A simple Human-Machine Interface for H&L Instruments Fiber Optic Transceivers
Our world today requires tighter IT security than ever before. This fact has caused many utilities to shut down standalone network monitoring applications running on Windows® and Linux PCs. The risks and vulnerabilities associated with these PCs in the control network environment are just too high to justify their continued use. An intrusion into a utility’s secure control network via malicious code or a rouge USB thumb drive could be catastrophic.
One negative side effect of this high security environment is that applications such as H&L Instruments’ FiberPanel network management software are no longer monitoring critical fiber optic networks. By not running FiberPanel 24/7, the utility is vulnerable to network failures because the unique monitoring features built into every H&L fiber optic system are not utilized. Features such as network operating mode, visualization of failure points and fiber routing, and detection of optical power level fluctuations caused by deteriorating fiber, splices, or loose connectors cannot be seen or acted on. Nor do operators have access to alarms and event logs that timestamp the events in the network that may be leading to a network failure.
The solution to this dilemma for owners of H&L Instruments’ fiber optic networks lies in a new, unique, standalone, purpose-built network monitoring appliance currently under deveolopment at Lynovation, LLC. The HL-HMI prototype pictured here is a small 5½”x4”x1” terminal utilizing a color, touch-sensitive display. This prototype sits atop an H&L Model 570 fiber optic transceiver in this photo. This device is being developed by Lynn Hansen of Lynovation, LLC. Lynn has 38 years of power utility communication experience in field service, engineering, and operations management rolls and keenly understands the challenges presented by requirements to operate a secure virtual environment while at the same time insuring reliable day to day network operation. He is the inventor and developer of H&L's FiberPanel and HLFlash programs, and is uniquely qualified to develop applications for H&L Instruments fiber optic networks.
HL-HMI restores all the industry leading advantages of running an H&L fiber network by eliminating the need to have a dedicated PC running FiberPanel monitoring your network around the clock. HL-HMI is designed to be easy to use and simple to deploy. No set up or configuration is required. It gives you the same monitoring features found in FiberPanel including an active alarm list and a time-stamped event log... and something new: a dry-contact alarm relay that operates if any unit in your network generates an alarm.
Production plans include two versions of HL-HMI, one similar to the prototype shown here and a metal case version resembling short Model 570 shown in this mock-up. Either an isolated 9-36 VDC or 18-75 VDC power supply can be specified. The metal case version will have mounting ears and both can be mounted on a DIN rail. Both offer dry-contact alarm contacts to drive local or RTU based alarm inputs. Power and RS-232 lines are surge protected for the substation environment.
Connect power to the HL-HMI and plug it into the maintenance port of your H&L fiber optic transceiver. It
immediately connects to your network and creates a graphic based map of you system, similar to the map in FiberPanel. The small size of the HL-HMI and its DIN rail mount makes it easy to mount nearly anywhere. The display goes to sleep after a user defined period of inactivity which reduces power consumption ensuring reliable 24/7 operation even in solar powered sites.
HL-HMI continually monitors the health of your fiber network. Should a receive power level drop below a user selected threshold (typically 3 dB) anywhere in the network an alarm will be generated and logged on the device. The same happens if a unit loses power or if a fiber path is interupted. The alarm relay output can drive a local or remote alarm to notify your maintenance personnel of the problem. Diagnosing the problem couldn't be simpler. Tap the screen and the Home page will instantly show you where the problem is and what it's affecting.
Plastic cased versions can either be mounted permanently for network monitoring or carried in your technician’s tool box for localized troubleshooting. This portability is expecially important when troubleshooting underground vault problems. The HL-HMI can also be located remotely from the fiber network and connected via a serial multiplex channel, RS-232 long-haul modem, RS-232 fiber modem, or 9600 baud analog modem. Again, this feature makes it ideal for underground networks where access to the H&L unit may be hazardous, time consuming, and expensive.
