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RTU Tutorials & Expert Advice

There are two phases of learning about RTUs:

RTU Inputs, Outputs, & Functions

First, you need to understand the "building blocks" of RTUs. What different inputs and outputs are there? What kind of processing and advanced functions are possible on a remote? Understanding these building blocks is your most important first step.

How to Choose the Right RTU for Your Remote Site

Once you understand the building blocks, you need to know how to apply this knowledge when evaluating remote sites. If you have a propane/diesel generator, how many discrete inputs does that require? What are the typical things at a remote site that you should monitor? Learn how to survey your remote facility to develop a spec and choose the right RTU.

What is an RTU?

An RTU ("Remote Terminal Unit" or "Remote Telemetry Unit", also sometimes called an "alarm remote" or simply a "remote") is a monitoring device used to manage equipment remotely. They're used by telco companies (phone, cable TV, internet), power utilities, railways, police/fire/government, and many other organizations.

The single overriding mission of an RTU is to give you situational awareness. Your network is spread out over a large geographic area. The equipment involved is complexed. Many things could theoretically go wrong. Hardware can fail. Things can overheat. Thieves can break in. There are a hundred reasons you can think of to install a remote monitoring device, and even more that you would never have predicted.

Front panel of a remote terminal unit
An RTU's front panel is generally dedicated to status-indicator LEDs, a small display with control buttons, and a PC-access "craft" port. This example is called the NetGuardian 864A.
Back panel of a remote terminal unit
In most cases, an RTU's back panel holds most of the I/O connectors and the power supply. This NetGuardian example has very dense connectorization (2 rows of ports in 1 rack-unit of height)

You need an RTU to be your eyes and ears in a remote location. It's your "boots on the ground". It monitors what's happening and reports back to you. For that reason, it must be the most reliable equipment you have. If your alarm remote fails, you're blind at that location.

Your RTU is also no good if you don't choose and deploy the right one to fit your site. You can choose from models that have a wide range of different inputs, outputs, and capabilites. You need to do your homework and choose the right one. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started.