Belo Corp. has been interested in finding a remote control and monitoring system that meets FCC monitoring requirements for all of our unattended transmitter sites at our 19 stations across the country. However, we were looking for a system that could be used in a central location to be able to monitor and control transmitter sites from several locations. I had been looking at a number systems at previous NAB shows and discovered Statmon Technologies. At the time we were looking, there were very few systems that allowed IP connectivity between sites, so we were impressed with Statmon’s design and IP implementation.
With a remote control and monitoring system, we expected to be able to completely monitor and control our transmitters and associated systems at the sites. Plus all of our stations have Harris transmitters, and the Statmon system interfaced easily with our Harris equipment. Needless to say, the Statmon remote control and monitoring system met almost of all our criteria, so we were sold and bought our first system.
The Statmon system that we went with was Harris Broadcast’s ReCon Control and Monitoring System, which is the branded version of Statmon’s Axess Remote Control & Facilities Management Software. Axess/ReCon is a network-based application that remotely monitors devices, networks and systems where automatic control and response is required.
With the Axess/ReCon, system operators and engineers can manage every aspect of their network and rely on the system’s alarm notification and fault descriptions when problems arise. Axess/ReCon can also take immediate pre-programmed action on its own, such as switching to a redundant system, resetting, running a control program or disabling a fault. The Statmon system can simultaneously monitor an unlimited number of devices, networks and systems.
The ReCon/Axess product suite exploits the power of IP allowing station staff to monitor transmitter sites from anywhere via the web. Statmon solutions feature the broadcast industry’s most comprehensive transmitter and studio management and control capabilities including EAS remote operation and SNMP monitoring. Axess/ReCon takes remote control into the realm of automated operation with event and time driven analysis, which perform triage and provide intelligent corrective action.
The Axess/ReCon system was installed about three years ago at our flagship station in Dallas, WFAA. Don Guemmer, WFAA’s station engineer had no problems installing the system other than some implementation issues with software. The station needed to upgrade to a Windows/Linux based system, so Statmon actually came along at the right time to help hasten that process.
WFAA has three transmitters, two building environments, two towers, as well as connections to another building and two more transmitters. We already had a Harris remote control transmitter system in place. The DC128 interface panels use 37 pin D-shell connectors to attach to the frame. It turns out that the pinouts are the same as the status and relay panels on the Statmon UIF panels so Don just made a couple of modifications to the cabling and attached an extension directly to the UIF panels. This made installation a breeze for Don as he kept the existing Harris DC128 as an emergency backup for its dial-up function.
What would we do differently after installing the Statmon system?
Probably nothing. We really like the Statmon system. The Statmon people were very helpful during the whole process. Initially, they gave Don a quick operational overview of the setup and operation over the phone in about an hour. After that it was pretty much a straightforward installation process.
We are very satisfied with the Statmon connectivity and the user interface. The display pages are configurable with multiple meter styles and status indications, and there are multiple levels of user authority.
There is one minor thing about the system that I would change. The messages that the system sends are pretty cryptic for the email and paging feature. The engineers understand them, but our station management has had some problems deciphering the messages when they receive them. Don has been talking with the Statmon engineering staff about setting up another field to enter intelligent messages, and that process is ongoing.
We are now in the process of installing the Statmon system at our 18 other stations, and everything should be in place by end of 2005. We are extremely excited about all the control monitoring capabilities that will be available at our fingertips with the Statmon system. We feel that it will truly revolutionize our whole television operation, saving us both time and money.
Wayne Kube is technology manager, broadcast media for Belo Corp. He has been in that position since December of 1999. Prior to that he was engineering manager for WFAA Belo’s flagship station in Dallas. Wayne has been involved in broadcast engineering for over 25 years.
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