How We Got Here
A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea: Remote Monitoring Systems
Telecom site automation is a logical and modern extension of what was once referred to by telecom network operators as remote site management, remote monitoring systems (RMS), or simply “site alarming”. Years ago there was a general class of products referred to as remote terminal units (RTU’s). The history of telecom site automation and Asentria goes back 30 years. How did we get where we are today?
In the Beginning
Our history goes back even further than when I started at Asentria in 1998, but that is far enough back to explain who we are. Asentria is based in Seattle, WA, USA. When I started, our primary business was in building hardware devices for the purpose of integrating to private branch exchange (PBX) voice systems. At the time I started, PBX systems and voice networks were completely independent of the IT networks. Asentria added Ethernet interfaces to our devices shortly before I started, which was a watershed moment for the company. We began to provide a valuable service of integrating to non-networked PBX systems and enabling data from those voice systems to be managed in various ways across the IT network.
The Simple Network Management Protocol
We started by gathering call detail records (CDR) from the PBX, which relates to specifically who is calling who on a wired phone system, but soon people began to see us as a possible solution to other issues they were trying to solve. A good example was public safety-related 911 calls at universities. A person might place a 911 call which would go to local municipal police, but campus police would have no awareness that an emergency call had been made. As our device was collecting all the Call Detail Records from the PBX, we were able to parse each serial record and look for “911” within the serial call detail records and we could notify campus police as well, including data like what extension did the call originate from. Initially, these notifications were based on pagers, but as we had recently added the Ethernet capability to our unit, customers began to ask us to deliver these alarms in forms that IT department could consolidate or could be managed centrally. This led to our introduction of a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) based interface within our product (another watershed moment!).
The introduction of contact closures on our base units
Another important technical advance, though it seemed quite small at the time, was the introduction of contact closures on our base units. Using contacts we were able to report on physical variables that could also impact the function of a PBX – power related issues like loss of AC power, physical intrusion like a door opening, and environmental issues like temperature fluctuations, presence of water, etc. After adding contacts, it was soon obvious that there was a value to also adding analog measurement points and output relays.
US Military – Our first non-PBX related project
Sometime after that, we did our first work for the US military doing nothing more than contact closure conversion to SNMP, which was a first non-PBX related project, and a simple version of projects we do now. We used our first non-PBX related hardware device, which was called an “SNMP-Link”. The SNMP-Link devices were the direct ancestors to our current SiteBoss product line.
Since 2006 – Tower Site Automation!
Other notable milestones for us were the need to move to a Linux-based operating system to support greater levels of security, and a decision to move to a card based hardware architecture to support the myriad of integrations we would face in telecom sites as we worked on more and more projects.
Between 2006 and 2010 we were involved in a nationwide network buildout, providing cellular out-of-band access and DC equipment reboot for 18000 cabinet sites for a large telecom network operator. Since 2013 (directly after Hurricane Sandy) we have helped telecom operators manage thousands of generators to both increase resilience during extreme weather conditions, as well as improve the efficiency of operating large generator networks.
We’ve done many more projects since that first simple contact closure to SNMP project, including projects with wireless and fixed network operators, tower companies, power utilities, rail and highway departments, public safety networks, high-frequency trading firms, and other operators or providers of telecom networks. We have two projects with more than 10000 units installed. We have an office in Europe to support projects in the EMEA region and have projects globally. I’ve personally travelled to over 25 countries working on projects directly with end customers and our partners. We are really excited about the future and proud of the work we’ve done in the past.
That was a bit of a trip down memory lane! Take the time to explore our website, case studies, white papers, and product guides and if you have any questions about the work we do, I’m only a click away!