Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) Installation Planning: How to Choose the Right Solution

By July 9, 2019 August 19th, 2019 Blog, Remote Alarm Monitoring, RTUs
installation of remote terminal unit

Selecting Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) for your business is no easy task. The goal in any business with new equipment purchases is to ensure functionality and, ultimately, to provide solid ROI. You need to show that the RTU manufacturer you choose is trustworthy and that the RTUs will work the way you need them to. 

It’s a big decision, and one not to take lightly. The benefits of an RTU are vast: automated responses to problems, less windshield time, fewer outages, and lower equipment repair and replacement costs. Having the right system can change the way you do business. 

The benefits of an RTU are vast: automated responses to problems, less windshield time, fewer outages, and lower equipment repair and replacement costs.

What you are buying, essentially, is an intelligent telemetry collection for surveillance and control. RTUs will improve your security by ensuring effective environmental and equipment monitoring. So when you’re buying, here are some installation planning questions to consider: 

RTU Installation Planning Questions:

  1. What are your monitoring options related to physical security?
  2. Will the RTUs do everything you need—like report critical alarms when there are doors open, intruders, or problems with equipment?
  3. How well does the RTU accomplish your monitoring needs and function properly, with the right number of discretes and analogs, and in the right protocol (Modbus, SNMP, or other), without delays or downtime? 
  4. Will the RTU provider offer a master station with a web interface and management interface capabilities to maintain a full view of your operation?
  5. Will the system offer a variety of environmental monitoring sensors such as smoke, fire, temperature, humidity, and custom options?
  6. Can the provider program control relays to handle problems automatically so as not to waste valuable time or resources on alerts that can be addressed remotely?
  7. Can RTUs meet your requirements in a cost-effective manner, or will you have to pay additional fees for customization, tech support, and training? 

Here’s what you need to look for if you want the answers to those questions to be, “yes” and your remote terminal unit installation to be successful. 

The Right Solution for Remote Terminal Unit Installation

What matters most to you when choosing an RTU? The ability to intelligently monitor and report everything is crucial. Security, equipment, and environmental monitoring are key areas to evaluate and choose the right RTU. 

Security Monitoring

Your monitoring and control plan needs to include security systems for two primary reasons: so that you are instantly alerted to any security concerns and to know that they are working. A broken security system is a problem and puts your valuable assets in jeopardy. Intelligent telemetry keeps you in control of your operation. Security monitoring options you should consider include:

  1. Door sensors. Closed doors should stay closed. Protect yourself from theft and vandalism by receiving notifications as soon as a door is opened or if a door is left propped open.
  2. Motion sensors. Whether it is an intruder or a curious animal, you’ll want to know if something is moving near sensitive equipment. A discrete motion sensor can send a message or even turn on a light to dissuade intruders. 
  3. IP cameras. IP cameras receive and send data instantly. It’s a great way to know exactly what is going on at any of your locations. 
  4. Control doors. Electric or mechanical locks, often used in conjunction with special keys or card sensors, are vital to your security. 
  5. Card readers. There are many points in your operations that require permissions. Valid access cards let the right people in and keep unauthorized people out. 
  6. Keypads. Security access panels  require code input or card swiping to gain entry. This will ensure only your authorized personnel will come and go from your building.
  7. Auxiliary lights. When the lights go out, these come on. Also, notifications can be set up communicating the remote status of these lights.

Equipment Monitoring

All of your equipment is sensitive. You should receive an alert when anything happens to it. You must evaluate whether RTUs or their attached sensors can effectively monitor your system. Here are some considerations:

  • Discrete sensors. These collect digital (on/off) information about equipment. You have the ability to set a threshold based on your requirements, and when it is exceeded, you receive an alarm.  
  • Analog sensors. These help monitor environmental and physical factors, as outlined in more detail below.
  • Modbus protocol. This is an open-source protocol used to connect all your devices into one comprehensive system and establishes communication between analog and discrete sensors. 
  • Other protocol equipment. You may need a Master Station to mediate alarms from SNMP and other protocol devices.
  • Web-enabled management interface. It’s important to ensure that you are receiving automated equipment updates via an intelligent, web-enabled system.

Environmental Monitoring

Maintaining proper environmental conditions is key for any business with sensitive electronic or mechanical devices. Some of the conditions an RTU system should be monitoring include:

  1. Temperature. Your systems can’t get too hot or too cold. Temperature monitors track any natural or unnatural changes to the environment. 
  2. Humidity. Humidity is extremely dangerous to electrical and mechanical equipment. Be alerted when it gets too high (or too low, because static electricity can build up and then discharge). 
  3. Water. Offers a discrete contact closure when water is detected. 
  4. Gas leaks. Gas leaks endanger your people and assets. Being alerted of these leaks can help you proactively save lives and money. 
  5. Smoke. Where there’s smoke, there’s a problem. Be alerted as soon as it happens. 

Why You Should Choose a Custom RTU Provider

When looking for a new RTU system for your remote terminal unit installation, there are essentially two types of providers—fixed and custom providers. Which one is better?

“Fixed Providers” Who Won’t Customize Their Designs

Pros: A fixed provider offers a standard, off-the-shelf, boxed solution or a basic RTU that may address your needs.

Cons: You may not acquire the exact system that fits your unique needs. You’re likely to face one of these problems:

  1. Buying more equipment than you need. You’ll have extra equipment and unwanted redundancies, which is a waste of money. 
  2. Buying less equipment than you need. Some areas of your system may be left with insufficient or even non-existent monitoring. You may spend a lot of money to fix problems that could be solved with monitoring. 
  3. No free consultation. Consultation, training, and tech support can be necessary to ensure that an RTU works efficiently with your operation. A fixed provider rarely offers the kind of in-depth, personalized service that you get with a custom provider. 

Although off-the-shelf systems aren’t bad, they probably won’t offer the level of functionality that you might need to effectively implement RTU monitoring for all of your sites.

Custom Providers

Pros: A custom provider creates a unique solution for your system, using expertise to tailor perfect-fit alarm monitoring. This offers three key advantages.

  1. The functionality to get the job done. Technology changes all the time. Your system changes and your requirements change. An off-the-shelf “solution” can’t keep up. But, an RTU system created by experts with your business in mind can provide the right equipment for your job, every time.  
  2. Only pay for the features you need. Why would you pay for features and services that you don’t need and aren’t going to use? The point of an RTU is to save money in the short and long term. 
  3. New and unexpected benefits. When you work with a skilled engineer, they’ll learn about your system and will share ways to streamline your operation, offering you useful functionalities you may not have considered. 

Here’s an example:

A client of ours worked for a telephone company in Kansas, and his voice alarm notification only had four alarms. That wasn’t nearly enough, but it was all that his provider offered. Working with us, we created a system that had 8 controls, 16 discrete alarms, and also provided custom voice notification.

That’s a system that works. It works because it was created specifically for his company, with his unique needs in mind. The network of RTUs handled all needs for security, equipment, and environmental monitoring.

When you’re looking at RTU installation planning, you’re doing so to protect what matters to you. You can achieve this if you work with a team that understands remote monitoring and control and works to provide a custom solution. That’s the best way to get the protection you deserve, and the ROI you need. 

DPS Telecom has the experience and expertise to help companies who need custom-built RTUs. Our technicians can work with you to find the right RTUs for your specific needs. Reach out and get a quote today!


Image courtesy Shutterstock

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson has been building remote monitoring systems for his clients since 2006, both in the United States and internationally. He has been a featured speaker at a variety of national telco, utility, radio, and rail conferences.

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