The simplicity of HL-HMI can be seen in its user interface. Similar in style to a web page, options are clearly visible and selected using virtual buttons on the touch screen interface. The Home page shown here features a fiber map similar to the system map in FiberPanel. Left and right optic power levels for up to three units are displayed here. The center unit is the 'selected' unit and the Info and Devices buttons display properties for this unit. Navigation is done using the scroll bar or by clicking on the left or right unit. Blue is used for normal unit and red highlight units in alarm.
The List page makes it easy to navigate around your network. Simply click on a unit's name to select it and return to the calling page. Receive power levels are also shown on this page. This makes it very easy to check for unexpected power levels. In this example, the right fiber connector is loose at Sub 2 and it's receive power is low. If a unit or a fiber path fails HL-HMI instantly leaves the current page and navigates to the failed unit on the Home page.
The Info page displays basic information about each unit such as model and serial number, firmware versions, and optical interface types. Receive power levels are also displayed on this page. Use the < or > buttons in the top left to navigate to the next unit or click the List button to view the List page.
The Devices page displays a list of the physical and virtual devices on the selected unit. Physical serial ports display an 'S' before their port number. In this example, the unit has 8 serial ports. The other devices can be seen by pressing the V button. Navigate to adjacent units using the < and > buttons. The List button takes you to the tabular unit display. Selecting a unit on that display returns you to this display and its devices are displayed.
The Alarms page displays active alarms in the network. In this example, only the reduced power threshold alarm on Sub 2's right fiber is in alarm. As mentioned above, HL-HMI monitors all receive power levels in the network and generates an alarm if any receive power should fall below a user defined loss threshold. In this case, the user set 4 dB as the threshold. Threshold alarms are determined by comparing the initial HL-HMI start-up power levels (benchmark) against the current power levels.
Of course the current alarm status is only a small part of the story. The real power of HL-HMI monitoring your network 24/7 lies in its time-stamped Log page. In this example, it's quite easy to see that the alarm on the Alarms page is intermittent and causing the system to cycle from Loop to Radial modes. Clearly, maintenance needs to be called in to check this out.
While HL-HMI is extremely easy to deploy and requires no setup out of the box, there are a few features you may want to tweak. This is done on the Config page. Here you can adjust the LED backlight on the display, change how often the map is updated, adjust the power loss threshold and set the inactivity sleep timer. You can also suppress Loop mode alarms if you run your network in Radial mode while a unit is in for repair, and you can block the alarm relay output with Alarm Cut-Off. You can also generate a new map that resets the benchmark power levels, erase the log, and reset (reboot) the fiber network.
The system contains a battery backed-up real time clock and you can set its time here. There are several built-in help pages that describe each page.
Finally, HL-HMI contains a secure WiFi gateway (hot spot, access point). It is enabled on the Config page. This gateway provides a WiFi connection to your local fiber unit's maintenance port so you can connect FiberPanel to your system without using a USB-Serial dongle. The gateway also contains a small web server that allows you to view and copy the system configuration, alarms, and log. The WiFi gateway is encrypted, password protected, only allows one connection, and automatically turns off after 10 minutes of inactivity. Production units can be ordered without this feature for highly secure environments.
Lynovation, LLC is developing HL-HMI in cooperation with H&L Instruments, LLC. and a limited number of plastic cased beta prototype units will soon be available to be loaned out for field evaluations. They are built with the 9-36 VDC power supplies (18-75 VDC will be available in production units) and come with a 12 VDC wall-wart power supply. Equipment is loaned free of charge, but must be secured with a credit card. The unit must be returned to the factory before the end of the two-week trial period or your card will be charged $750 for the unit. This provides an very convenient way for you to evaluate the device in your environment at no risk. All we ask in return is your honest input on what does and doesn't work, and any suggestions for the production units. Our hope is to have production units available during the first quarter of 2020, but the second quarter is more realistic.
For more information on HL-HMI or to schedule a beta unit to test,email us at firstname.lastname@example.org