Advantis Monitoring System(AMS)
One System—Many Solutions.
How does Advantis provide cost effective, robust, and flexible Remote Monitoring and Control (RMC) systemsfor many devices, in many industries (including OEM),that can be accessed from many desktops or smartphones?
The solution is a result of 10 years of working in the remote monitoring and control world. The old adage ‘a chain is only as strong as the weakest link’ is so true. For example, the amount of technology and devices used to send a single command from a smartphone to turn on a pump and have confirmation that it is in fact running is incredible. For that to work it is dependent upon the following chain of events for communication to occur: smartphone > cell tower > Internet > Server > Internet> cell tower > field device> on/off switch and then back again to confirm operation. So, it is a system of hardware and software all linked together. It is really much more than just an application running on a desktop. The solution touches all aspects of computers, the Internet, and microprocessors.
Obviously, in today’s environments, the average user expects all these things in the chain to just work, and they usually do. It is the timewhen it does not work ‘just right’ that must be accounted and programmed for. Advantis has done that and believes this gives the robustness it claims. In the past ten years we have worked to toughen the system in these steps along the way. This toughness allows the system to respond in a positive way to a problem and inform the user so corrective action can be taken.
The Advantis approach came after years of building remote systems for different tasks. Much development and testing time was spent on new software and hardware. Each product was unique. Although there was commonality across the products, they were not integrated and this resulted in toomuch programming and testing for each application. Today we have a system that is 80 percent complete and only requires basic programming changes to produce a product/application. This allows Advantis to focus on the end result the customer wants instead of all the links in the chain of events.
Advantis Philosophy of Design
Because of the chain of events as described above, Advantis wanted to design, program, and test each step along the way with a tough robust solution that could be used for many different applications and solutions. That would mean the same design would handle a simple pump on/off command yet also allow for multiple events occurring at the same time while keeping the user informed. Further, because of the ever expanding ‘wants/needs’ of industry to automate, the solution needed to have options to provide best operational ROI (Return on Investment). In other words, striking a balance between technology, capability, and costs.
Hardware / Software Design Components
SM (Site Manager)
Advantis believes one of the major keys to our success is its device that is located in the field. We call this an SM (Site Manager). We are currently working on the 3rdgeneration SM thatfurther expands our capability and flexibility to meet customer needs. The SM is designed and manufactured by Advantis and allows for the following:
Intrinsic Safety certification – This means the unit can be installed in most explosive-rated environments not requiring an intrinsically safe barrier. For example, it could be used directly on top of a gasoline tank or it can be installed in a petro chemical refinery. This one feature makes the Advantis product more flexible than most on the market.
Wireless – The SM uses cellular (has satellite and radio options) to communicate to the main server. It can also communicate in the field with multiple other SM’s creating a field network. Or, the radios can be used to communicate long distances for a private network.
Field connections – The SM needs to be able to communicate with varied instruments and other communication protocols. Although it will work with standard things like Analog, Digital in/out, etc, it also needs to allow for communication with special instruments. Hence a special daughter board to the main SM can be quickly developed without having to ‘re-invent the wheel.’
Energy efficient – The SM is built to handle situations that have AC power or DC battery power. The SM has its own internal Lithium Ion battery and charging system. It also has its own mini solar panel. Everything is inside the same enclosure making installations simple. However, if more energy is needed, an external solar panel can be used.The main processor hibernates and only wakes on scheduled times and then goes back to sleep.
Servers and Database
The main server(s) are located with Microsoft, a tier one company. Advantis chose the Microsoft Azure platform and runs the Microsoft SQL database. This hardware and software solution is infinitely scalable. This allow for expansion of capability without having to re-write code or upgrade hardware. This one factor significantly impacts Advantis’ ability to provide best service, lowest costs, and highest reliability.
Another main component necessary for varied input and applications is a database designed specifically for the SM. The design allows for defining an ‘endpoint’. The endpoint points to any device or channel in the field or on the database. Having this structure in place allows for minimal programming to achieve a task. For example, endpoints could define several channels in the field that have input to a formula. The output from the formula would be another defined endpoint to the database. Basically any combination of endpoint and formulas can be defined.
