Should Controls Be Doing More to Connect You to Your Genset?

by New member hedridb on ‎03-07-2011 10:52 AM

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Electronic controls revolutionized the modern engine and generator sets. We've had them around for some time now and somehow... we’ve made them faster and faster – and more complicated controls. We've gotten to the point where we basically have these computers calculating thousands of complex tasks each and every minute, just to generate electricity. To some out there this could be considered data overload.

Computers in general were good when they came out. They made basics tasks, like typing a letter, well... easy. But the power of the computer truly became great when we became "connected" to them. You know – the generating and sharing of information. The amount of information at our fingertips, courtesy of our smartphones and networks, is truly amazing. It has changed the way of life for many individuals. I certainly do things differently based on the information I have – literally – at hand.

But I digress... back to the genset. We've got lots of data and information available via those great little computers on our generator sets. But is it useful if you are not "connected" to it? Wouldn't it be great if your genset called you on your drive home and told you to pick up some oil and filters? Or you ping the generator and find out if it is currently in the 'ready to run' condition? The list could go on and on.

Please share your thoughts on being connected to your generator set.
  • What information would you find useful if you were "connected" to your generator set?
  • How would you like to connect to your genset? (website, portable electronic device, phone, email, text message, etc.)
  • What would you do differently based on that information?
  • Would you sleep better at night?
  • Would it make your job easier?
  • How widespread should this information be made available? (operator, facility manager, your dealer, the product manufacturer, etc.)

Please post your input below.

Comments
by Visitor mbrotto
on ‎03-09-2011 02:11 AM

Hi there,

first, thanks for the opportunity to share my thought with you at CAT. This is great!

From my point of view, the first issue is what kind of user we are. A big infrastructure (hospital, stadium,  congress centre, etc) must have a BAS connected to the set through a CAN, a MODBUS, or a LAN. In this case their attention is drawn by information regarding energy analysis and balances (kw, kVAR, kVA), fuel consumption, running hours, stats... Also they may wish to start/stop the set from the remote console, maybe they will find useful a local video-camera working through the set controller and showing what happen around the equipment.

On the other hand a common user just need to see if set is on or off, has active faults or is running empty of fuel. Personally I have lot of request for GPRS remote control, the typical user is for the country house: when you plan to go there, you start the set with your phone and then when you arrive all services will be working.

Also, professional users, especially rental companies, need to locate the set. Often they do not need expensive tracking system, just a SMS or a mail with GPS coordinates is enough. There are very cheap tools to do this on the market. 

I hope this will help you!

Regards.

 

 

by New member JK
on ‎03-10-2011 09:26 AM

I would like a client connection to the Genset so that a dashboard can be displayed with one tab to show at a glance the system status with multiple fields reported. A second tab to show logs and warnings re wear, service intervals and fuel usage or rotation. A third tab for performance logs and metrics. A fourth tab to hold simple contact details to enable SMS messages to up to 3 staff for alerts (or running on load).

by New member PowerTechniques
on ‎03-10-2011 09:38 AM

As a consulting engineer involved in mission critical design (data centers), the opportunity to enhance the information provided by genset onboard monitoring is extreme. It would be nice to know the position of the output circuit breaker (open, closed, tripped) to start. This is easily obtained by utilizing the built-in (or optional) micro-switches on the breaker. It would also be nice to be able to synchronize the time stamp of the genset to a central monitoring system so that an accurate failure analysis can be achieved if there is a situation. A very important piece of information would be the fuel pressure inlet and outlet at the filters so that restrictions can be monitored and alarmed (as in used up filters). This would need both pressure readings and an alarm point for pre-alarm and critical alarm for "Fuel Filter Pressure Differential" . This could also incorporate a solenoid valve to act as a bypass for the fuel line (dirty fuel is far better than no fuel). Capturing and exporting the data you already provide is easy.

