Category: Control Solutions

Cloud SCADA

Cloud-based SCADA system

How nice would it be if you could look at your SCADA screen whether you’re on-site or not? With cloud-based SCADA systems, you can. Maybe you’ve heard of cloud SCADA, or “the cloud” in general and you have your suspicions. We’re here to put those reservations to rest and let you know how a cloud-based SCADA system can change the way you monitor, control, and/or archive your water and wastewater systems.

 

What is SCADA?

 

Starting off with the basics, what exactly is SCADA? SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. SCADA systems can monitor and/or control operations at your facility remotely by sending coded signals from a control center to your machinery. SCADA previously consisted of on-site servers and hardware that required a long set-up process and maintenance. Data loss was at a high risk because if the SCADA computer crashed, the data was gone. Additionally, the software had to be constantly updated and annual software costs added up quickly. All these factors caused old SCADA systems to be extremely expensive.

 

In comes new SCADA that uses modern-day technology to solve these issues of the past. Cloud SCADA is operated over a cloud, eliminating physical infrastructure. Cloud SCADA has a faster set-up time, both upfront and on-going costs are significantly less, and is a far more flexible resource.

 

But is the cloud secure?

 

Many people get nervous when they hear the term “the cloud” due to the subconscious imagery that your information is simply floating in the abyss somewhere. The cloud simply means that the information is stored on servers at a remote location. With the cloud, your information has a private IP address, meaning that only you can access it. Your access into that network is through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) tunnel. No interception is possible because the cloud communicates through a very secure protocol. This is the equivalent of trying to access someone’s residential mailbox outside their house versus trying to enter a gated community. This is more secure than storing your information at one on-site location.

 

But what if the server crashes? The cloud always has a primary server, and a backup server, so your information is never at risk of getting lost. The information can also be backed up in different locations to make for an easy recovery. This also means that if one server fails, the system will automatically be online with the new server.

 

What does this mean for the water/wastewater industry?

 

With water pumps, you never know when something could go haywire. It’s hard to tell unless you can consistently monitor your pumps. With cloud SCADA, not only can you monitor your pumps, but also have the option to control them just as you would be able to on-site, but with a more secure way to store your information. Since the cloud allows you to access your screens from a smart phone, smart device, or computer from anywhere, you’ll always be up-to-date on what your system may be doing. But what is your best cloud SCADA option to monitor and control your facility’s pumps?

 

Choose MetroCloud SCADA

 

If you are not familiar, Metropolitan Industries has its own cloud SCADA system called MetroCloud SCADA. Our system has every perk of cloud SCADA that we described, in addition to utilizing Amazon Web Services and Verizon as partners. MetroCloud can link to any of our control panels, and is versatile to work for any type of PLC system. For reporting purposes, the MetroCloud can generate spreadsheets to be printed or emailed, and can hold onto your data longer, so you have access to comparison data from as far back as your installation. For many installations, it may be advantageous to incorporate DNP protocol, that actually fills in missing data that occurs between communications from process controls to the cloud. MetroCloud eliminates dedicated SCADA computer costs, software capital outlay, and yearly software upgrades, and comes with Metropolitan’s promise to be your one stop shop for water and wastewater solutions, making MetroCloud SCADA the most cost-effective, simple, and safe monitoring and control option for your facility.

 

To learn more about MetroCloud SCADA or to let us know about your project, visit metrocloud.us, call 877-89MTCLOUD, or email hello@metrocloud.us.

Ottawa, Illinois SCADA system

Overview screen of the MetroCloud SCADA map of sites for both water and wastewater systems in the City of Ottawa. Stars indicate station locations.

As one of the most common industrial control systems, a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system is of critical importance to municipalities. By allowing for the centralized monitoring of the larger water system — wastewater treatment, storm water, water treatment, lift stations, etc. — SCADA systems streamline access and help ensure that everything is running as planned. Unfortunately, traditional SCADA systems haven’t kept pace with technology, leaving many municipalities with high maintenance expenses and a lack of flexibility, access, and security concerns.