Although Advantis does not consider itself to be an instrument manufacturer, we have designed and now build our own low pressure sensors. The driving force behind this was the need to meet Intrinsic Safety and keep costs low. However, through the process we now have a sensor that can be used in both explosive and harsh environments. The sensor can be assembled using different materials based on the type chemical it will be used in. This allows the sensor to work the same in all cases keeping development costs low with minimized testing. So, the same sensor that works in dirty water can also work in varied percent levels of hydrochloric acid.
Events and Alarming
Events are any values (calculated or measured) that the SM or Web Application are monitoring that go outside of normal operation. For example, these events typically are tank levels high or low, doors opened or closed, or temperatures above or below a certain point. For a moving asset, the event could be movement beyond a certain established coordinate. In these examples the customer establishes the points.
Alarming for these events lets a chosen person receive a text or email. Further the alarm may require for someone to confirm they received the alarm. This can be done with either a smartphone or a desktop computer. All events can be viewed on screen as well as which users were notified and how they were notified.
Rapid development of tank monitoring and related tanks.
Advantis’ hardware and design concept allowed the company to rapidly innovate from a simple tank level monitoring (or tank gauging system as some call it) to also providing VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) monitoring and Thief Hatch monitoring of the tank.
Tank level monitoring is achieved using a pressure sensor that is either lowered to the bottom of a tank via a top opening or mounted externally by screwing it onto a pipe nipple at the bottom of the tank. An endpoint is created in the system (see above) to capture the data. A cable coming from the tank sensor then connects to an SM (Site Manager). The SM can monitor up to 8 tanks. However, the added benefit of the SM at the tank is its capability to provide VOC Monitoring and Thief Hatch Monitoring.
VOC monitoring is achieved by using an instrument that reads the same way the tank sensor reads. A new endpoint is created. After simple adjustments on the SM and Web Application a new application is developed almost overnight.
Likewise, Thief Hatch monitoring is accomplished much the same way. This instrument too, reads the same way as the tank sensor. Again, adding endpoints and making adjustments on the SM and Web Application results in another new application.
All three of these applications are uniquely different but were developed in days not weeks and months. The best thing about the development process is not having to retest all the stops along the way in the chain of events. With a focus on what the application can accomplish and not on the technology allows Advantis to provide these robust applications!
A specific applications using these concepts
Advantis developed an RMC (Remote Monitor and Control) system to turn on tornado warning sirens from a cell phone and/or radio. This application requires 100% uptime and immediate notification of events and alarms. About ten endpoints were used to monitor for simple things like battery power, AC power, and percent charge. However, endpoints were also established to monitor if the siren was activated by police radio or by cellular, or for failed communication between the Site Monitor and the main server.
Another customer came to Advantis with the need to monitor and control all diesel moving through their organization. The company has several locations across the United States. Each location has both stationary and mobile tanks. They wanted to keep up with gallons of fuel from the time it was delivered by the distributor until it left their system by selling to the end user. Maintaining both a total inventory as well as movement required the use of tank level monitoring as well as flow meters.
The company also wanted to put measures in to help prevent theft. Advantis developed a simple system to allow users to turn on/off the pump using an encoded key-ring fob. The action records each time the pump is turned on/off and also which users were using the pump.
Advantis was able to provide these features with all the electronics contained in the SM (Site Manger) enclosure. The enclosure is weather proof allowing for inclement weather without having to worry about opening a door or top in order to activate the unit.
Because of the flexibility of the design, each unit operates the same no matter if on a tank that is moving around the yard or if in a fixed location supplying other mobile tanks.
The web application allows the customer to view movement of diesel fuel throughout the organization by tank, user, or location. These features provide assurance for the company that ‘fuel in’ equals‘fuel out’ resulting in no lost revenue.
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) Applications
The Advantis design provides manufacturers of various equipment the ability to remotely monitor those assets – something they have only talked about but have no resources to accomplish the task. Advantis presents the OEM’s logo on the web application so their customer senses that they have a modern up-to-date approach for the equipment they manufacture. It saves the manufacturer tens of thousands of dollars and brings the ‘web feature’ to market quickly. Again, all Advantis needs to know is what specific points in the field need to be monitored and the Site Manager is quickly changed to meet that need.
This rich development environment along with years of experience positions Advanits, LLC to provide robust and reliable service to our customers – directly or as an OEM service. It compels companies to depend upon Advanits, LLC saving many thousands of dollars instead of trying to develop these technologies in-house.
More Information on AMS
Contact Us to Get Started