Higher intelligence: How Keystone Electronic Solutions uses existing equipment to drive better results

Keystone’s modular solution interfaces with existing intelligent equipment to centralise and enhance on site data

Read this article to learn:

  • How Keystone can deliver effective remote site management using existing equipment
  • Which markets are benefitting from Keystone’s solutions
  • How modular deployment delivers unrivalled flexibility to site owners
  • The benefits of Project V – a video surveillance solution

For the last 15 years, the Keystone Electronic Solutions team has been working on developing solutions for site owners to collect, interpret and use data which will help them increase the security and efficiency of their sites. Their RSM system makes use of information provided by intelligent equipment already on site, interfacing with a wide range of equipment from fire suppression systems to energy meters and collating all of the information via the centralised Network Management Server. We spoke with Keystone’s founder, John Eigelaar, to find out more about their innovative solution. 

TowerXchange: Please can you introduce Keystone Electronic Solutions.

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

We are a South African based research and development company that have been delivering solutions to all industries for the last 15 years. As an organisation we have a team of highly capable engineers that covers all aspects of turnkey product development. We deliver solutions ranging from bespoke hardware to integration and mediation applications to smart device based, Android and iOS, productivity and maintenance management applications. All our products are locally designed and manufactured in South Africa and we provide the support for these products as well.

TowerXchange: Tell us about the features of your Remote Site Management System.

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

Our Remote Site Management system or RSM consists of an onsite Linux-based controller that has customisable IO configurations by installing either plugin boards in the controller housing or using one or more IO expansion modules. A typical fibre aggregation site or a GSM base station can be managed with a controller fitted into a 0.5 U form factor.

The RSM system has the philosophy that it is more efficient to make use of the information provided by the intelligent equipment already on site rather than to try and reinvent the wheel. Thus we interface and monitor a wide range of equipment, such as rectifiers, inverters, genset controllers, fire suppression systems, energy meters etc, through the use of industry standard protocol drivers. Currently SNMP, Modbus, DLMS and a number of vendor specific protocols are supported. These protocol interface are implemented as a complete protocol driver which means that adding support for any new equipment is a simple exercise of generating a mapping in order to map the protocol data correctly.

We have also ensured that data irrespective of its source, be it an onboard temperature sensor or a parameter received over Modbus from an energy meter, are presented in a generic and uniform way to the rest of the RSM system. This way of collecting monitoring data then enables us to create highly specialised and very specific control applications, such as climate control, logic engines etcetera that can be deployed onto the RSM controller as add on functionality.

The RSM Network Management Server, NMS, is a centralised management server for all RSM site controllers. The MS provides insight into network status and also serves to log and preserve historical measurement data. All RSM NMS data is also made available for integration to other management tools and systems via a JSON REST API

Data from the RSM controller is back hauled to the server over either MQTT or SNMP. These are industry standard protocols and enables customers to bypass the RSM NMS completely and integrate the RSM controller at a much lower level into existing network management systems.

The use of Linux on the RSM controller brings with it all the networking capabilities of the Linux networking suite. Thus the RSM controller can be configured to act as gateway router for a site, making the use of boiler plate IP configurations for a site a reality. The RSM controller can also provide more complex networking configurations such as secure VPN back-haul over public GSM.

TowerXchange: Has your system been used by the fibre, towerco and operator markets?

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

Yes we currently supply the system to fibre as well as towerco operators in South Africa and we are looking to expand our footprint on the African continent.

TowerXchange: Often site management systems are criticised for their high cost or their inflexible nature, how does Keystone address these issues?

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

The RSM system is designed to be deployed in a modular fashion. At the heart of the system is the RSM controller which is then easily expanded upon with plugin boards. The RSM controller also provides Multi Drop Power Fed RS485 busses which can be used to expand the IO capabilities with RSM IO modules. These are specifically handy in a multi room environment where a single controller can monitor and control multiple rooms at a site without having to route all of the IO wiring back to the controller.

On the server side all the application software was built using open source technologies and runs on either CentOS or Redhat Linux. Thus the cost of ownership of the RSM system is zero.

TowerXchange: How readily does the system integrate with other products and systems?

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

The RSM system has been designed from the ground up with interoperability and integration in mind. At the site level we have the philosophy that it is more prudent to harvest monitoring data from the intelligent equipment already installed on site. Thus the controller has protocol drivers to interface over with other equipment through SNMP, Modbus, DLMS and several vendor specific protocols.

From the management side RSM data is presented as a JSON Rest API for easy integration with other management tools and platforms.

TowerXchange: Can you talk through Project V, your video surveillance solution that is an add-on for your RSM, what additional benefits does this bring and what has been the appetite amongst clients for the product?

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

We have identified that there is essentially a conflict of interest between Remote Site surveillance for operational purposes and and surveillance for security purposes. These two areas are generally addressed by two distinctly different groups of personnel with different priorities. Thus we developed a security surveillance solution to address this scenario. The Project V security surveillance platform is deployed onto the existing RSM site controller, thus no additional hardware is required. The Project V solution provides stream on trigger functionality as well as stream on demand functionality. The Project V application makes use of standard IP video cameras. The solution is specifically implemented to be camera vendor agnostic. Several IO inputs can be assigned as triggers for specific video streams. An IO trigger will cause the relevant video stream to be pushed to the central Project V management console where the video stream is recorded and indexed while simultaneously being presented to the operator within a web browser.

Project V also makes provision for bidirectional audio interface. A bidirectional VoIP call is made between the site controller and the operator via a VoIP PABX thus audio is provided to the security operator through the same telephone interface already in use.

The uptake for the Project V offering has been good as existing clients did not have to roll out any new hardware, instead the Project V roll out was simply additional software that was deployed on their existing infrastructure. We do currently also have customers outside of the telecoms industry making use of the offering solely for the video surveillance capability without ever using the site management functionality. I think there definitely a space for Project V in the market

TowerXchange: Finally, what differentiates Keystone Electronic Solutions from its competitors in the market?

John Eigelaar, Founder and Director, Keystone Electronic Solutions:

From the very beginning the RSM system has been developed with three major design goals: scalability, cost of ownership and ease of deployment.

These goals are still a very important in guiding further development of the product. We have achieved scalability by keeping all the components of the system, whether hardware or software, very modular. This makes it very simple the scale the system up or down in terms of IO capability, but it also makes it very agile when it comes to interfacing to on site equipment whether it be over standard management protocols or vendor specific interfaces.

The extensive use of open source technologies, has rendered the RSM product completely license and royalty free thus almost removing cost of ownership completely out of the equation

The RSM equipment has been deliberately designed to make the installation and subsequent operation and maintenance of the system as simple as possible. All IO connectors are either screw terminal plug connectors or RJ type connectors. Each IO interface is also 12V power fed in order to simplify the wiring harness. Configuration is done through a web interface accessible through either of the LAN, WAN or USB ports. Thus a technician can install the RSM equipment with a minimum toolset and effort. Firmware is distributed with the use of a standard Linux package manager and updates or additional functionality can be installed remotely from a centrally hosted application repository without incurring any downtime.

Leave a Reply