Magazine Article | September 24, 2008

Offer Proactive Support With Remote Monitoring

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, October 2008

Eaton Electrical Services and Systems (Eaton) offers power distribution, power protection, power equipment maintenance, and service management to industrial, institutional, and commercial customers. Equipment downtime causes interruption of electrical power, which is costly and can be damaging to the customer. Eaton's goal is to provide customers with the information to prevent an outage from happening. To do so, Eaton needs access to historical data about system performance as well as continuous data monitoring to evaluate trends and identify problem areas.

Eaton has offices in 40 countries, but core engineering for power systems analysis is done at its Pittsburgh office. This means that when customers ask Eaton for engineering assistance, the company would use off-the-shelf remote connectivity tools to access the customer facility. Using these off-the-shelf tools presented a few drawbacks. One, these tools were not firewall-friendly, requiring customers to make network configuration changes to grant access to an Eaton engineer. Second, the basic desktop connectivity and file transfer tools couldn't automate responses to incoming data, meaning that Eaton couldn't set threshold values or alarm conditions. Finally, the tools lacked the database capability that would allow other applications to take advantage of the device performance data once it was obtained.

Eaton began working on Cutler-Hammer PowerNet, a software that is networked to interface with a customer's meters, relays, trip units, motor protectors, and transfer switch controllers to deliver device data to desktop PCs throughout a facility. This software combined with connectivity with Eaton's support center would be called the Instant Response Center (IRC) and would allow easier troubleshooting and proactive support.

Eaton chose the Questra Smart Service Solution, enterprise software for intelligent device management, as the technology to make this connectivity possible. Questra was firewall-friendly, allowed secure connection via the Internet, and could be customized to offer flexibility to customers. One customer that uses IRC is the University of South Carolina (USC). The data that IRC provided for USC uncovered that power fluctuations the school thought were caused by the campus system were actually being caused by its utility system. The information IRC provided allowed USC to decrease outages and downtime by uncovering data that wasn't available previously.