The world requires focused efforts to stay connected in an efficient and safe manner. With this, the need for companies to have communications that are modern and that can support this new era has never been greater.
While migrating your old communications system to a new one isn’t necessarily sexy to discuss, it is fast becoming a priority for organizations that are now implementing SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). SCADA is a system in which data is gathered on your assets and processes and then specific commands for controls can be sent to modify system operation. This allows your business to have a stronger understanding of your throughput and efficiencies, giving more control over your operations, finances, and other crucial systems and procedures.
This blog breaks down key aspects to consider as you begin diving into these conversations to understand how to migrate your communications with minimal disruption to your business operations.
Aging Systems and Technology
There are two primary components to think of when migrating your communication systems – your infrastructure and the technology itself.
This pertains to the towers and systems put in place that, if built robustly, should last 30 – 50 years, depending on how much you put into the initial development and long-term maintenance. For companies with infrastructure developed during the 1980s through the early 1990s, that infrastructure’s life cycle is nearing its end. Think of it this way: investing in your infrastructure is the same as having to invest/replace your car every 25 years. The better care you invest in it, all things being equal, the longer it will last. However, it will still have an end that you must proactively think about replacing. Assess the infrastructure of your systems: how old is it? How has it been maintained? Does it have the capability and the capacity to support your business operations today and 5, 10, 15 years out?
The truth is that most modern technology has a shelf life of lettuce. The quality and software features enabled in your technology today substantially outclass that from 10 years ago. If you are running a legacy system with technology from the 1980s and 90s, it will become harder to maintain, find parts, and even the people with the knowledge to understand it. No longer can you rely on the new market for old products. Ultimately, if something breaks, and you do not have ease of replacement or repair for the system, you will experience more downtime. You must understand what this downtime will cost your business if you could not run for a day. Is it $1K? $10K? $150K? Higher? Break down the numbers to understand the costs your business could incur if you do not proactively care for the health and lifespan of your technology.
Take the time to assess whether your infrastructure and technology are capable of supporting the new digital age, particularly as more companies move to remote working models.
Availability of Licensed Channels
In Canada, there are unlicensed and licensed systems. Unlicensed systems share radio channels and are used by the public and commercial companies alike. Capacity shortages and interference are common issues. A licensed system is allocated by the federal government and costs a company money as it employs private channels. There are a limited number of these licensed channels and to apply for one, companies must now be strategic about their approach. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada – the government regulator for radio spectrum – has increasingly strict criteria that must be met in justifying a licenced system beyond the narrowest of capacity allocations. As such, companies must “show their work” to the government in order to get new channels. With these restrictions, companies can no longer throw together an application for a licenced channel and be guaranteed an assignment. This results in a more proactive approach to communication migration in order to successfully qualify for a channel.
Why would your company want to operate their own licensed communication system over using a cellular carrier? The issue organizations typically run into when working with carriers such as Telus, Bell, or Rogers is that your business will compete with the general public for service. There is typically little to no priority for your traffic. Meaning, the 15-year old playing video games may be competing for bandwidth from your organization, slowing the transfer of data, the efficiency in which your systems work/speak together, and impacting your company’s overall bottom line. In addition, your organization is now paying every month in perpetuity, beholden to the carrier, without any real control over your long-term future. In other words, you have no control over where their infrastructure is developed, leaving you at the mercy of the network’s decisions. A licensed system offers control in those situations.
Increased Need for Remote Access and Operations
As a result of this increased data gathering, this information requires more bandwidth to be successfully transferred back to a central system or control room. Even more, depending on the radius in which your operation operates, your technology, systems, and facilities may have to speak to one another over long distances. Many of our clients have facilities and operations that cover areas over a 40 to 50 km radius. By ensuring your communications system is effectively designed for continuous data transfer, you are able to:
- Ensure your systems are actively communicating when they need to
- Identify where there is a breakdown in communication more quickly
- Monitor and evaluate system performance remotely
- Reduce the need for people on-site, lowering travel and safety risks and costs
- Limit the stress on your network system throughput.
In having stronger communication systems in place, you have greater control over condition monitoring. This allows you to improve your system’s performance while helping to reduce resolution time and costs, particularly those in remote or difficult-to-access locations.
Improved Energy Conservation
Protecting both your organization and the environment must be considered in today’s economic climate. No longer can nickels be thrown away but using assumed numbers. Leaks cannot go undetected. Enabling improved motor systems and the collection of meter data, your critical systems provide real-time status in an efficient manner. This allows your business to be more adaptable in the moment, while also considering the long term impacts on energy conservation and improved leak detection for greater environmental protection.
- Motor control. In a traditional on/off system, you have the ability to turn your motor on or off. In a modern approach, you are able to adjust the speed of the motor, thus its electrical energy consumption.
- Meter data management. Improvements in meter data collection and management for your meters provide greater control for leak detection. Here, you are better able to identify the size and location of a leak. Ultimately, this allows you to react in a more efficient, safe, and controlled manner, streamlining your response.
This real-time ability to adapt more quickly via improved communications systems leads to reduced costs and can improve throughput.
As you evaluate your company’s critical communications systems, recognize that this quickly becomes an investment in how your organization can maneuver.
To discuss how your business can thrive in this new realm of normal, connect with our team of experts in telecommunications and remote operations facilities. We’re here to help you and provide guidance.