Effectively responding to perceived threats
- By Justin Thompson
- Aug 01, 2013
Remote situational awareness provides operators, security personnel
and first responders with decision making data to appropriately
and effectively respond to perceived threats. Hybrid remote
situational awareness is the fusion of sustainable power, intelligent
data and flexible communications.
How are remote locations defined, when remote is a relative term? At its most
basic level, it simply means that the site to be monitored is physically removed
from the site where the monitors are located. For example, in a campus application,
the monitoring station may be in one building at the far end of campus, and
the other buildings on campus would be considered remote, relative to the building
that houses the monitoring station.
In the oil and gas industry, a company may operate hundreds or thousands
of drilling sites, storage facilities, processing plants and equipment depots. These
sites are often in remote, rural or totally unpopulated and undeveloped areas. The
environments in these remote locations can be harsh with bitter cold and extreme
heat, heavy rain, snow or salt-spray.
Other examples of industries with remote sites that often require monitoring
- Energy (power substations, hydro-electric dams);
- Transportation (railroad, bridges, toll booths, highways);
- Defense (weapons facilities, depots, forward operating bases, military bases); and
- Homeland Security (border, disaster response, critical infrastructure).
Sustainable Remote Power
Sustainable simply means that the power at a particular site can be maintained
for the required period of performance. To be sustainable, the power system must
have appropriate power storage, reliable power generation and durable electronics
that hold up in harsh environments. This is often a big challenge because, in many
cases, main power is not available, reliable or the installation cost is economically
prohibitive. To provide the necessary monitoring there must be achievable and
Generators are often selected to provide power in such cases, but they require
fuel. Fuel is expensive, as is the cost to transport it to remote locations. Considering
the total cost for the fuel, the price per gallon can quickly skyrocket to 10 to
100 times of the raw fuel cost. Not to mention that these locations may be inaccessible
during certain times of the year, so sustainability may not be offered 24/7, 365
days a year with a generator alone.
Another commonly selected remote power provider are solar panels, used as
either the primary power generation mechanism, or as a backup to another source.
Solar energy is available in almost all locations, but solar availability and effectiveness
is diminished close to the poles (Arctic and Antarctic regions). In regions
sufficiently close to the equator, solar power is often used as the only power source.
Elsewhere, it may be part of a hybrid solution, combining it with another source,
such as wind, fuel-cell or generator, to provide constant power availability.
A battery solution allows the system to provide continuous, uninterrupted power even during brown-out and
black-out conditions. When power
generation is not working, the system
will continue to receive power from
the batteries. The battery duration can
be customized, depending on the load
and the risk tolerance, by adjusting the
sizing of the battery solution. A power
core that uses a battery type that
is durable and rugged, such as AGM
batteries, is important. The ability to
charge those batteries intelligently for
multiple sources is a must for sustainability.
Systems providing this flexibility,
such as the SentryPOWER CORE,
enable the integrator/installer to optimize
the solution for the conditions of
any given installation.
Therefore, the ideal power solution
enables the system to take power input
from a variety of sources, making flexibility
the key and adaptability essential.
The environment in remote locations
can be quite harsh. The system must
be able to operate in wide temperature
ranges with little or no required
maintenance. Typical charge controlling
systems available commercially as
outdoor-rated hardware have a specified
operational temperature range of -10°C
(14°F) to 50°C (122°F). This may be sufficient
in moderate climate areas, but in
most parts of the world, this charge controller
will suffer serious performance
degradation or premature failure, due
to temperatures outside of its specified
range for lengthy periods of time.
For instance, temperatures exceeding
50°C (122°F) are extremely common
on the interior of electronic enclosures.
Consider the temperature inside
a parked car on a hot, sunny day. When
the outside temperature is 32°C (90°F),
the temperature inside a parked car can
reach 43°C (109°F) in just 10 minutes.
In 90 minutes, the interior temperature
can reach 59°C (138°F). Now, imagine
operating critical electronics (rated to
50°C (122°F).) inside this parked car.
Failure is imminent.
Consider the same parked car in
Yuma, Ariz. With a record high of 51°C
(124°F) or Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where
the average high in July is 41°C (106°F)
and 43°C (110°F), respectively. On a
43°C day, the interior of the parked car
will reach 79°C within 90 minutes. If the
electronics are rated to 80°C the systems
is pushing the limits, yet still functioning.
But, if the electronics are only rated
to 50°C, they are likely already shut
down due to overheating.
If enclosures aren’t properly vented,
protected with a sun-shield and
equipped with a well-designed heatsink,
then the interior will likely reach
temperatures approaching the boiling
point of water. No electronics will
be able to survive these temperatures.
However, with a proper heat management
design, it is possible to shield and
ventilate the enclosure to keep the interior
temperature below 70°C.
It is critical that enclosures are designed
to manage temperature fluctuations
effectively, and that electronics are
designed to operate in extreme temperatures.
controls are used on enclosures to help
minimize the temperature extremes internally. For example, a sun shield, comprised of a solar panel, can be used over
the enclose. The power from the solar panel operates a small fan, forcing more air
through the enclosure to reduce internal heat building. It is desirable to minimize
power consumption, so using a separate solar panel for these fans helps minimize
the drain on the system’s batteries. When the sun isn’t strong enough to operate the
fans, the forced airflow won’t be needed. A vented enclosure allowing good airflow,
in combination with rugged electronics, is usually the best solution.
In addition to temperature extremes, systems are often located in coastal regions
where humidity or corrosive salt-spray can cause performance concerns. Electronics
should be sealed or conformal-coated to provide protection from the elements.
Otherwise, the electronics are likely to fail when the system is needed the most.
Features and Capabilities
There are important features and capabilities to be addressed for systems installed
in remote locations. They should provide good data collection, accessibility for
remote troubleshooting and some level of automation when systems are to be left
unattended for extended periods of time.
A system that collects data on source power levels and power output loads
helps determine trends in power availability from each source or power consumption
by the load. For instance, if power is suddenly diminished or halted from a
particular source, the power source may be damaged and in need of service or
replacement. If a power source monitor issues an alert, the operator can correct it
before the power source failure causes a total system failure. Otherwise, the entire
system could shut down.
The same is true for the load. If a camera system normally consumes 15 watts,
for example, and it is suddenly consuming 50 watts, it is likely that there is a problem
with the camera and will need to be serviced soon.
The ability to access data collected by the system, without physically going out
to the system, proves to be helpful over time. A power management system that
enables HTML or SNMP interface provides a tool for remote monitoring that enables
a system administrator to note trends in the data. Decisions about preventive
and corrective maintenance can then be made in an intelligent manner.
Because remote locations are often difficult to get to, the system must perform
functions autonomously. A programmable power management system, such as
the SentryPOWER AMP, enables automated activity based on certain conditions.
For instance, turning low-priority equipment off when batteries get low to reduce
power consumption allows higher priority equipment to continue operating for
longer periods, even during blackout conditions.
Automated low-voltage disconnect (LVD) protection also is a must. This protects
the system and the load electronics when batteries are low. Without it, the
batteries may be repeatedly drained, resulting in a significantly shortened life cycle
and risking damage to electronics on the system. The ability to adjust the power
levels, at which this protection is activated, allows the administrator flexibility in
balancing the risk of damage with the risk of power outage.
Programmable capabilities and the ability to remotely cycle power on system
electronics is an enormous benefit. This automates troubleshooting
and corrects problems before they negatively affect the system.
When this doesn’t work, the ability for an administrator to perform
basic troubleshooting actions remotely is essential in order to minimize
the cost of maintenance and downtime.
This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Security Today.