Over the past decade, we have seen a continual rise in demand for remote tank level monitoring solutions that utilize cellular networks. Cellular networks provide many benefits to tank operators that have tanks spread out over large geographical areas. Ease of access to information, the ability to respond quickly to alarms, and improved inventory planning are some of these benefits to name a few.
However, along with the benefits, cellular network based tank level solutions come with some limitations. So before you invest your resources in rolling out your tank level monitoring system, you need to do your homework. Here are 5 questions you need to ask when investigating a cellular solution.
Do I Have Cell Coverage Where I Need It?
Our first tip may seem a bit obvious but it is very important and sometimes ignored by project managers. You can’t afford to assume that all of your tanks are in areas that have cellular coverage. In fact, in many cases tanks are in remote locations without coverage. This is simply the nature of many industries that utilize storage tanks. Make sure that your solution allows for this scenario.
Can I Extend Cellular Coverage To My Tanks?
If you find yourself in a situation where the location of the tank has a poor signal, don’t immediately resort to satellite. Sometimes, this may be your only option left but in many cases you can remedy the situation through a variety of other tricks. These include extending the network coverage by using WiFi bridges and point-to-point radios. You may be surprised to know that you can extend coverage by a few miles using these strategies.
Do I Want GSM or CDMA Networks?
You will need to purchase a cellular modem and a data plan. There are two main types of cellular networks. The first is GSM which AT&T and T-Mobile use and the other is CDMA, which is used by Verizon and Sprint. Depending on which carrier you prefer, will determine which type of cellular modem you will need; whether it be a modem for GSM or CDMA services.
Be careful, if you have tanks throughout the world you will need to know that GSM is the predominant type of network. While North America offers both, CDMA is typically recognized to offer the best coverage. So try to find a level monitoring service provider that can work with both network types.
Are My Devices 2G, 3G, or 4G?
When sourcing communication devices for your system, double check that the devices support the later generations of wireless data transmission. For example, 2G will become unavailable in a few years and move to 3G and 4G services. Don’t get stuck with a system that will be obsolete after just a couple years of service.
Along these same lines, check how much bandwidth your sensors and communication devices require. To avoid excessive fees, try to keep this limited to a minimum without sacrificing necessary data.
Can I Limit My Cellular Modems?
Too often, we see solutions that use a cellular modem with each level sensor. In most cases, this is unnecessary and wastes money. There are a variety of systems on the market that use master and slave sensors such as wireless radio mesh networks and wired multi-drop configurations. Systems such as these allow you to put multiple sensors on a single connection to a cellular network. This practice cuts down on initial hardware investment and in long-term data costs.
External Modems Are Best
There are a few companies that sell remote tank level sensors with an embedded cellular modem. They do this to make installation as easy as possible. While it certainly accomplishes that goal, it also comes with some serious limitations:
- You cannot adjust your modem location to optimized signal strength
- You cannot use network devices to extend cellular coverage area
- You’re sensor is tied to the modem, whether it is GSM, CDMA, 2G, 3G, or 4G
- And you’re forced to have a cellular modem for each sensor
On the other hand, a remote monitoring solution that uses external modems that you have to wire into your sensor are a bit more difficult to setup. But they allow you to:
- Control where your modem is placed
- Incorporate other network equipment if needed and extend your data connection
- Swap out modems for different networks, and upgrade your modem as needed without affecting your infrastructure
- And connect multiple sensors to a single cellular modem to save on hardware and recurring data costs
We can’t speak for all the remote monitoring systems out there, but despite the fact that Tank Cloud is a wired solution, it is still easy to install. By following well-known and easy-to-grasp wiring practices, you can have the flexibility needed to effectively monitor your remote tanks with the convenience of cellular networks.
Contact us to discuss your remote tank level monitoring application. We'll help you identify your best options, and ensure you have a successful platform and installation.
Want to learn more about flexible remote monitoring platforms? Check out Tank Cloud below! You'll discover how easy flexibility really is: