The Advantages of Using Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) to Monitor Your Unmanned Sites

By July 11, 2019 August 19th, 2019 Blog, Remote Alarm Monitoring, RTUs
advantages of remote terminal unit

It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. 

If you’re a small business owner, you can’t watch the storeroom and the front counter all at one time. And, if you own a large corporation, there’s no easy way to view what is going on in your entire operation, especially at remote sites. If you manage multiple company locations, you know that it’s impossible to have eyes everywhere. 

Large industries or utilities that operate many remote sites know this problem all too well. Unmanned sites especially are vulnerable to theft and vandalism. Implementing a network of remote terminal units (RTUs) for the monitoring of equipment ensures a cost-effective way to physically secure your remote sites.  

Implementing a network of remote terminal units (RTUs) for the monitoring of equipment ensures a cost-effective way to physically secure your remote sites.  

RTUs can save you money and keep your workers safe and productive. You can enjoy automated responses and technological solutions that reduce windshield time and prevent unnecessary trips to remote, challenging sites. Above all, the number one advantage of using a remote terminal unit is both an immediate and long-term ROI that can transform your business. 

Cost Savings: Primary Advantage of Remote Terminal Units

The main problem with maintaining multiple remote stations containing mechanical or electric equipment is that anything can go wrong at any time. You might have a sudden storm that floods your unit, or an unlocked door might prove too tempting to a thief. There are generally no down hours where you can let down your guard. It’s a 24/7 situation. 

Let’s do some quick math. 

Hiring a remote sites’ guard would be prohibitively expensive:

  • An armed security guard makes an average of $14.50 an hour. Unarmed is $11.37. 
  • Having someone at your stations 24 hours a day all year would be impractical and cost you essentially a hundred thousand dollars a year, at a minimum, for one station. 
  • Extrapolate this over your entire system and multiply that figure by your total number of unmanned stations.

= Site Count x $100,000

Looking at RTUs as a more efficient monitoring option:

  • One quality unit will cost a minimum of about $650-700. 
  • A typical reliable RTU—with tech support, protocol support, and a web interface—costs anywhere between $700-5,000, depending on the capacity and capability you need. 
  • Even if you purchase a high-end RTU, at $5,000, you’d still need 20 of them to add up to the minimum cost of keeping one station manned year-round (and that’s only for the first year!). A good RTU can last 15-20 years in some cases. Plus, you keep your assets monitored with a more efficient and automated process than any human could ever match.

= $5,000+

More than Guards, Saving You Windshield Time 

We know that guarding your equipment is not the only cost when it comes to remote monitoring. If you don’t know exactly what is going on at your stations, you could have long-term and serious outages, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

We’ve had some clients that have RTUs in snowy, nearly-inaccessible locations. For both safety and budgetary reasons, they only wanted to send people out when it was absolutely necessary. A sophisticated network of RTUs helped them automatically understand when on-site help was needed and when it wasn’t. RTUs saved them many critical man-hours.

Solving Problems with RTUs

There are a number of things that can go wrong at unmanned stations. These can be both environmental and human-caused; accidental and intentional. Whatever the cause, you need to protect your physical assets. Here are some key considerations:

  • Unauthorized access. You only want the right people coming into your stations. A network of RTUs with access control doors, card readers, and more will help ensure that no one can just come in or out. Whether it’s the front door or a specific unauthorized area in your system, you need to monitor access and be instantly alerted if there are any problems. 
  • Theft. You have a lot of expensive assets including valuable electronic and mechanical equipment. Remote sites, especially if they contain copper, can be an extremely tempting target for thieves. Keeping your site monitored helps prevent theft. 
  • Vandalism and destruction of property. Sometimes, vandals cause havoc to your equipment. Properly monitored security can prevent that from happening. 
  • Doors being propped open. People aren’t perfect. Sometimes manned or semi-manned stations experience problems with employees going outside, propping open a door, and forgetting to close it. This leaves your assets at risk to malicious attacks, bad weather, and even animals. 
  • Natural disasters. A natural disaster doesn’t have to be a hurricane or storm. It could be a leaky roof or a sudden uptick in humidity. Anything that causes problems with your equipment can cause a disaster. 
  • False or minor alarms. Why are these bad? Because they send your people to fix problems that don’t need to be dealt with immediately. False alarms cost critical man hours, increase labor costs, and squander precious opportunities to use your expertise for more pressing situations. 

The great advantage of RTUs is that you can solve these problems easily – and often automatically.

Technology Solutions to Common Security Concerns

How do networks of RTUs solve these problems? One way RTUs help is by offering technological solutions to common physical security concerns, including: 

  1. IP cameras. Receive and send data instantly. Smart cameras can even interpret events and start an automatic sequencing program to solve problems. 
  2. Control doors. Special keys and cards can be programmed for special areas. Doors only open for people with the right permissions and help keep you and your assets safe. 
  3. Proxy card reader. Card readers offer a key way for door control systems to grant or deny access. A proximity card is held close to a reader to gain access to a site. 
  4. Keypads. A simple system that requires specific access details or a code to enter. This is an easy way to make sure unauthorized access does not occur. 
  5. Door sensors. Is that door propped open? Did someone open it during the hours when it shouldn’t be open? Door sensors give you the information you need to know regarding site doors at all times. 
  6. Motion sensors. You know where there should be movement and where there shouldn’t. If something is moving inside your station at 2:38 a.m., that’s a problem. A motion sensor will relay what is happening. A tripped motion sensor usually indicates a human intruder, but medium-to-large animals have been known to set them off after somehow working their way inside of equipment huts, often seeking warmth. Either situation is obviously a huge threat you need to know about immediately.
  7. Auxiliary lights. Auxiliary lights can come on when the lights go off, or they can be programmed to turn on when there is unauthorized access. This offers a proven way to scare off animals and vandals.

RTU Alerts

RTUs let you set the parameters. If there is a raccoon that walks by and turns on the lights, without causing any further damage, you won’t get an emergency alert. If there is an automatic response, it can be shut off without further action. However, if there is a problem that needs attention, you’ll be alerted. 

RTUs save you time and money, both by helping you prioritize important issues and by helping you address problems more proactively. 

That’s what a smart network of RTUs can do. It can help you determine what needs action, and what doesn’t. RTUs save you time and money, both by helping you prioritize important issues and by helping you address problems more proactively. 

Get a Network of RTUs Based on Your Needs

A smart network is based on two important factors:

  1. Covering the physical security monitoring needs for all your unmanned sites.
  2. Working with an efficient partner who delivers a functional network of RTUs that effectively monitor and report important alerts about your sites.

A network of RTUs should be set up exactly to your parameters so that you neither need to sacrifice coverage nor overspend. 

The great advantage of implementing RTUs is that you don’t have to be everywhere at once, and RTUs save you money—allowing you to remotely monitor all of your unmanned sites at a reasonable upfront cost

When you work with a partner that understands your needs, provides expert support, and can set up a perfect fit remote system, you’ll experience multiple physical security advantages. You’ll also realize a clear ROI and keep your eyes fixed on all of your unmanned locations. 

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!


Photo Courtesy Pixabay

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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