What is a Remote Telemetry Unit? The Meaning of RTU

In this article, we will be learning the meaning of RTU and how remote monitoring can be used to protect your network.

In Telecom and IT industries, a Remote Telemetry Unit or Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) is a remote device that monitors and reports events occurring at a remote location. This allows you, the network operator or telemetry technician, to manage the network more effectively, keeping service flowing to your customers/users and protecting your revenue stream.

Some RTUs are also capable of remotely controlling remote site gear using control relay contacts or protocol-based commands. Without this ability, an RTU only collects data and reports remote events to you. While this is valuable, you still must physically travel to the monitored location if a change must be made.

An RTU that includes remote control capability reduces potentially multi-hour-travel to a simple mouse click (or even a fully automated response).

RTUs are important components of SCADA systems. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are used to monitor and control equipment and processes at remote sites. The SCADA architecture begins with RTUs since these devices are responsible for collecting information and communicating it to you or to your master station.

How RTUs Gather Information

RTU units collect information from their local environments in several ways.

First, the gear that forms the backbone of your network will generally report problems as they occur. These reports take the form of discrete contact closure alarms or more-detailed protocol messages.

Second, your RTU may have onboard and external sensors that measure levels like temperature and humidity. Also, important technical values like battery and tank levels and power voltages may be monitored.

Once your RTU has collected important information, it needs a way to tell you about it. First, you have to choose one or more communication channels. In many cases, you'll simply use LAN/Ethernet. For more remote sites (or those with legacy tech), you might use another method like dial-up modem, wireless GSM/CDMA, or dedicated RS232/RS485 serial.

What is an RTU
Monitor mission-critical network gear and environmental conditions with an RTU.
Once the channel is set, your RTU will use a protocol to send status information; one of the most common is SNMP ("Simple Network Management Protocol")

This is common on RTUs designed for either Telecom or IT environments. Directly monitored RTUs can use HTTP/HTTPS to provide an onboard web interface that you can access from any web browser on the network. SCADA RTUs will tend to use DNP3 or Modbus to communicate. Many older RTUs use vendor-specific protocols that are only compatible with master stations from that same vendor, or multi-protocol master stations like T/Mon.

With data logged from your RTU and sent as discussed above, how will you receive information so you can take action? In larger RTU deployments, you might have dozens or hundreds of units in the field. It's smart to use a central master station that collects alarms from all RTUs, then summarizes all detected problems in a single, convenient interface.

If you have just a few RTUs, you can monitor each unit using increasingly common web interfaces that describe events collected by just one RTU at a time. More advanced RTUs and master stations can also send you a text message or recorded-voice phone call to alert you to serious problems.

DPS Telecom even has a few clients who run sandwich shops (monitor temperature of deli meats), car washes (detect gear status and times when pipes might freeze and burst), and pig farms (pigs are very sensitive to changing temperatures and humidities).

In summation, an RTU is a device that provides supervisory control and data acquisition over remote sites vital to your business interests. They're used in all sorts of businesses, from telecom to utilities to public safety and more.

No matter the industry, RTUs are adaptable and efficient automation devices; reducing manual and repetitive labor key to mission-critical operations.

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RTUs: the building blocks of monitoring | Remote Telemetry Units FAQ

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