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These 5 Steps Help You Plan Your Remote Site Monitoring System

By Andrew Erickson

August 14, 2023

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Remote site monitoring to keep telecom systems online is more important than ever.

How do you ensure that you select the ideal Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU) and/or central master station for your requirements? Let's walk through the 5 steps you need to follow to make the right purchasing decision for your company:

1. Identify Your Monitoring Needs

  • Revenue-Generating Equipment: At the core of your operations, there must be equipment like radio systems or phone switches. This is why your sites exist in the first place. Do you need to monitor output contact closures or any specific protocols?
  • Generators: Propane or diesel-powered? The orientation of the tank (horizontal, vertical, or underground) can influence the monitoring approach. Additionally, the generator's output - MODBUS or contact closures - must be factored in.
  • Batteries: These are always a critical component to keep an eye on. How many strings are there? Do you wish to monitor only the total string voltage, or is individual cell monitoring preferred?
  • Temperature: While most RTUs come with a built-in ambient temperature sensor, you may need to monitor multiple locations. Do you also need a humidity combo sensor for comprehensive data?
  • HVAC Units: How many do you operate? Do they have a MODBUS output or contact closures? Monitoring the airflow and temperature from supply vents helps you monitor HVAC health (including mundane things like clogged air filters).
  • Doors: Security matters. How many doors need monitoring? Are you using existing sensors or considering new ones? Consider adding access control using keycodes or keycards for enhanced security. This is a convenient "value add" when you already have remote monitoring devices in place.
  • Water Presence: Water damage can be catastrophic. Discrete sensors tied into RTUs can detect even minute water presence on floors, preventing potential disasters before they begin. We've also had clients who use multiple water sensors to track flood heights to guide repair timing after flood waters recede.

2. Consider the Consequences of Inadequate Monitoring

Telecommunications isn't just about calls and messages. It's the undercurrent that powers the modern world. Understanding the vast consequences of disruptions allows you appreciate the gravity of your responsibility and the immense impact of your service on the world at large.

You must understand the expensive problems prevented by remote monitoring to be able to write an effective justification to your management team. Fortunately, there is plenty of value here if you know where to look.

Let's explore the huge consequences, both in terms of lost dollars and lost lives, of telecom disturbances that result from inadequate remote monitoring.

Equipment Damage and Associated Costs

  • Immediate Repair and Replacement: A hiccup in the telecom infrastructure can cause equipment to malfunction or fail. The immediate aftermath involves costs tied to repairs or replacements, which can run into the thousands or millions, depending on the scale.
  • Long-Term Wear and Tear: Undervoltage, overvoltage, overheating, and similar problems can reduce the lifespan of expensive equipment. This leads to more frequent replacements and increased capital expenditure over time.

Human Safety and Potential Fatalities

  • Emergency Response: Telecom plays a pivotal role in emergency services. Disruptions can delay or misdirect emergency responders, leading to tragedies. Whether it's a fire brigade, ambulance, or police, swift communication is crucial.
  • Healthcare: Many modern medical devices and hospital services rely on stable telecom connections. Interruptions can jeopardize patient care. This can have life-threatening consequences in critical situations.

Financial Repercussions for Businesses

  • Lost Revenues: Telecom outages can halt business operations, leading to immediate revenue loss. This is especially true for sectors like finance, e-commerce, and media.
  • Contractual Penalties: Service Level Agreements (SLAs) often have penalties for downtime. Disruptions can lead to significant financial penalties for not meeting contractual obligations.
  • Loss of Customer Trust: Repeated disturbances can erode customer trust, leading to contract terminations or lost opportunities for renewals and expansions. You're also less likely to attract new customers with a damaged reputation.

Broader Economic Impact

  • Stock Markets: The financial sector's reliance on telecom is massive. Even brief outages can disrupt trading activities.
  • Supply Chain Disruptions: Industries rely on seamless communication for logistics and supply chain management.

Societal Impacts

  • Government Fines and Legal Repercussions: Regulatory bodies may levy fines on telecom operators for not ensuring continuous service. Furthermore, affected parties might seek legal remedies for losses incurred.
  • Public Relations Nightmares: In our digital age, negative news travels fast. Telecom disruptions can lead to a PR crisis, damaging the reputation of companies and even governments. People are less tolerant of service disruptions with each passing year.
  • Daily Life: From missed job interviews to disrupted online classes, telecom disturbances touch everyone, leading to daily frustrations and broader societal challenges.

Loss of Critical Data

  • Data Breaches: Disruptions can make systems vulnerable to cyberattacks, leading to potential data breaches, with costs running into millions, along with the loss of trust.
  • Data Recovery Costs: Post-disruption, the process of data recovery and system checks can be extensive and costly.

3. RTU Specifications

  • Mounting Options: Where will the RTU be placed? Depending on your site, options range from 19-inch or 23-inch racks to DIN rails or wall mounts.
  • Power Source: Determine the available power voltage. Options might include -48 volts DC, +24 VDC, +12 VDC, or 110/220 VAC.
  • Connectivity: How will the alarms be reported? Through LAN, an external cell modem, or another medium?

4. Alerts and Notifications

  • Interface: For smaller setups with fewer than 10 RTUs, using a standalone web interface for each RTU can be viable. Beyond that, you'll want some kind of central master to tie everything together.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: Perhaps you have an existing central master station. What protocols does it support?
  • New Master Station Requirements: If considering a new master station, how would you prefer alarms to be displayed? Options range from map displays, list views, to analog gauges.
  • Automated Alerts: Would you like to receive email and/or SMS alerts? Note: SMS can be sent via email using a specified format like "##########@domain-varies-by-wireless-provider.com". This avoids the need for a wireless modem on your RTU.

5. Call DPS (or Another Expert) to Discuss Your Project

Before you start a major infrastructure project like this one, you need to understand the specifics.

At DPS Telecom, our experts are ready to assist you in selecting the best products for your project. Just tell us about your unique situation. Yes, it might be possible to find another expert and get decent guidance, but remote monitoring and control is our only focus at DPS.

Call DPS at 1-800-693-0351 or email sales@dpstele.com

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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...