When it came time for the City of Ottawa, Illinois to address its decades old SCADA system, antiquated controls, and unreliable radio system, the municipality recognized that it was time for a broader change. While SCADA systems have historically been operated from one central, on-site computer, Ottawa didn’t want to feel tethered to or dependent on an old system. Rebuilding a SCADA system with multiple connections and hardware from various manufacturers is no small task, but engineers from Metropolitan Industries were able to work with the city to ease implementation and greatly streamline system monitoring by bringing the entire processes into the MetroCloud.

Understanding The Cloud

From smart phones, tablets, photo storage and servers, the term “cloud” seems to be working its way into every conversation and corner of life, but what exactly does it mean to be in the cloud? Well, this mysterious storage option is actually fairly simple. When storing data in the cloud, what you’re actually doing is placing digital data on servers, often in multiple locations, owned by a hosting company. This allows you to access your information from anywhere and prevents you from having to maintain digital storage options. Additionally, transitioning the physical SCADA computer to a virtual machine running in the cloud eliminates associated IT costs, computer replacements, software update costs, and physical security concerns. Best of all, everything once requiring an operator to sit in front of a computer can be done with remote access from any Android, iOS, or Windows smart device.

What this means for a SCADA system, like the one in Ottawa, is that the on-site computer server becomes a thing of the past, but the information once held on that system becomes more accessible than ever.

From Ground to Cloud

To help ease the transition for the City of Ottawa, Metropolitan worked with the municipality to take a two-step, transitioned approach for the implementation of MetroCloud SCADA, our remotely hosted SCADA monitoring system. The first step was to rebuild the existing SCADA system and improve operator access to the data. By combining our expertise with pump systems with our deep understanding of associated software communications, we connected various components and software systems across multiple sites to enable easy communication. Though some lift stations are still on their old radio communications, other were replaced with cellular modems to allow for faster, more reliable communications and easy cloud hosting. Further, the remaining lift stations are track to be replaced in the future with our LMS II, a complete menu-configurable lift station level management system. Though we didn’t move everything to cloud storage/hosting immediately, all systems needed to communicate through the cloud.

With the SCADA communications reconfigured, we were able to move to step two: transitioning a small number of municipal water components — three lift stations — to cloud hosting. The result? As planned, access was simplified, information was readily available with just a few taps, and in less than a year the City of Ottawa took the plunge.

After recognizing the value of MetroCloud SCADA, they transitioned  more lift stations, four wells, three pump stations, one water treatment plant, and one waste water treatment plant to the cloud and this new system has already proven itself. When the city was hit by a major tornado in February, communications via MetroCloud SCADA were sent as planned, allowing the city to remain aware of its water system despite the chaos and destruction that rocked the community. That’s all part of the security that’s inherent to every MetroCloud SCADA.

Overview screen of the MetroCloud SCADA map of sites for both water and wastewater systems in the City of Ottawa. Stars indicate station locations. Shown on a smart device.

Overview screen of the MetroCloud SCADA map of sites for both water and wastewater systems in the City of Ottawa. Stars indicate station locations. Shown on a tablet.

Security is Priority

When talking about the cloud, security concerns are usually one of the first things that come to mind. While it’s good to be aware of risks, MetroCloud SCADA puts security first by working to guarantee uptime and restrict access to information. To ensure reliability, all data using the MetroCloud platform is hosted on Amazon Cloud Servers, with 99.9% uptime and multiple servers in geographically redundant zones, meaning you’ve always got a backup should something go wrong. Additionally, we designed this system so that it’s not exposed to the Internet. A private Internet protocol (IP) address essentially creates a gated community for your information, limiting access to sensitive municipal data, and when connecting to MetroCloud via Ethernet connection, VPN tunnels encrypt all data. Finally, the system partners with cellular carriers to create a private network connection between MetroCloud and the cellular network.