 

Something that UPS manufacturers have been doing for years is on-board battery testing. Your application would be different, but just as beneficial. What they do is walk the load onto the battery and compare the actual loading parameters with a pre-programmed model of what the loading should look like. A deviation in this would show a battery problem and will alarm to call for service. You could do a weekly cold-cranking amps test and compare that to a similar pre-programmed model to verify the condition of your engine-starting batteries. Most failures involve batteries, so this would be a major improvement in the reliability of the standby power. (Somewhat off topic would be the turning off of the battery charger when not needed. This will extend the battery life. This is another item that UPS manufacturers have been doing for years)

 

 

by
on ‎03-10-2011 09:39 AM

From a dealer's perspective, my requests would be-

 

Built in web server, ala ASCO thin web or 72E, so our customers can see their generators via a web browser.  EVEYONE has a web broswer, not everyone has a 2 wire modbus cable ran to their computer.

 

Built in e-mail messaging of status and errors.  Simple SMTP client that could connect to a customers e-mail server and send messages to them when things happen.  "Gen not in auto", "Low coolant Temp", "Generator running", "Generator on load", "'common alarm", etc.

 

As a dealer, it would allow us to satisfy a need our customers have.  I would not have to purchase and administer a 3rd part interface to do the above.  The 3rd party solution works, but it is expensive and difficult to program.

 

 

by Visitor Progen904
on ‎03-10-2011 11:16 AM

Looking back over the forty four years that I have been in the industry I can easily point out the major problem that has plagued automation systems beginning with the relay based logic and now with microprocessor logic. That problem is one of too much false pride, over protection and the resulting overpricing of intellectual products. The companies that learned and profited from the VHS / BETA lesson may be counted on one hand. BETA was the far superior system, was closely guarded and overpriced. Sony gave away the VHS protocol and encouraged manufacturers to use it. BETA quickly vanished. A generator or system control that would take the market by storm would be of open architecture. One that was compatible with any communications or other control system on the market. It would also allow the end user to make use of the microprocessor control to perform customer desired functions through the use of simple software such as Flexlogic. Another lesson that is being ignored is Stuxnet. Now that the methodology is out of the bottle the "when" factor will be next. Consider that the victims were protected by an "air gap" (no physical wiring or other communications) from the outside world. Some consideration should be given to emergency power systems with an optional "manual" control that will allow power generation and distribution with all microprocessor controls disabled.        

by New member roberssg
on ‎03-11-2011 02:43 AM

 

Hi 

 

Currently through the CAT Power Solutions team in Larne, we offer a controller that is able to send texts, emails and can be connect to via your PC on a GSM network or on over an Ethernet connection. You can assign up to 3 users for information from and to the controller, it is also password protected in case another user needs to access the unit.

 

All faults and status of the Genset are sent to all personnel programmed into the unit as changes occur. You can request status reports, start stop and change controller status via text on a mobile or from the computer software.

 

If you need more info contact a CAT dealer and ask about the Telecoms style package that is currently being offered on a DTO from Larne.

 

 

 

 

 

by Contributor smithj
on ‎03-14-2011 11:36 AM

I agree with the comment about understanding your customer.  There are at least two different levels here.

 

1. Simple user, single gen set, just needs to know on/off, breaker open/closed, alarm conditions.

2. Complex user, multiple gen set, wants lots of data and may want to start/stop gen set.

 

The interface has to be a web based solution.  Connectivity through customers existing network is always a request but you have to be careful about dealing with the customers IT department.  You can waste a lot of time dealing with security issues only to have them pop back up again in six months.  There should be an option for using the customers network or an external connection through VPN or cellular.

 

I have always thought there is an opportunity to offer remote site monitoring for a fee.  The customers could monitor their site through their internet connection from anywhere.  At the same time, the sight would be monitored 24/7 for alarm conditions from a NOC.  Based on predictive maintenance criteria, the dealer could notify the end user that it was time to change the oil filter or whatever.

 

Standard web interface screens for the simple user.

Custom interface screens for the complex user with an initial development charge depending on complexity.

 

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