Section II: How Do You Monitor It?

Now that you have an idea of what you should be monitoring, your next consideration is the nuts and bolts of how you are going to monitor it.

There are three phases to alarm monitoring: acquisition, transport and presentation. Let's look at each phase in order.

Acquisition: Getting Alarms Out of Your Equipment

There are three kinds of alarm inputs: contact closures, analog inputs and protocol inputs.

Contact Closures
Contact closures are also called discrete alarms or digital inputs. A contact closure is a simple on/off switch that produces an electrical impulse when it's activated or deactivated. Contact closures are the simplest kind of alarm input, so they're often used as a kind of lowest-common-denominator means of getting some kind of alarm from any kind of equipment.

Analog Inputs
Analog inputs accept current or voltage level inputs over a continuous range. They're the ideal kind of alarm for monitoring things like temperature and battery charge, where it's important to get an actual, physical measurement of the condition in real time.

Here's where having a quality alarm system really counts. Some alarm systems simulate analog alarms with "threshold" alarms. For example, you might get a low-battery alarm if the battery voltage drops to -48 volts. But that information by itself is meaningless. After the voltage crosses the -48-volt threshold, does it stay there (indicating that the battery is merely low) or does it continue to drop (indicating that the battery is being rapidly drained)? With threshold alarms, you have no way to tell.

DPS Telecom alarm equipment features analog alarms that report live, real-time analog values, giving you true visibility of these kinds of alarm conditions. Additionally, DPS analog alarms support four user-configurable thresholds (Major Under, Minor Under, Minor Over and Major Over), to provide best-quality notification of changing events.

Protocol Inputs
Protocol inputs are electrical signals formatted into a formal code that can represent much more complex information than contact closures or analogs. There's a wide variety of protocols for transmitting telecom alarm data. The most common telemetry protocols are open standards like SNMP, TL1, ASCII and TBOS, but there are also manufacturer-specific proprietary protocols. SNMP, TL1 and ASCII are simply ways of encoding ordinary written text for electronic transmission; these protocols are human-readable, if you know the code's terminology and operators.

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