Article - March 2001
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Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Kevin Duffy, Vice President,
 Sales and Marketing

"..... in an industry where prevention is key and time is money, wireless monitoring provides a strategic advantage for those who want to maximize the potential of their HVAC/R equipment. "

When was the last time your rooftop air conditioning unit called you? With recent advancements in automated wireless monitoring capabilities, being notified when a problem arises with HVAC/R equipment is quickly becoming commonplace. Low-cost, real-time equipment monitoring that harnesses the incredible power of the Internet is replacing the highly expensive, industrial strength monitoring systems that were once only affordable to large corporations. And it's available for a monthly monitoring fee that is often less than what some are currently paying for a phone line. 

Reliable Controls Realizing the advantage wireless monitoring systems can provide against equipment failure, contractors and facility managers are increasingly communicating with their HVAC/R equipment in order to prevent problems and optimize performance. This allows for the opportunity to address minor equipment malfunctions before they become major business disruptions. And in an industry where prevention is key and time is money, wireless monitoring provides a strategic advantage for those who want to maximize the potential of their HVAC/R equipment. 

Today, most HVAC/R failures are first noticed only after the space conditions have fallen out of range, long after the equipment failure occurred. This means that collateral costs or damage (an operating disruption or other business loss) also is likely to have begun. For example, if a compressor fails on a freezer over night, the unit heater fails during a winter night on a car wash, or a boiler fails over a holiday weekend, business disruptions can result if the failure is not dealt with as soon as possible. 

With direct communication to HVAC/R equipment, malfunction notification occurs in real time. This means that equipment like rooftop air conditioning units, ventilation systems, chillers, boilers, furnaces, motors, pumps, and more, will notify you within two minutes, drastically reducing response times, repair bills, and unhappy customers. Armed with the power of the Internet and a wireless monitoring system like Notifact's, contractors can reduce repair costs and address malfunctions often before their customer even knows something is wrong. 

Contractor simply mounts the boxHere's how it works. The system is connected to sensors, or set points, installed on any type of equipment. The contractor simply mounts the box, connects to the power source supplying the equipment, wires into the appropriate sensors, and configures a message delivery profile on a secure and customized Web site. No software is required, as an integrated communication system allows contractors to set protocols with any Web browser. 

Whenever a data measurement, such as fluid levels, pressure differentials, or power voltages, falls outside user-established operating parameters, the equipment transceiver automatically sends a digital data message to the Internet server, via the cellular network. Then, following predetermined procedures entered by the user at the monitoring web site, the server sends information to any designated recipient within two minutes, along with the unit's identification number, location, and the precise nature of the malfunction. Messages from multiple pieces of HVAC/R equipment, from multiple locations across North America, can be sent to as many individuals as necessary, using cell phones, pagers, e-mail and fax machines. 

With the detailed report in hand, the contractor can dispatch the appropriate technician, with the right tools and parts, to the exact machine experiencing a malfunction. The technician arrives on-site with the knowledge of what needs to be fixed, eliminating the trouble shooting process normally needed to pinpoint the problem. This tailored remedy for each machine cuts costs, improves efficiency by helping the contractor utilize his existing manpower more effectively, and prevents the potential for collateral damage that every equipment malfunction holds if not corrected in a timely manner. 

Instant notificationIn addition, instant notification allows whoever has the service contract to guarantee that they will be the only ones to receive all service calls from their contracted customers. Monitoring systems add value to contracting bids, and can tip the scales towards a successful business win in such a highly competitive industry. Contractors can also differentiate their services by offering high-tech solutions which were previously only available through expensive systems. 

In the very near future, the reliability of this cutting edge wireless technology will evolve again in the machine-to-machine and web-to-wireless arenas. New wireless technologies will provide high-speed data delivery, automatic roaming and expanded data capacity. For instance, contractors can request knowing how many times a compressor has run, as well as the number of cycles. These new technologies will also provide contractors and facility owners with two-way communication, allowing them to request detailed information regarding equipment conditions such as temperatures, pressures, and humidity. 

The HVAC/R industry is an $81 billion market, with service accounting for $23 billion. As a result, wireless monitoring systems put valuable information at the contractor's fingertips, which can help him manage his business better, produce greater customer satisfaction, and better service. In the process, wireless monitoring systems fill the need for instant notification -- not only helping contractors avoid inconvenience, but also helping lead them to better ways of doing business.

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