Thursday, May 19, 2016 - Jeff Schuyler
Eyasco started as a business building monitoring systems in the geotechnical and drinking water industries (another blog perhaps on "what is geotechnical monitoring?"). Our goal was to build monitoring systems that 'included' data management and display. From day one we wanted a true end-to-end solution, the kind of thing you connect sensors to and view data on a web browser or a smartphone. It sounds common place today - but we started in 2003.
The innovative concept my partner and I came up with was to embed the data that was being collected with enough information that our data collection software would know exactly what to do with it. In other words, instead of collecting the data in spreadsheets or in a database and cutting and pasting (in the case of the spreadsheet), or programming (in the case of the database), our software would collect the data and it would be ready for display because of the bits of information (metadata) we embedded in the data stream. Our thinking was everyone who makes one of these monitoring systems has to program them – so that’s a given. If we could eliminate the so-called “middle-tier” programming then we would create a fast-track to presenting data on the internet. We built the monitoring systems in my garage, and were serving data on the Internet with a server in my bedroom.
First we monitored things like flow, water level, turbidity (water clarity) pH and conductivity at "mountain" spring sites. After we got really good at these low-power systems, we started doing other types of monitoring, not only adding other sensors, but other types of monitoring for control and security. We love the challenge of designing new systems, adding new technology and sensors, and integrating new types of telemetry. But we rarely have to work on our software – unless a client requests something new. The web display part has credentials and role assignment built into it, so access to data and web parts if controlled through a credential manager.
So why do we like our approach? Imagine your business is sending water treatment systems all over the world. You want to monitor the health of all of those systems, and you want to give each end-user the ability to monitor their own system. Our approach would be to connect the sensor outputs to one of our QuB monitoring systems - which include Campbell Scientific measurement and control units (MCU). We would program the MCU for the number and types of sensors. Once the unit was deployed and connected to telemetry (cellular modem, iphone, whatever), we would see it and download not only the data, but it’s location. It would show up on a map and all the data from the sensors would be visible in tabular and graphical form. All of this without any programming on the data collection side. The only configuration that is necessary is for the admin user to log in and define who gets to see what. This is all done by creating and assigning roles through the web interface.
This works very well for a small company like us. Programming and configuration is largely confined to the controller - which we cannot avoid anyway. But once that is complete the display pretty much comes with deployment. When our field crew is finished with an install, the data is available on a password-protected web page before they get in the truck to leave. All our clients know is that - they get their data.