Is Compliance a Headache for Your Facility? Here's a Technological Pain Reliever.

Software helps water and wastewater facilities efficiently and reliably direct alarms and notifications from SCADA systems to the right people.

Is Compliance a Headache for Your Facility? Here's a Technological Pain Reliever.

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Alarming is an essential function in water and wastewater treatment plant automation. But how can alarms be directed reliably to the right people and places? Which alarms should have priority? How exactly should alarms be delivered?

WIN-911 Software helps plants efficiently deliver SCADA alarms. It easily connects with industry-leading SCADA, HMI and control systems. Alarm subscriptions filter alerts into the software so that there is no need to maintain two databases. The configurable applications can accommodate any alarm notification workflow.

The latest iterations of the software series are designed to enhance reliability, security and flexibility in a full-time alarm notification system. Most recently, the mobile application has been updated with new capabilities. Greg Jackson, CEO with WIN-911, and Steven Rivas, product manager, talked about the offerings in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

What are the primary industries you serve?

Jackson: Our biggest user segment is in water and wastewater. We also have significant presence in oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage processing, and data centers.

What would you say is the chief advantage of your notification platform?

Jackson: We use multiple notification methods. We support five ways to get an alarm or event notice out to the appropriate people. We support both voice-over IP and analog phone. We also support email and SMS texting, and we have an announcer capability. While plants typically have a primary method for notification, it’s a great practice to have a backup. So for example, if there is an issue with internet connectivity, they can still call out or use an SMS text message.

What is the value of that announcer function?

Jackson: It’s important in small to midsize cities and even in some larger facilities where the control room is hectic and people are multitasking. We can announce an alarm to the people in the control room over any computer speaker, or direct it to a public address or radio system.

What is the benefit of these modes of notification in operator productivity?

Jackson: We can replace a significant amount of operator rounds. It’s still important for operators and maintenance technicians to make rounds periodically and inspect equipment, but our software helps them be more efficient.

Without this type of software, how would a facility typically handle alarm and event notification?

Rivas: They might have an operator or a security officer in a control room monitoring an alarm screen. When something happens, they follow standard operating procedures, which would involve going down a list and calling people manually. Or they might have auto-dialers, which are pieces of hardware tied directly into a PLC. That requires quite a bit of setup. We built our products to replace that or to work in conjunction with it. Instead of one dialer for one piece of equipment, they use one software for many pieces of equipment.

How do you handle alarm priorities and direct the right notifications to the right people?

Rivas: When you set up WIN-911, you don’t have to import all your tags into our system, and so you don’t end up maintaining two sets of alarms. We connect to the SCADA system and stream the alarms into our software. Then we set up filters to deliver only the alarms that the customer considers important. For example, maybe they only want to send high-priority alarms to WIN-911, because they don’t want to bother the operators with low-priority alarms that don’t require immediate action.

What is new about the mobile software platform?

Rivas: We released a mobile app for Blackberry in 2007-08 and a version for Android and Apple in 2012. The newest version we released late last year is designed to be more useful and secure. In addition to being able to receive acknowledge alarms, users now have chat capability that allows teams of people to collaborate around an alarm event. They can also access pieces of real-time information, such as tank levels and other parameters.

What was involved in developing that offering?

Jackson: Before we started work on the project, we asked some of our biggest customers to validate that the architecture we had created would work in their network environments. We’re leveraging Microsoft Azure Cloud Services to facilitate the connection between WIN-911 and the mobile devices. It’s a mobile app that runs on Android and iOS tablets or smartphones.

What automation platforms do your products interface with?

Jackson: Our native connections are for General Electric, Rockwell and Wonderware (AVEVA) products. For other SCADA manufacturers, we have an OPC connection that enables us to connect with essentially anything in the automation industry.

What is involved in deploying WIN-911 software in a facility?

Rivas: We simply install the software, point it at the SCADA system, set up the filters and set up the contacts. There are installations for facilities that have only a few people, and others that might have 100 or 200. That means the deployment time will vary, but typically it doesn’t take more than half a day.

How are these software products offered for sale?

Rivas: It’s a perpetual license. There is a one-time charge for the core product, and in addition we offer an annual support and maintenance agreement. Customers who stay current on that agreement also have access to the mobile app.  


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