Open System for Environmental and Meter Data Acquisition – Communicator and ContPort Web Portal

The data communicator and web portal ContPort are a reasonable-budget alternative of regular manual readouts and e-mail reporting for district heating operators, facility management providers, photovoltaic plant service providers, but also for energy consumers like department store chains, housing cooperatives, or bank with lots of distributed offices.

The main difference against conventional proceedings is that the communicators, thanks to permanent internet connection, send data to the database through outgoing HTTP connections on a regular basis. The data is read and interpreted by the ContPort web portal. This is why it is easy to discover media leakage or meter problem in a couple of hours, and not only during regular manual readout which is the case e.g. at SMS messaging from the meters. The communicator is able to host up to 10 M-Bus meters. It also features another 4 analogue inputs for measuring of temperatures or other values, 3 counting inputs, and 4 binary inputs for status signalling: alarms or emergency states of the technologies. Thanks to the central data processing, users learn about the alarms within several minutes without the need to install SIM cards to every site.

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Communicator reads the values from its analogue, binary, and counting inputs, and M-Bus devices over the bus at regular intervals (usually minutes to hours). These values are sent to the server running the RcWare DB database over the http protocol, with an unique identification. Regarding communicator, it is an outgoing connection, so neither public / fixed IP address, nor port mapping / NAT at the router side are necessary. If the server is not available (due to Internet connection dropout) the values are stored in the internal EEPROM memory, and after the connection has been established again, they are communicated to the server, so that no data is lost. The database is provided either as a Domat Control System service, or it is fully managed by the customer who bouht the database licence; this is how the system is fully independent on the Domat Control System infrastructure.

Companies who intend to process the metered values and other data in their own programs and systems may take advantage of the open database interface and read the data over an API using simple documented functions.

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The network properties and parameters of the communicator are set up over a web interface (default port 80). The default setting is DHCP, which means that the communicator obtains an IP address after it has been connected to the network, and it starts to talk to the database and configuration portal immediately.The Ethernet connector hosts two LEDs: Link (yellow) and Network activity (green). There is automatic detection between 10 and 100 Mbit/s.

Another advantage is the remote configuration: all settings are performed over the configuration server from which the communicators download their configurations automatically. Therefore it is not necessary that a software engineer travels to the installation site, an installer who connects the preaddressed meters according to the shop drawings.

The manager works only on the configuration portal on a remote basis:

  • create his user account,
  • links to this account the communicators which he or she wants to manage, using their MAC addresses and safety codes which are printed at the product labels,
  • sets up a configuration – or what types and addresses of the M-Bus meters are connected to the communicator, what sensors are used, how often the samples should be taken and sent to the database etc.
  • assigns the saved configuration to the communicators which download it automatically within several minutes, and start to work according to it.

In special applications, a simple control logic functionality may be programmed in the communicator. The communicator then acts as a small PLC which can do tasks like consumption limitation, cascade control, and the like.

The ContPort portal proved to be useful already in 2012 when it was used for processing of data from the monitoring systems for PV plants supplied by Domat in Italy. The new hardware, M-Bus communicator, now brings further deployment of ContPort also for large amount of small sites starting with one or two meters and monitoring several temperature sensors, which are the basic data necessary for energy optimization of buildings. It is supplied also as 485, with one RS485 interface and protocol EN 62056-21 for communication with industry energy meters. It is possible to define other communication protocols on demand. The whole system was awarded by Mention of Honor at the Best Exhibit contest held at the Aquatherm trade fair in Prague in 2012.

Useful links:
www.contport.com – presentation portal