Intelligent Well Monitoring at the Network Edge

The Challenge

A tank farm in Arizona provides water for rural homes far outside the city limits. Increasing demand, aging components, and extreme desert temperatures were putting a strain on the pump motors. This blew fuses, tripped circuit breakers and interrupted service. The problem forced maintenance staff to return to the tank farm again and again.

The system includes a 15,000 gallon holding tank, a 1,000 gallon pressure tank, a well pump, and a pressure pump. A control panel mounted on the holding tank distributes power to the pumps, and controls turn the pumps on and off as needed. The large holding tank provides reserve capacity, but that can mask problems. It can take as long as two days for the tank to drain and for the water to stop flowing. This called for remote monitoring and control.

We wanted to monitor all of the important pieces and control the system remotely. This included water level in the holding tank, AC current drawn from the well and pressure pumps, and the pressure in the pressure tank. Getting this information would require a system that could network the remote sensors at the well site and get the data back to the main computer. One option would have been to hard wire everything, put some cable up on poles, and carry the data over roads.

The Solution

A much cheaper, easier alternative was available. We went wireless. We connected sensors to Zlinx™ Xtreme ZZ9D-NA-LR I/O modules, which are outdoor rated RF-enabled data acquisition devices and I/O radios. The Zlinx™ wireless I/O system is modular, allowing you to simply snap on additional I/O to add more analog and digital inputs and outputs any time you wish to increase monitoring capabilities. The system provides connectivity to almost any type of sensor, and even supports Modbus. The I/O radios transmit their data to the Zlinx™ Xtreme ZP9D-115RMLR wireless modem, which is connected to the heart of the system, a B+B SmartWorx Spectre 3G cellular router.

The Spectre 3G cellular router connects to the Zlinx™ Xtreme radio modem, as well as a security camera. Designed to provide Internet connection for remote equipment and remote LANs via the cellular telephone network, and equipped with multiple 10/100 Ethernet ports, a USB host port, one binary input/output (I/O) port and dual SIM card holders, this model of the Spectre 3G collects data from disparate sources and makes all of it available anywhere with an Internet connection.

(The second SIM card holder provides network redundancy, as the router can automatically switch between cellular service providers if one connection fails.)

About the Hardware and Software

The Spectre 3G supports the creation of VPN tunnels using IPsec, OpenVPN and L2TP. It supports DHCP, NAT, NAT-T, DynDNS, NTP, VRRP, control by SMS, and numerous other functions, as well as additional software like SmartCluster, VPN Server and R-SeeNet. A password-protected Web interface allows users to configure and manage the Spectre 3G from remote locations. The router can automatically upgrade its configuration and firmware from the operator’s central server, allowing for simultaneous mass reconfiguration of multiple routers on a network. Users may insert Linux scripts and they can create up to four different configurations for the same router. Examples would include the SMS and binary input configurations. Users may switch from one configuration to another at any time.

The cellular networks are not proprietary, of course, so B+B SmartWorx cellular routers simplify VPN tunneling with our SmartCluster VPN server. Smartworx Hub™, our device configuration, diagnostics & management platform, lets users manage and configure any or all of their B+B SmartWorx routers from a single location. It displays your entire device population right on your desktop.


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