DCS, SCADA, Controllers

RTU and SCADA systems help with telemetry monitoring, control

Checking in on remote assets includes attention to cybersecurity. Among important demands for telemetry systems is to establish a reliable communication network.

By Philippe Aretz July 24, 2021
Courtesy: Ovarro

 

Learning Objectives

  • Review RTU upgrade benefits, such as less downtime, easier maintenance.
  • See how RTUs facilitate autonomous control, remote monitoring.
  • Learn how 4G wireless can replace legacy RTUs and integrate with modern systems.

With geographically spread assets and multiple processes generate massive amounts of data, such as telecommunications applications, industrial communications must capture and interpret information in real-time. The deployment of remote telemetry unit (RTU) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems has been essential for supporting the rollout of mobile communications and broadcasting mediums, especially those in remote locations.

One of the most important demands for telemetry systems in the broadcast sector is establishing a reliable communication network. Safety and efficiency are key priorities, too, but organizations also have legitimate concerns about security breaches.

RTU benefits: Less downtime, easier maintenance

The benefit of using RTUs in the broadcast and telecoms sector is it helps reduce downtime and enables more efficient preventive maintenance scheduling. This is achievable due to the RTU system’s ability to provide accurate, real time data; allowing asset management teams to make better, more informed decisions. In addition, because RTUs do everything locally, it means if communications break down, they continue to run and act autonomously, whilst maintaining a historical log, and reporting back later. In remote, harsh locations where many masts are located, communication is liable to fail regularly, although RTUs can manage this. For instance, data acquired by the RTU can be used to support maintenance decisions, and verify performance obligations are being adhered to.

RTUs can be deployed on a wide range of equipment from masts, control panels and security measures through to electrical gear. Once in place, they provide remote monitoring of electrical current, temperature, smoke, power and humidity. The unit relays this information to the cloud where it can be analyzed and trended, providing operators with a high degree of predictive maintenance capabilities. Where power supply from the grid is not available, they can incorporate intelligent management of power consumption as well as battery or solar power options.

Ovarro TBox RTU technology has been used in a project with a major European telecommunications company to improve quality of service. The main scope of the project was to optimize and replace obsolete RTUs. Courtesy: Ovarro

Ovarro TBox RTU technology has been used in a project with a major European telecommunications company to improve quality of service. The main scope of the project was to optimize and replace obsolete RTUs. Courtesy: Ovarro

RTUs for autonomous control, remote monitoring

The real value of an RTU is it can perform autonomous control in real time and then report to SCADA on current status. Operators at the SCADA interface can supervise the operations by setting new key performance indicators (KPIs, set points) or updating instructions (open/close this, start/stop that, for example) for RTUs to then act upon and manage locally. These developments in RTU functionality make them particularly suited to the broadcast sector because they offer resilience to the site environment, have an ability to operate with minimal drain on local power resources, whilst retaining the processing power to perform local control algorithms autonomously.

Replacements for legacy RTUs

An updated RTU technology has been used in a project with a major European telecommunications company to improve quality of service. The main scope of the project was to optimize and replace obsolete RTUs. The telecommunications company also sought to optimize and control the equipment and installation of a large set (several hundreds) of broadcasting centers with one technology.

The company required a telemetry hardware and software that provided modularity, sturdiness, compact size, open and standard telecontrol protocols, logic programming and strong cybersecurity capabilities. Following a careful evaluation of several alternative options, they specified an upgraded RTU hardware with cybersecurity, modular design, integrated alarm management and a 4G card (GSM), able to integrate easily with information technology (IT) and Internet of Things (IoT) systems.

The software configuration tool is described as a resilient and secure automation platform suitable for critical and demanding SCADA applications. These technologies allow users to complete applications and dynamically control communication, alarms, data logging and logic locally or remotely in a fully-secure environment.

[Note: As with any product, ensure cybersecurity updates are made as needed.]

Protocols — IEC-60870-5-104 (for telecontrol in electrical engineering and automated power system applications), simple network management protocol (SNMP), Modbus RTU/TCP — were chosen to allow the management of downstream communication with the equipment, sensors and broadcasting devices, as well as interact upstream with the SCADA system technology for control. These kinds of solutions are suitable for mobile telephony infrastructure, audio-visual broadcasting networks, smart grid technology, IoT and security.

The customer deployed the technology in more than 250 sites and continues to use it in other locations.

Smarter RTUs help manage more assets

Companies in the broadcast sector are demanding more, and smarter, information and as a result, RTUs will be deployed in greater numbers. Most RTUs only are used for operations, although they also can support maintenance teams, health and safety initiatives and environmental management.

As networks grow and increase in size through more connected devices, managing the greater number of assets will become more difficult through traditional, non-technology methods such as scheduled service engineer visits. And, mergers between companies that span continents and sharing of assets such as masts will require a technological approach because central management will require remote data acquisition. RTUs are a cost-effective way of collecting large amounts of data, meaning a low investment cost for the benefits RTUs deliver will make them a more attractive proposition on a wider range of assets.

With broadcasts geographically spread assets and multiple process that generate massive amounts of data, key to ensuring these improvements is being able to capture and interpret it in real time. Ruggedized RTU technology focuses on helping operators meet investor and customer commitments.

Following a careful evaluation of several alternative options, a telecommunication company specified Ovarro TBox MS and TWinSoft configuration tool, said to be a highly resilient and secure automation platform suitable for critical and demanding supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) applications. Courtesy: Ovarro

Following a careful evaluation of several alternative options, a telecommunication company specified Ovarro TBox MS and TWinSoft configuration tool, said to be a highly resilient and secure automation platform suitable for critical and demanding supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) applications. Courtesy: Ovarro

More about Ovarro

Ovarro is the new name for Servelec Technologies and Primayer. Ovarro’s technology monitors, controls and manages critical and national infrastructures, including harsh environments. Industries include water, oil and gas, broadcast and transportation, to help monitor, control and manage existing and new assets.

Philippe Aretz is channel sales director at Ovarro. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Remote terminal unit (RTU), industrial wireless, 4G

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Do you have industrial wireless applications that need upgrades prior to 2G and 3G service expiration?


Philippe Aretz
Author Bio: Philippe Aretz is channel sales director at Ovarro.