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DPS Client Project Notes for a Custom Power Monitoring Device (Part 1)

By Andrew Erickson

October 15, 2023


I got a call from a familiar voice. It was a client I had collaborated with during his time at a major railroad, where we had worked together on what became the NetGuardian 420 RTU.

Now at a new company, he reached out with fresh challenges and goals for a power-monitoring device. His project goals and requirements gave me a deeper perspective on the evolving needs of telecom companies today.

Let's dive into the details of this call now:

Understanding Power Monitoring Infrastructure Challenges

Our conversation began with a candid confession:

"I sort of know what equipment is out there, but don't know capacity. I have to send a technician with a hand-clamp sensor to manually check."

This statement resonated with me. It's a common challenge many organizations face, regardless of their scale or domain. Knowing what equipment you have is one thing, but understanding its capacity and performance is another thing entirely. Without this knowledge, you're bound to run into issues sooner or later.

The traditional method of dispatching technicians to inspect equipment is not only resource-intensive but also inefficient and unreliable in this era of automation. This presents a significant challenge. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining a comprehensive inventory and understanding equipment capacity for effective power management.

The Importance of Comprehensive Monitoring

As our conversation progressed, my client expressed his goal: Monitor both AC & DC.

At first glance, this might seem like a straightforward requirement. However, delving deeper, it's evident that monitoring both AC and DC is crucial for a holistic view of power dynamics.

He further elaborated:

"Telecom regeneration ('regen') buildings every 45 miles or so. A typical site is 240 VAC for the HVAC units & rectifiers. The rectifier will show me granular DC current, but won't show me consumption per leg."

This highlighted another important challenge. While rectifiers can provide data on DC current, they don't offer insights into consumption per leg. It's crucial information, especially when ensuring even distribution of power.

As the client rightly pointed out:

"That's important because I want to make sure that if I have 30A breakers, is my equipment equally pulling on each breaker? I have to be sure we don't exceed limits of breaker so we don't have total failure."

This brought to light another issue. Technicians often have a practice of racking and stacking gear on the last breaker position used. They'll do this in the interest of install speed without considering the load distribution or the capacity limits that can quickly become a problem later.

Monitoring both AC and DC, and understanding the consumption specifics, is essential to detect such poor installer practices and ensure the longevity and efficiency of your equipment.

Real-Time Monitoring: A Game Changer

One of the pivotal points of our discussion revolved around real-time monitoring. The client said:

"I want a system that does real-time monitoring so we can put remote hand-clamps (permanently) around each of the breaker panels. We typically don't want to exceed 80% of load rating."

Real-time monitoring is a necessity today. The ability to monitor power metrics in real-time eliminates guesswork and provides actionable insights.

By introducing permanent remote hand-clamps around breaker panels, you can ensure consistent and accurate data collection.

Furthermore, maintaining a load rating below 80% is a best practice that can prevent system overloads and potential failures. It serves as a buffer, ensuring that there's always some capacity left to handle unexpected spikes or demands. It also extends the life of your power system when you're not running "near the red line" all the time.

Reflecting on this conversation, it's evident that as technologies evolve, so do the challenges and requirements of businesses. It's our role as a solution provider at DPS Telecom to understand these needs and offer tailored solutions for you.

Deep Dive into Power Consumption Analysis

The conversation took an analytical turn when we began discussing power consumption, particularly concerning HVAC systems:

"I'm really curious to see the current draw of the HVAC lead-lag system, especially when both HVAC units are active," my client mentioned.

This wasn't just a passing comment but highlighted a significant area of interest for many businesses. HVAC systems, integral to maintaining optimal environments in facilities, can be significant power consumers.

Understanding their power draw, especially when systems are operating at full capacity, is crucial for effective power management. This also grants you PR team something substantive to claim about your "green" initiatives.

Additionally, this client brought up the importance of trend analysis in power consumption.

"I also want the ability to have some type of histogram so I can see month-to-month and do a trend analysis," he said.

This is a vital point. Analyzing power consumption trends over time allows you to forecast future needs, identify inefficiencies, and plan maintenance or upgrades.

Uptime: Your #1 Metric

Our discussion naturally transitioned to the topic of uptime, a metric that has become more important than ever in today's always-on world. The client was keen to understand the "percentage uptime" of commercial power. While he acknowledged that rectifiers provided some of this data, he rightly pointed out a gap:

"Rectifiers allegedly 'do that' (monitor uptime percentage), but there is no top-level manager pulling the data."

This is a common challenge. Having data is one thing. If your data is not aggregated, analyzed, and presented in a meaningful way, however, it's of precious little use.

Centralized data management is of utmost importance. It plays a critical role in providing easy access to relevant metrics, such as uptime, that drive decision-making processes.

By adopting a centralized approach, you can gain a comprehensive view of your power metrics, empowering you to make informed decisions and proactively address challenges.

Part 2 of this Conversation is Next

I continue my conversation with this client in "Building a Custom Power Monitoring Device for a Long-Time DPS Client (Part 2)".

Of course, if you're already excited about launching your own monitoring project, keep reading:

Call Me to Discuss Your Own Monitoring Project

Does my client's story resonate with you? If you are also navigating the intricate challenges of remote monitoring, you should be seeking a partner who understands and can tailor solutions to your specific needs.

At DPS Telecom, we make semi-custom remote monitoring equipment built to your specs. I invite you to reach out, share your challenges, and let me craft a solution that fits you perfectly.

To get started, call DPS at 1-800-693-0351 or email sales@dpstele.com to share what you're trying to accomplish.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...