Introduction to UniSCADA – a universal monitoring and maintenance system for connected sites
Monitoring is a key component used in maintenance of almost any technical system – from governmental or business infrastructure to scientific experiments. Monitoring ability means we can receive necessary (sensor or digitally available) data from the site and store it for an unlimited (or limited) time period, with visualization and reporting tools to process and present the gathered data.
It is often the case that certain site parameters have to be changed or commands sent to the site equipment in parallel to the monitoring tasks. Such a monitoring system can be called a SCADA-system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition).
It is highly suggested that the gathered data is stored and visualized in the cloud servers, where it is easily accessible and centrally managed. Central management of any shared resource brings down the costs and helps to ensure a known and common service level, compared to fragmented resource management.
Many manufacturers of various sensors or devices (including PV-inverters and heat pumps) have created their own data portals, where their customers can store and visualize the data gathered from their products. There is normally some monthly or yearly fee for using those portals. But surely these are not the only devices on the site, what about all the rest of the sensors? And the many different portals that contain only a fraction of the needed data are accessible via different user interfaces all built in individual style and logic.
UniSCADA is a tool that aims to be the universal answer to various needs, whatever the source of the signal or manufacturer of the device. Developed at Uniflex Systems, it’s mostly based on free mature components widely used in the IT-industry. But instead of only focusing on computing or networking related data, UniSCADA can interpret and store whatever state of measurement-related values. Another difference is that compared to a standard IT-related system, where the central system checks the site located data sources, with UniSCADA, the local systems have a responsibility to send their data to the central server. That includes opening the communication channel to the server, in whatever way possible (wired LAN, WiFi, cellular or satellite communication). This also means that “drilling holes” into the “firewalls” (networking equipment) for inbound connections is not necessary.
The main properties of UniSCADA:
Data storage in RRD files, with predefined length and timing intervals
defined length (in years) means that the database will not grow in time.
timing intervals are the time periods of data processing (usually averaging) that may change with the aging of the stored data.
recent data may be stored in 5 seconds time intervals for example, but older data may be kept in 1 hour averages.
Intermediate averaging intervals like 1 minute, 5 minutes and 15 minutes are also possible, to keep the recent values available in greater detail, but reducing the total size of data for long reporting periods.
Automated data visualization as individual or grouped diagrams, with defined grouping possible
Automated state visualization on almost any background (image or scalable map)
state is reflected in color change (green=OK, yellow=warning, red=critical, orange=unknown state).
state is derived from the comparison of the arrived data against the allowed data range or from a state like off or on, running or stopped, etc.
While the most advanced properties of the UniSCADA UI are usable on desktop browsers, there is a mobile UI version available for smartphones. This is optimized for monitoring the instant values of the selected set of data channels (called services in UniSCADA) and can also be used as a remote control application.
An important device related to UniSCADA is the site controller (or cloud gateway), whose task is to gather all the necessary information from the site from any type of sensors, together with digitalization, if needed, and to forward it to the UniSCADA servers. This is also the device where the first data assessment is done, with related status attribution. In many cases some control functions are also needed / to maintain the test environment parameters for example. The same controller will handle this as well.
In addition to the analogue or discrete signals from the sensors, the controller can communicate with other data sourcing devices via some standard protocols like ModbusRTU, ModbusTCP, wired Mbus, wireless Mbus and syslog. One controller can handle more than 1000 data channels from a site.