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Best Remote Monitoring Practices to Protect Your Automatic Transmission System

By Andrew Erickson

May 22, 2024

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An automatic transmission system (ATS) is necessary for maintaining uninterrupted broadcasting operations. It helps ensure that your TV and radio programs are aired smoothly and without interruptions.

Let's look at:

  • Why automatic transmission systems are so important in the broadcast industry
  • How to monitor your ATS and related equipment, which are sometimes located at a remote facility like a broadcast tower
Broadcast towers
Your ATS and related equipment are sometimes located at a remote facility like a broadcast tower

Why Are Reliable Automatic Transmission Systems Needed?

As you likely already know, automatic (or advanced) transmission systems are responsible for the quality of a broadcast channel or network. If the system's performance is not optimal, the broadcast quality suffers or (especially in the digital age) leads to a complete loss of signal.

Imagine that your ATS is underperforming. Your broadcasting site/network will have shortcomings in several areas:

  1. Consistency of Quality: If you can't manage signal quality, you may have poor audio and visuals. You can even have disturbances like static (in the case of analog broadcasting).
  2. Efficiency: An underperforming automatic transmission system can have difficulty switching between different programs, inserting advertisements, or broadcasting emergency alerts. This causes the need for manual intervention which increases the chances of human error.
  3. Scheduling: When functioning properly, automatic transmission systems adhere to precise scheduling. If the system malfunctions or faces an issue, the scheduling can become less precise. This will fail to meeting regulatory requirements and decrease viewer satisfaction.
  4. Adaptability: Automatic systems are expected to adapt to changes in the broadcasting environment. When the system is not at its optimal functionality, it will require manual adjustments to get back on track. This wastes time and money for these tasks, which may involve a remote site visit.

When Working Correctly, What are the Benefits of an ATS?

Automatic transmission systems are responsible for delivering a seamless and high-quality viewing or listening experience. When the transmission systems are performing as desired, they perform several standard functions:

  1. Signal acquisition and processing: The transmission system acquires signals from various sources. This could include live feeds, prerecorded content, or satellite signals. These signals are then processed, which involves converting formats, compressing collected data, and ensuring the quality of audio and visuals.
  2. Scheduling and playout: The systems use sophisticated software to manage the scheduling of different programs, commercials, and announcements. Automating the playout sequence is included here. This ensures that each segment is broadcasted at the correct time according to a predetermined schedule.
  3. Monitoring and adjustment: The transmission system continuously monitors and controls the quality of the output. The system can also automatically adjust signal strength. This maintains high broadcast standards and adapts to any issues that might arise, such as signal degradation.
  4. Redundancy and backup: To prevent interruptions, automatic transmission systems often have built-in redundancy. Some of these redundancies include backup power supplies and alternative signal paths. This ensures that broadcasting can continue even if there is a technical failure in one part of the system.
  5. Integration with other systems: The transmission system can also integrate with other broadcasting systems. These include emergency alert systems or interactive service platforms. This provides a comprehensive broadcasting infrastructure.

How Can You Protect Your ATS to Maintain the Benefits Listed Above?

Like virtually any kind of telecom device or system, you protect an ATS by monitoring it - and its surrounding environmental temperature, voltage, etc.

By knowing exactly what alarms your ATS and nearby sensors reporting, you can anticipate and resolve small problems before they affect your broadcast.

This generally involves the standard 2-part monitoring architecture:

  1. Sensors and RTUs at each remote location
  2. A central master station collecting alarm data from each RTU at each remote site
NetGuardian 832A from DPS Telecom
Build your perfect-fit monitoring system with the customizability of the NetGuardian

RTU Example: The NetGuardian

The reliability of your broadcast network heavily depends on its ability to quickly detect and respond to faults. NetGuardian RTUs, as one example, are equipped with advanced monitoring and notification systems that instantly alert network operators to potential issues.

Features like automatic email and SMS notifications ensure that any problems are addressed promptly. This minimizes downtime and maintaining broadcast quality.

You can also use control relay outputs to command devices to reboot/reset. The ability to remotely diagnose and reset devices also allows for rapid response, further enhancing network reliability.

The environmental monitoring capabilities of RTUs mean that they can also reliably supervise studio conditions. Conditions, such as temperature and humidity, which could affect equipment performance are able to be monitored to prevent any damages before they occur.

Remember to Choose an RTU That Seamless Integrates with Your Existing Infrastructure

It's important when shopping for remote monitoring RTUs to remember how important integration is. Even if an RTU is generally "better" for your needs, that's worthless if it won't cleanly integrate into your environment. This includes things like protocols, communication channels / transport, and even simple things like rack/DIN/wall mounting styles.

Continuing with our example, NetGuardian RTUs are engineered to integrate seamlessly with many different sites, offering flexible protocol & transport capabilities (mention your requirements when ordering to get the right model) that minimize setup time and technical challenges. You also have access to various NetGuardian physical chassis designs, which offer mounting options like 19" or 23" rack mounts (ears), wall mounting, or DIN rail mounting.

This allows for easy installation and configuration among varying sites, which is critical for maintaining continuous broadcasting operations.

The built-in web interfaces provide intuitive management tools that you can access from a remote location. This allows the technical teams to quickly adjust settings or troubleshoot issues from any location.

Look for Support for Your Required Monitoring Protocols

Broadcast networks often utilize a variety of equipment from different manufacturers, each supporting different protocols for remote monitoring. Yours is likely no different.

We built NetGuardian RTUs and T/Mon (our central master station) to be a good fit due in diverse networks like this with versatile protocol support. For instance, NetGuardians support SNMP (v1, v2c, v3) to cover thousands of different device types that use this open standard. T/Mon has hundreds of device templates and can interpret 35+ different alarm protocols.

Note that these protocols are distinct from any digital broadcast protocols you may be using. Instead, these are machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols used for remote site management. They're typically used in many different environments, not just in broadcasting.

Multiprotocol support ensures that you can integrate your RTUs and master station into any existing infrastructure without compatibility issues, simplifying network management, and reducing operational costs.

Buy a Monitoring System with Scalability for Your Growing Network

Your goal should be to expand and future-proof your broadcast network. As your network expands, the need for a scalable monitoring solution becomes critical.

The NetGuardian series is designed with scalability in mind. The many different sizes of NetGuardian models make the overall NetGuardian lineup capable of handling small, medium, and large sites with great efficiency.

It doesn't matter what issue is present. These RTUs can scale to meet growing network demands without the need for significant additional investments in new hardware.

What's Your Plan? What's Your Next Step?

Now that you understand how valuable remote monitoring can be in a broadcast context like yours, you have to act. But what is your next step?

Call the experts at DPS Telecom to find the perfect solution for your broadcasting site. Our gear covers most monitoring situations. We're also never afraid to admit it if your application is outside of our current product scope. In that case, we'll gladly use our experience and expertise to point you in the right direction.

Call 1-800-622-3314 or email sales@dpstele.com to start taking your next steps toward top-notch remote monitoring.

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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...