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Tuesday, 08 April 2008 10:06

Telstra's Next G goes Big Brother with remote monitoring

Got CDMA monitoring equipment and worried it won’t work with Next G? Stop worrying – it won’t work, so Telstra has worked with the University of New England, RMCam and Canon to bring vision and telemetry services to you, but naturally it means buying new equipment.

Let’s face it – no matter how long the Australian Federal Government decides to extend the CDMA network for, it’s a goner.

Now, whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, the reality is that there are people out there using telemetry equipment connected to the CDMA network to monitor non-video data such as rainfall, wind speed, soil moisture and water temperature.

Of course, when you’re connected to an HSPA 3.5G network, and a camera, you can do more than just telemetry – you can do video, too.

Telstra says it's a “revolution”, and it’s all thanks to Next G.

Telstra says that “the wide coverage and higher data speeds of the Next G network” could - although you’d think they’d say ‘would’ – “open up new opportunities for businesses across Australia to monitor and control remote sites without leaving their home or office.”

Telstra Country Wide’s Director, Gary Goldsworthy, said Next G “provided high quality video streaming and enabled users to control remote cameras or equipment from where they had an internet connection”, and added that “remote telemetry, which uses wireless technology to monitor and report data, is enhanced on Telstra's Next G network. This provides businesses with a huge potential to improve efficiency, reduce operational costs and provide superior real time information”.

Telstra’s work with Canon, who provided the cameras, and the University of New England (UNE) who helped developed the RMCam, made the new solution possible.

Goldsworthy said that: "The UNE's RMCam product for example, is a remote monitoring solution developed to deliver vision and telemetry services with the key benefits being the mitigation of travel time, personnel expenses and maximising opportunity cost savings associated with staff and capital re-deployment”.

Interestingly, the RMCam site notes that Next G still might not be enough in all situations. Their site notes that: “The unit can be configured to provide wireless broadband internet coverage at the camera site.  Next G coverage will be augmented in areas of low coverage through an integrated satellite modem as an option from 2008.”

So, what are some specific examples where the new solution will outdo CDMA based telemetry solutions? Please read onto page 2.

Goldsworthy then waxed lyrical about some “examples of where video-based telemetry services could have real benefits were the remote viewing and monitoring of aquaculture sites, livestock in paddocks or even for security purposes”, with “Telstra was currently trialling a number of applications with developers.”

Goldsworthy continued, saying: "Currently businesses such as farms, vineyards and aquaculture operators are using telemetry over the slower 2G mobile networks such as CDMA to monitor data such as rainfall, wind speed, soil moisture and water temperature.

Aside from integration with a Canon camera, an existing suite of compatible devices are available, which include:

- Davis Weather Station
- Campbell Scientific data logger
- Bar Code Readers
- Weight Scale and NLIS readers
- Gate, Pump, irrigation and lighting control

Goldsworthy continued that: "These businesses now have the opportunity not just to get this data from remote sites but to actually see what is happening on the ground and control remote equipment without leaving their office.

"This has the potential to offer enormous savings in both time and resources as businesses no longer have to travel to remote sites to check the status of or make adjustments to their operations."

No doubt the solutions won’t be cheap – nothing in the agricultural industry ever is, except perhaps the produce they create which gets sold at massive mark-ups by supermarkets – but the solution will surely be worth its weight in gold if it all works as advertised.

Interestingly, the RMCam solution from the UNE is still classed as a ‘beta’, but then given the world’s technology companies to class everything as a beta, this isn’t so surprising, and clearly indicates more work will be done to further tweak and enhance the service to the satisfaction of its customers.

When you visit the RMCam website, you can actually freely register to see the RMCam solution at work, in a live demonstration with a camera located at, naturally, the UNE.

For more information on specifically what the RMCam offers, please read onto page 3.

According to the RMCam website, RMCam is a “vision-based, wireless monitoring and control solution with on board and remote PIR motion sensors and remote IR lighting options.”

Taking into account the fact that remote regional areas may not have a power point nearby, the RMCam can be “mains or solar powered and operates over the Next-G/Next-IP networks, and does not require any fixed infrastructure, allowing for complete self-installation.”

“The unit and all peripherals can be moved from site-to-site as often as the need arises - all that is needed is a pole (or any other existing structure) to mount the unit to.”

The site continues that: “For any business that needs to monitor mobile assets such as machinery, hardware and equipment, RMCam can move with plant and be activated when the equipment is unattended. Similarly, RMCam can be installed in a permanent location that has no power or internet connectivity.”

“The system can be configured with either a fixed IP Network camera with 26x optical zoom, or 340 degree horizontal Pan, 100 degree vertical tilt with 26x optical zoom.  These cameras are supplied from a leading manufacturer with full manufacturer’s warranty.”

“Event driven alarm functions are standard on the unit and available as options using remote wireless solar PIR stations up to 4 kilometres (line-of-sight) from the unit. Events will direct the camera to start taking images and send samples to the operator via MMS, email or direct from the server.  Events can also alert the operator with an SMS to mobile numbers so they can log onto their server space and review images.”

“Aside from alarm events, the camera can be set with up to 30 preset positions and perform routine preset patrol image collection on allocated time intervals. These images can be reviewed in a movie sequence on-line or submitted directly to the user via RSS feed.  Storage space on the server allows for the reviewing of images at any time by the user.”

For more information, please read onto page 4.

“RMCam comes standard with 2 x 12-bit analogue input which are expandable to 16 analog-in using a multiplexer. The unit also comes standard with 8 digital inputs and 4 relay outputs (2 outputs reserved for camera and lighting control), expandable to a total of 16 in and 8 out).” 

“An existing suite of compatible devices are available, these include:"

"Davis Weather Station
Campbell Scientific data logger
Bar Code Readers
Weight Scale and NLIS readers
Gate, Pump, irrigation and lighting control”

“The operating system, applications and user interface are server-side, meaning that a standard internet browser is all that is needed to access archived images, program camera presets or modify alarm settings such as phone, MMS and email addresses for event notification. A consequence of this configuration is that the user can review all data and settings from their own computer or any terminal where the operator happens to be within Australia or overseas.”

“The unit can be configured to provide wireless broadband internet coverage at the camera site.  Next G coverage will be augmented in areas of low coverage through an integrated satellite modem as an option from 2008.”

“The RMCam is a scaleable and expandable solution that offers flexibility to the end user in a self contained portable package.”

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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