Data Acquisition & Telemetry


Telemtry in 2000-as seen by a local scada developer

March 2000 Data Acquisition & Telemetry

Local supervisory control and data acquisition (scada) system developer Adroit Technologies approached leading telemetry suppliers to gauge the mood and nature of telemetry in the new millennium. The telemetry suppliers feel that these changes are more likely to impact on manufacturers of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs) than scada suppliers. This comes as no surprise to Adroit's International Business Development Manager Paul Geng. "We already meet the basic requirements of telemetry, namely stability, reliability, cost-effectiveness and compatibility, he explains.

However, what makes us the scada of choice in telemetry applications, is the fact that we stay up to date with the advances made by individual players in the telemetry industry and ensure that we support any new functions or trends that may emerge. Typical examples include time stamping at source and distributed intelligence. Thus, we are delighted to share some of these new ideas with industry in general through this article, says Geng.

Telemetry is a sophisticated combination of instrumentation, embedded software, radio-frequency propagation and up to ten related technologies blended into a multi-medium communication system capable of intelligent control. It is generally used where geographical distance comes into play, using wide area networks.

Adroit's telemetry protocols have been designed to be especially efficient in radio-based wan networks, allowing even exception-based tasks to be executed over great distance. Via the scada-package's inherent OPC servers, it can communicate with most telemetry-based protocols on the market, including DNP3, UCA2, IEC 61850, Profibus and others.

I see a big shift away from proprietary type telemetry systems in certain markets, says Spectrum Communications Sales Manager Hennie Naude. Meters, instrumentation, protection devices, loggers and other components are becoming more intelligent. The challenge for telemetry manufacturers will be to provide a means of gathering, manipulating and distributing process control related data using multiple communication media and protocols, states Naude, pointing out that Spectrum’s new Tele-Flex advanced telemetry system satisfies these requirements.

Specialised System Engineering (SSE) MD Gert Bezuidenhout agrees. Intelligent devices will not shrink the telemetry market, but will grow it by translating into a more customer friendly environment, where more information is available at less cost, states Bezuidenhout. The boundaries between PLC, scada, RTU, PC and other components are likely to blend even further.

Alcom Systems scada Manager Victor Hoch believes the focus should already be beyond integration, on issues such as distributed intelligence. "Our Scientific Design Department predicts that distributed intelligence will become integral to RTUs, which is why we incorporated it into our Moscad RTUs, reports Hoch. Within the next few weeks we will be able to fully integrate the Moscads via an intranet, thereby unleashing their real intelligent automation capabilities.Other enhancements the company is working on include enabling an RTU to send the same data via different media at once and the ability to emulate and encapsulate other protocols. PLC Producers are likely to be affected by a global trend towards inexpensive, compact units and embedded software such as Soft-PLC.

PLCs are likely to become smaller, faster, cheaper and more functional. More intelligent PLCs and advanced RTU's like the Tele-Flex will take over more automated control functions from scada systems, which will concentrate on monitoring, database and non-automated control functions,says Naude.

These opinions are reflected in new products being developed by SSE as well. "Although distributed intelligence and control – with the ability to send data via different communication mediums – are already integrated into our existing telemetry equipment, we are also developing additional functions for the high-end,"ays Bezuidenhout. "These higher-end RTUs will incorporate technologies such as Soft-PLC and the ability to connect to the Internet. "On the other end of the market we provide more compact and affordable RTUs for high volume applications such as zone monitoring in municipal water management."As far as the telemetry market is concerned, South Africa is seen as a maturing environment that can attribute a lot of its remaining growth potential to government water and electricity supply commitments.

With the strong support of Adroit as a cost-effective component in the telemetry solutions supplied by these and other automation companies – such as Grinaker Systems Technologies, Prodesign, Mattand, Drivecor, Danntech and Des-pro, customers can look forward to more affordable, more reliable, increasingly functional telemetry solutions that will supply more information to them from their various operations, no matter how far apart they are situated from each other.

Adroit Technologies

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