skilled technician would not have to drive to a potentially remote power transmission station to retrieve the diagnostic data.

Although IEDs and the resulting automation can save money, it is important to consider that they may have maintenance costs such as firmware updates and secure configuration. Cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken to ensure that the costs are not outweighed by the savings. Operations on over a thousand devices, with costs ranging into $100 an hour, are where automation starts to be more cost-efficient.

This was last updated in September 2017

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