With all of this being done by Metropolitan’s experienced pump system and control experts, setup is quick and ongoing maintenance is minimal. In addition to the cloud offering easy access, this storage/communication option eliminates the need for dedicated on-site computers/servers and the costs associated with maintaining this added infrastructure, including SCADA software licenses and upgrades. In fact, with free upgrades automatically pushed to the system, there is no IT involvement at all for most applications.

You could say that we have our heads in the cloud, and we’d probably agree. By remaining at the forefront of innovation in the market with MetroCloud, we’re taking steps to ensure that our clients are ready for the years ahead. Backed by a 60 year history of proven expertise in the pump systems industry, we’re looking forward to the next 60 years and we know that phone lines, computer towers, and at-risk data won’t get us there.

Since our founding, Metropolitan Industries has been motivated by one central focus: A job well done. Though it would be nice if the criteria that marks “well done” were as easy to measure as gallons per minute, horsepower, or pressure, we set the bar well above these basic quantifiable measurements.

At Metropolitan, we believe that the true measure of success comes in the way of the customer experience during the project and long after it is complete. To help ensure that our customers experience the very best from our products and services, be it pumps, control systems, or related equipment, we keep in touch. Sometimes, however, our customers reach out to us to let us know that things are going well, and those are some of our favorite emails.

Last year, we worked on a lift station project for a global consumer products company that was looking to update their infrastructure to meet the growing demands of their wastewater flow. More specifically, this customer wanted more reliable equipment that would allow for closer monitoring and more accurate effluent water metering. To meet these needs, Metropolitan engineers worked closely with the customer to design a custom control building that would be manufactured to their specifications. In addition to meeting flow requirements, the three-room building needed to include space and equipment for water monitoring, including one room with two samplers for constant testing. After delivery and hands on training with Metropolitan engineers, the system was quickly up and running. However, the real story here is one of continued success.

This customer recently emailed to say that the quality and accuracy of our lift station and its unique prefabricated control building – built entirely indoors at Metropolitan’s Illinois facility – allowed the company to recognize more than a 50% decrease in flow rates compared to the old equipment that was over-measuring. This, in turn, led to a sharp 40% decrease in their sewer bill.

For us, that is a job well done. Even without the quantifiable details – which are impressive, to say the least – knowing that the customer is satisfied tells us we really hit the mark.

Two (2) MetroMix Temperature Controllers installed on a hot water system in the basement of the Langham, Chicago hotel.

The notion that, “Change is the only constant,” applies to basically everything, including our water. Between a growing population, aging infrastructure, and efforts to improve water supply and delivery, municipalities around the country are changing water treatment methods and these changes may necessitate equipment changes. Broadly speaking, changes to our water in the way of chemical treatment is leading to faster scaling, damaged valves and an increase in the need for maintenance on some equipment. Of course, with increased maintenance comes increased costs and that is likely a sign that it is time to change more than the maintenance schedule.

The Langham, Chicago – one of only four Forbes Five-Star Hotels in the city – recently found itself in this exact position and recognized the need for change. As a property that prides itself on offering exquisite accommodations and service, The Langham needs everything – both front and back of house – to work flawlessly and the hotel’s pair of thermostatic valves, for domestic hot water temperature control, were proving unreliable for the more than 300 guest rooms. In short, regular use of the system was leading to frequent maintenance (approximately every six months) and the costs associated with these rebuilds/replacements were mounting.

Though thermostatic mixing valves have been a mainstay in the plumbing industry, the design of these devices often makes them unable to handle today’s evolving demands and water characteristics, especially on a larger scale. Fortunately, electronic mixing valves are an emerging industry option proving to be a contemporary and reliable replacement to the legacy thermostatic valves, and Metropolitan’s MetroMix Stainless Steel Electronic Mixing Valve is a premier example. After meeting with both the plumbing contractor and the chief engineer at The Langham, Metropolitan engineers determined the failing system could be drastically improved if the dated thermostatic valves were removed altogether and replaced with a reliable MetroMix system.

