In the article below, one of our expert product managers outlines the benefits of using an M2M Sytem. Norsat’s M2M offering features The Sentinel RMC (Remote site Monitoring and Control). The Sentinel is a data as a service platform ideal for any application that requires real-time data monitoring and control. Click here to learn more about the Sentinel RMC, or read on for more information about M2M Systems:
Machine to Machine or M2M seems to be the catch phrase of the day in many communication circles. At one time “M2M” was known as SCADA or PLC systems, however, as the old terminology became too limiting, referring to only industrial applications, the change to M2M has allowed for more inclusivity. M2M now includes more than industrial applications, covering everything from smart networks to smart cars. It is projected that the M2M market has a large potential for growth, and unsurprisingly, many companies are jumping on the bandwagon to add some form of M2M capability within their portfolio so as not be left behind. However, M2M is more than just a piece of equipment or a particular service; M2M is a complete system in which the system itself is greater than the sum of its parts. To truly benefit from M2M solutions implementation, we need to define what the components of an M2M system are, and critically consider the selection of these components when ready to commit to an M2M system.
WHAT IS AN M2M SYSTEM
Simply put, an M2M system is a system of technologies that allow devices to communicate to each other over a communications network. The main purpose of the system is usually to collect a variety of sensor data from these devices and transmit it back so that the appropriate actions can be taken.
An M2M system has many components, and can be very complex depending on the needs of the user. However, most systems can be broken down into 5 parts: the end equipment that needs to be monitored and/or controlled, a remote Terminal Unit (RTU), a communications network, a data repository, and data access and management.
Sensors are most often the end equipment in an M2M system. For example, an environmental M2M system may include meteorological sensors which measure wind speed, temperature and humidity gauges and water sensors which monitor turbidity or flow meters. An Oil Field M2M system might include surface and subsurface pressure and temperature gauges as well as H2S and SO2 sensors. A mining operations M2M system could include tailings pond level meters, and the list goes on…
In general, the end equipment and sensors are predetermined by the application, however, care and due diligence are required to ensure that the right sensors and equipment collect the appropriate data to ensure intelligent operational decisions can be made.
REMOTE TERMINAL UNIT (RTU)
The RTU of an M2M system could be considered the “brains” at the remote site, and the complexity of RTUs may vary by application. At one end of the spectrum, an RTU may consist of a single integrated unit that includes merely a sensor input and a communications modem to transmit sensor data. More intricate RTUs consist of a variety of components that include a variety of sensor inputs: a logging component to store and forward data, a communications modem, and an on board processor to preprocess and analyze data. This processor may even have pre-programmed logic control to manipulate end devices, for example, by turning them on or off when certain events happen. A critical, though often overlooked component of the RTU is the local power source. Many RTUs are deployed in remote areas and thus have restricted power budgets since many systems may only be connected to solar and battery power systems.
When designing or selecting the RTU, the biggest challenge is in deciding on how the RTU will interact with its sensors. That is, which sensors needs to be alarmed, which alarms are critical, what needs to be controlled, and what actions should be taken when alarms occur. A minor challenge is determining how to connect the sensors to the RTU and performing any requisite calibration to these sensors once connected.
The M2M network will be constrained to the location of the end devices. The M2M network may be wired, wireless or a combination of both. The system should therefore be robust enough to handle any type communication network, which might be Satellite Commutations, IP Radio, microwave, fiber, cellular networks or others.
The challenge for the M2M system owner is ensuring the right communication service is selected. To select the appropriate service, owners must understand their M2M data usage requirements, including bandwidth, volume and latency limits.
Once sensor information is flowing over the network, system owners need to determine if this data will be stored, and for how long. The typical answer is that data should surely be stored and kept as long as is practically possible (or in some cases legally required). As to where should this data be stored; we ideally select a secure server that offers redundancy, located in a hardened storage facility.
Most challenges in this area are internal and addressing these challenges starts with a discussion with the company’s IT department.
DATA ACCESS AND MANAGEMENT
There are generic, specific, and custom data solutions to manage, display and give users access and management of their collected data. Each solution will have advantages and disadvantages, including usability, setup complexity and cost. But simple data access for end users should remain a key motivator in system design. The simplest access is often through a web-based interface with a URL, login and password. The more complex issue is in data management. The solution must display information in a usable format, and provide alarms and notifications in a manner which is appropriate to the operations of the company.
THE SUM IS GREATER THAN ITS PARTS
The basic design and selection of the components and services in an M2M system is quite a simple task. A variety of hardware platforms, data service plans, and data management software tools can be compared, contrasted and selected against a criteria list with relative ease.
The challenges with M2M systems are determining how to put the components together, identifying the right people to install, integrate and manage the M2M equipment, selecting and managing service vendors, integrating the M2M system into the daily operations of the company and figuring out if the overall costs of the M2M system produce an attractive ROI.
Many companies underinvest in the time needed to choose, design and implement the M2M system that will solve the problems faced in their particular application. By taking into consideration the components involved, and the result sought, M2M systems can be designed to provide unprecedented access to data, giving operators the power to make intelligent decisions, and ultimately improving operational efficiencies.
In the case of our Oil and Gas company, the results are clear: an intelligently designed M2M system can reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and minimize potentially dangerous monitoring deployments. By taking care to select appropriate system components, or by working with an end-to-end M2M solutions provider, companies looking to implement M2M can achieve similar results.
Norsat International is a market leader in M2M applications offering complete end-to-end solutions. These technologies provide excellent value in remote locations, where they reduce the expense associated with on location deployments, and provide flexible data capture, storage and management. For more information about M2M Solutions including the Sentinel RMC, please contact a Norsat Representative.