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Top Remote Monitoring Tips for Land Drainage Pump Stations

By Andrew Erickson

May 24, 2024


At DPS Telecom, we understand the critical role of remote monitoring in managing infrastructure efficiently. This is particularly the case for land drainage pumps.

Let's explore a conversation between JP (one of the DPS sales engineers) and a client exploring remote monitoring solutions for their pump stations.

Topology for Drainage Pump Stations
NetGuardian RTUs and T/Mon master units leverage modern web-based interfaces, making it easier for users to access real-time data

Understanding the Client's Requirements

The client, a professional in the water pump industry, sought a solution for monitoring and controlling 11 land drainage pump stations. They were considering using Emotron TSA Soft Starters with Modbus capabilities for their 18.5kW motors but were not familiar with Modbus themselves:

"I work in the water pump world, currently looking for remote monitoring and control of 11 land drainage pump stations. I will most likely be installing Emotron TSA Soft Starters on the 18.5kW motors, which have Modbus. I am not familiar with Modbus, so I am looking for an off-the-shelf package that will allow interrogation of a pump site remotely, probably using a PC."

Modbus is a communication protocol developed for transmitting information over serial lines between electronic devices. Widely used in industrial environments, it enables interaction between multiple instruments on the same network, allowing for seamless data exchange. It's particularly useful for integrating diverse systems like soft starters and remote monitoring tools, making it ideal for pump station management.

JP assured the client that DPS Telecom could provide a suitable solution and began to gather more information about their setup to make an informed recommendation.

Connectivity and Modbus Integration

The client explained that their sites were equipped with old D.O.L. contactors and overloads and mentioned their consideration of using Horner XL4 PLCs with RS485 and Ethernet ports for connectivity:

"Currently, my sites are all 1950-ish, D.O.L. contactors & overloads. I am offering monitoring of some sort (when I find it). Farmers will need to be able to check their pump station status using their phone, especially during heavy rain."

JP responded by clarifying the connectivity options and proposing a web-based solution:

"We have a unit that you can use any web browser to log in. Essentially, you could use a mobile web browser to log in from your phone and have full control. We currently do not have a feature that allows a user to send an SMS message and receive a status back."

This recommendation leverages modern web-based interfaces, making it easier for users to access real-time data from their mobile devices.

JP admitted that DPS Telecom's current solutions did not include an SMS status "get" feature. Fortunately, DPS frequently undertakes custom projects to meet specific client needs, and the development of new features is often feasible for project quantities of >10 units.

Finding the Best Solution

After understanding the client's requirements and connectivity setup, JP recommended the NetGuardian DIN as an ideal solution:

"I was looking at the Horner XL4. Right now, it sounds like our NG DIN would be perfect for you. We have an option for either RS-485 or RS-232 port for Modbus. It will interrogate Modbus for you."

The NetGuardian DIN is a compact, versatile RTU designed for environments requiring robust remote monitoring and control. It supports various connectivity options, including Modbus over RS-485 and RS-232, making it a suitable choice for integrating with the client's existing setup.

JP's response highlighted the flexibility of DPS Telecom's solutions to work with both legacy systems and modern requirements. By recommending the NetGuardian DIN, JP ensured that the client's existing infrastructure could be seamlessly integrated with the new monitoring system. This approach minimizes the need for extensive upgrades, thereby reducing costs and complexity.

NetGuradian DIN
The NetGuradian DIN supports various protocols and connectivity options, including Modbus

Customizing Alarm Notifications

The client expressed concerns about receiving too many alert messages, which could lead to alarm fatigue. They asked if the system could be configured to allow different users to receive different types of notifications:

"As the service engineer, can I receive different messages than the farmer? I might want to receive alarms, but farmers only want a particular alarm or message, like a status report each morning, for example?"

JP confirmed that the NetGuardian DIN could be customized to meet these needs:

"Yes, you can set the device to specify which users receive notifications. There currently is not a way with this device to receive a morning report, but we do have varied methods of sending less frequent alarms."

This flexibility ensures that the system can be tailored to provide relevant notifications to different users, enhancing its usability and effectiveness.

For projects that are sizeable enough to benefit from a centralized monitoring system, our T/Mon master station can generate detailed daily reports. The T/Mon collects data from all connected devices and can be configured to automatically compile and email a "morning report" summarizing the status of each pump station. The question for any monitoring project is whether the number of sites is large enough to justify the purchase of a central monitoring device like T/Mon.

Ensuring Accurate and Relevant Notifications

The client was concerned about the frequency and relevance of alarm notifications, noting that too many alerts could lead to them being ignored. They inquired about the ability to configure notifications based on user roles and preferences:

"I am aware that farmers do not want to be getting alert messages to often, or they are likely to get ignored. With this in mind, can the system be interrogated for status or alarms, on demand?"

JP reassured the client by explaining how the NetGuardian DIN's Derived Logic feature can be used to manage notifications effectively:

"The NetGuardian DIN has what we call Derived Logic. You can program it so that a specific set of factors will need to occur before an alarm notification is sent."

Derived Logic ("Derived Alarms" and "Derived Controls") allows for sophisticated alarm conditions to be set, ensuring that only the most critical alerts are sent out. This feature helps prevent alarm fatigue and ensures that users receive only the most relevant or urgent information.

Derived controls
Examples of derived control on a NetGuardian 832A G5.

Scheduling a Demonstration

To provide a more well-rounded understanding of the system's capabilities, JP suggested a web meeting and demonstration:

"Perhaps I should set up a web meeting for us to have a conversation? I could also share my screen and show you some of the features of the device?"

The client agreed, and a demonstration was scheduled, emphasizing DPS Telecom's commitment to providing personalized support and ensuring clients are fully informed about their options. This step is crucial in building trust and confidence in the proposed solution.

Tailor Your Solution to the Needs of Your System

The conversation between JP and the client highlights DPS Telecom's ability to provide tailored solutions for remote monitoring and control. By understanding the client's specific needs, offering modern connectivity options, and customizing alarm notifications, DPS Telecom ensures that clients can effectively manage their infrastructure.

If you're looking to enhance your remote monitoring capabilities, DPS Telecom offers the expertise and technology to provide reliable and comprehensive solutions.

Contact DPS Telecom today at 1-800-622-3314 or email sales@dpstele.com to learn more about how to achieve your monitoring goals with a bit of expert help.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...