Case study Manufacturing

Keeping an i on performance

Remote monitoring to save on fuel costs

Royston developed an prototype ocean vessel remote monitoring system to record engine performance. They needed a partner to produce a web interface and data storage solution so that it could be marketed to customers as allowing them to easily review their fuel usage and increase their efficiency.

A new opportunity

Royston developed the enginei monitoring platform in-house, with components designed to be installed on ships capable of transferring engine metrics and GPS position wirelessly back to shore.

Having undertaken testing and proof-of-concept activities and secured their first customers, Royston needed an easy method for users to review the large volume of data being produced.

Royston approached Waterstons to provide a marketable web-based interface which could be used by enginei customers to present monitoring information to end-users and provide a front- end dashboard showing key performance information and warnings of unexpected high or low readings from sensors.

Designing the solution

Working closely with Royston staff, a detailed specification setting out the design, inputs and outputs, and functionality to be provided by the web-based enginei reporting interface was created. An intuitive user interface was designed and Waterstons’ Business Applications team then used Microsoft ASP.NET technology to turn the design into reality.

A key challenge was faced in collecting and interpreting the data from the various vessels upon which enginei was to be installed. Waterstons used custom code to interpret the data format used by the units on the vessels and import it into a Microsoft SQL Server database, a process which occurs automatically 24x7. Data which cannot be sent is queued by the vessels and retried as soon as connectivity becomes available, ensuring valuable data is never lost.

The data is then used to populate custom- designed charts and reports which display critical parameters and alerts in an attractive and interactive ‘dashboard’ format. Raw data can be exported to be explored further in Microsoft Excel, or integrated with a customer’s other systems to provide useful business intelligence.

An additional tool allows data to be downloaded to Google Earth; both a vessel’s course and any monitored parameter such as fuel used or engine temperature can be plotted in a single map view.

A resilient solution

The enginei web interface was developed by Waterstons and in addition is hosted on a dedicated virtual web-server located in Waterstons’ data center.

The data center hosting ensures high- availability and resilience of the enginei site, providing Royston’s customers with access to their live data whenever and wherever it is needed, whilst the high performance of the virtual hosting environment ensures the user receives a fast and responsive experience at all times.

Virtual server hosting additionally provides the scalability and flexibility to cope with the vast data volumes inherent with a solution of this kind, without limitations on storage space and other resources.

Tailored to the customer

Data used within the enginei web reporting interface varies from vessel to vessel, dependent on the enginei solution chosen by the customer. Some customers use enginei to monitor fuel consumption on their vessels, allowing them to constantly evaluate the performance of their fleet and seek improvements in efficiency.

The more complex enginei installation can monitor a wide variety of engine parameters including temperatures, pressures, speed, fuel flow, GPS co-ordinates and even whether the vessel is loaded or unloaded.

All of the sensors on the vessels feed information to a data-collection device which regularly uploads the data to the enginei server in Waterstons’ data centre using FTP. The upload takes place using the mobile phone network (3G or GPRS), or for some vessels by Wi-Fi once moored in port.

Data storage

Once uploaded the data is translated and stored using Microsoft SQL Server. The volume of information collected is significant, with the database contents now approaching a billion rows of data.

Manipulating this amount of data whilst maintaining high performance required the database design to be both robust and highly optimised. Further optimisation was undertaken during the testing phase, using Waterstons’ expertise in managing large databases to ensure the users’ experience was not affected.

Technologies used

The enginei site was developed as an ASP.NET web application; it integrates a number of additional or related technologies including:

  • .NET Entity Framework for data access and manipulation
  • .NET charting for displaying graphical visualisations of monitoring data
  • SQL Server Reporting Services to display and export tabular views of monitoring data
  • SQL Server Integration Services which interpret and import the raw data from the enginei installations
  • Google Earth integration, used to visualise monitoring data alongside GPS location and tracking information
The interface and reporting system developed by Waterstons allows our customers to view technical data in an engaging and accessible manner, giving enginei a key competitive edge when compared to competitor offerings
Robin Shaw Technical Manager