Challenge Meets Solution

In many ways, this retrofit was standard, despite being different from our double-valve preferred piping schematic, but there was one distinct difference: The water had to remain on. After all, it is hard for a luxury hotel to offer luxury without water for hours on end. To allow for “on the fly” installation that was seamless for guests, we added one MetroMix Temperature Controller to each valve. Finally, two independent MetroMix Temperature Sensors were installed to ensure that our uniquely tight temperature parameters remain steady at all times. However, reliable water temperature is only one of the benefits. In addition to allowing the hotel to seamlessly upgrade to more advanced technology, electronic mixing valves offer two distinct benefits that can lead to cost savings and a more rapid return on investment.

Premium Performance

Rather than being hindered by inherent design limitations, electronic valves are built to regulate temperature with greater precision than their thermostatic counterparts. The MetroMix in particular uses a modulating, motorized stainless steel valve which, when paired with our temperature sensors, helps to maintain a temperature that is accurate within 1-2 ºF. This accuracy offers a consistent experience and more efficient performance (i.e. cost savings becomes a natural byproduct) without any adverse affects to the overall system.

Thermostatic mixing valves, by design, have a large pressure drop across the valve that reduces flow rate capacity, but the MetroMix valve is a full-ported globe style mixing valve. This design often allows us to supply a smaller body size MetroMix when compared to the existing thermostatic mixing valve. In fact, as was the case at The Langham, we were able to provide a 2.5” national pipe thread (NPT) in lieu of the existing 3” NPT thermostatic mixing valve while still meeting the flow requirements of the hotel. These benefits make for a more reliable system overall, but the connected nature of every MetroMix system is what really gets you out of hot water (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Ingeniously Interoperable

Even a quality hot water system can be found lacking if it is cumbersome to maintain and monitor. Our MetroMix valves overcome this potential downfall by integrating important safeguards. In addition to enabling the activation of an auto-shutoff if critical temperature is reached, the system allows our temperature precision to be monitored and controlled through a building’s automation system.

Alarm notification is achieved via the standard design of the MetroMix controller incorporating dry contact alarms and an alarm relay, which can be used to actuate a safety valve in, for example, an alarm condition.  The controller can easily connect to a building automation system (BAS) via an optional Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet) module to communicate multiple pieces of vital data seamlessly to the BAS. This connection – not possible with thermostatic valves –  allows maintenance to be informed of an abnormal situation as quickly as possible.

Today, more than a year after the installation of our MetroMix system, The Langham has not needed any servicing, a notable break from its previously needy thermostatic operation. We call that a success. And the 300 plus guest rooms pumping out water at the perfect temperature seem to back our claim.

To learn more about the MetroMix and how it might be the solution for your building application, call or email Mike Temes at 815-886-9200 or mtemes@metropolitanind.com.

We are pleased to announce the winners of our Ion+ Connect Smart Controller from a raffle drawing during the IL PHCC Show in Oak Brook, IL.

 

Congratulations to:

  • Bill Todd, A & W Plumbing and Heating
  • John Schull, Arrow Plumbing
  • Matt Gwaltney, M & E Plumbing
  • Gary Carrol, Maglish Plumbing and Heating
  • Keith Schreiner, Parks Plumbing

 

The Ion+ Connect is a residential sump/sewage ejector pump controller equipped with the revolutionary Ion® level sensor and an integrated cellular module. The device will run a manual pump up to 12 FLA, can sense up to 72” of water, has customizable start/stop/alert levels, and provides notifications via SMS text for alerts such as high water, pump fail, power fail, and many more.

Ion Technologies Residential Flood Control Specialists, Russ Baker, Brian Drafke and Steve Moak of Metropolitan Industries delivered the product to the winners last week.

Thank you to all who participated in the raffle drawing. If you are interested in learning more about the Ion+ Connect, please visit https://www.ionproducts.net/ionplusconnect/.

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Contact Us

(815) 886-9200 or Email Us: info@metropolitanind.com
37 Forestwood Dr., Romeoville, Il 60446

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