REMOTE MONITORING SAVES TIME, MONEY AND FROSTBITE
In the mountains of British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, have been forced to resort to methods every bit as extreme as the terrain — and the wintry conditions prevalent in the region throughout much of the year — to service its communications sites, according to Jerry Rupany, product support specialist for General Dynamics.
Because the RCMP’s radio equipment shacks often are buried by as much as 50 feet of snow and access roads often are impassible, radio technicians are forced to drop from helicopters, snowshoe to the sites and then dig through the snow to get to the shack.
“They need to find out somehow whether that site is still operating,” Rupany said.
It’s a difficult, time-consuming and expensive approach, and one that isn’t always effective because they have no idea what they’re going to find. There’s a huge difference in the equipment and expertise that is needed to repair a site that has broken down completely versus one in need of minor recalibration. The challenge is exacerbated for organizations that maintain multiple sites.
Recognizing the need, Katrina Scally, a General Dynamics software engineer, wrote the code for a software suite that enables technicians to remotely monitor their communications sites. It took Scally about two weeks to write the code for the suite, which debuted at IWCE 2004 in Las Vegas in March.
“With this solution, they can view multiple sites from their offices, and they don’t need to go to all those sites,” just the ones that need attention, Scally said. “They don’t have to drag unnecessary equipment up a mountain, and they avoid getting up there and finding they don’t have the equipment they need,” to take care of a problem.
End users use the software to send signals to General Dynamic analyzers installed at the site; even with 50-feet of snow piled up, the site’s antenna is above the crest and can pick up the signal without a problem, Rupany said.
The solution also is ideal for public-safety agencies, which often are faced with manpower issues.
“It seems as if everyone is doing five or six jobs these days,” Rupany said. “And public safety is putting in so many repeaters and building out so much infrastructure these days, that they don’t have the manpower to do the necessary monitoring. Installing analyzers at sites is a lot cheaper than adding head count.”