Cloud-based applications are providing opportunities for more resilient and flexible network management options, enabling them to make better use of existing data, writes Alan Cunningham, subject matter expert at technology specialist Ovarro.
Several industrial sectors, such as oil and gas, broadcast, transportation, power and process, are under pressure to make operations more efficient, but in many cases aging IT systems are halting progress. With budget constraints, meaning the replacement of all legacy systems is not an option, advancements in cloud-based analytics tools are providing cost-effective operational enhancements in areas like alarm system management.
Technology provider Ovarro is working in partnership with several companies across a range of sectors to develop software tools that enables them to gain clearer insights into what is happening in their processes and internal networks. In many cases the new tools are utilising data that has already been captured, but has not been streamlined or managed effectively.
“A lot of our clients talk about being data rich, information poor,” explains Alan Cunningham. “They’re collecting vast amounts of data out in the field from various devices, such as remote terminal units, but they do not have the tools to allow them to see the wood for the trees.
“If they can better use what is already being collected, they will be able to manage their operations far more efficiently without the expenditure of replacing legacy assets.
“A supplier could launch a fantastic piece of technology, but if a customer needs to invest heavily in capex products to see the benefits it might not be a big seller. If they can take information that already exists and see historical patterns, it becomes more powerful.”
One example of this is AlarmVision, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application that presents real-time dashboards, which analyses the stream of alarms coming into a company’s control room from its telemetry system. SaaS applications are cloud-based and can be accessed via any device with an internet connection, as opposed to a software product that is entirely installed on a device or network.
AlarmVision dashboards give a measure of control over alarms, based on internationally recognised key performance indicators, and allow action to be taken to help operators maintain or gain control. The ability to gain real-time, or backwards-looking, analysis of how the control room is operating against the standards provides an insight into whether there is a risk of critical alarms being missed.
Users can also identify the root cause of the largest proportion of alarms being generated on their system – for example, a faulty piece of equipment could be causing 10 per cent of total alarms on a given day. For instances like this, it gives companies and municipalities insight to action and prioritise resources.
However, missing any of these alarms, because they are swamped by the nuisance alarms, could be catastrophic for customers, the environment and the company. In fact, in the worst-case scenario, this could also lead to penalties or even prosecutions which must be avoided.
If these insights, provided by AlarmVision, have enabled a control room to act on the network to reduce the noise — the nuisance alarms — they are far less likely to miss the most important alerts. And when the noise goes quiet, there is a chance to see what is real versus what is nuisance.
Looking ahead, Ovarro’s next-generation analytics tools are also being designed as SaaS programmes to reduce customer costs in configuration, maintenance, support and upgrade. While additional functionalities are currently being developed to add to AlarmVision, Ovarro’s end goal is to completely remove alarms from the equation.
Ovarro wants to enable companies to be fully predictive and to be looking at how an alarm can be predicted before it becomes an alarm, moving companies from a reactive model to a proactive model. This is where Ovarro wants to take its alarm management system, as this is the direction the oil and gas, broadcast, transportation, power and process sectors need to be moving in.