What is a Remote Telemetry Unit? Learn what alarm remotes do to protect your network.

RTU Definition
Terminology in the world of RTUs

In Telecom and IT industries, an RTU ("Remote Terminal Unit" or "Remote Telemetry Unit") is a remote device that monitors and reports events occurring at a remote site. This allows you, the network operator, to manage the network more effectively, keeping service flowing to your customers/users and protecting your revenue stream.

Some RTUs are also capable of remotely controlling remote site gear using control relay contacts or protocol-based commands. Without this ability an RTU can only report remote events to you. While this is valuable, you still must physically travel to the monitored location if a change must be made. An RTU that includes remote control capability reduces this (often multi-hour) travel to a simple mouse click (or even a fully automated response).

RTUs collect information from their local environments in several ways. First, the gear that forms the backbone of your network will generally report problems as they occur. These reports take the form of discrete contact closure alarms or more-detailed protocol messages. Second, your RTU may have onboard and external sensors that measure levels like temperature and humidity. Also, important technical values like battery and tank levels and power voltages may be monitored.

What is an RTU
Monitor mission-critical network gear and environmental conditions with an RTU.

Once your RTU has collected important information, it needs a way to tell you about it. First, you have to choose one or more communication channels. In many cases, you'll simply use LAN/Ethernet. For more remote sites (or those with legacy tech), you might use another method like dial-up modem, wireless GSM/CDMA, or dedicated RS232/RS485 serial.

Once the channel is set, your RTU will use a protocol to send status information. One of the most common is SNMP ("Simple Network Management Protocol"). This is common on RTUs designed for either Telecom or IT environments. Directly-monitored RTUs can use HTTP/HTTPS to provide an on-board web interface that you can access from any web browser on the network. SCADA RTUs will tend to use DNP3 or Modbus to talk. Many older RTUs use a vendor-specific proprietary protocol that is compatible only with master stations from that same vendor, or a multi-protocol master station like T/Mon.

With data logged from your RTU and sent as discussed above, how will you receive information so you can take action? In larger RTU deployments, you might have dozens or hundreds of units in the field. It's smart to use a central master station that collects alarms from all RTUs, then summarizes all detected problems in a single, convenient interface. If you have just a few RTUs, you can monitor each unit using increasingly common web interfaces that describe events collected by just one RTU at a time. More advanced RTUs and master stations can also send you a text message or recorded-voice phone call to alert you to serious problems.

What is an RTU? It's a device that gives you visibility over remote sites that are vital to your business. They're used in all sorts of businesses, from telecom to utilities to public safety and more. DPS Telecom even has a few clients who run sandwich shops (monitor temperature of deli meats), car washes (detect gear status and times when pipes might freeze and burst), and pig farms (pigs are very sensitive to changing temperatures and humidities).

Related Topics:

RTUs: the building blocks of monitoring
Remote Telemetry Units FAQ

View complete list of RTUs

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