Remote monitoring: A profusion of tools offers promise of remote control

Jeff Winterborne, a partner at Hampden Township-based Enginuity LLC, monitors commercial mechanical systems for clients from his office. Remote access can identify problems and speed up service calls. - (Photo / SUBMITTED)

In a world that is growing more connected via mobile devices, social media and faster internet speeds, companies in every field are taking advantage of the latest technology to link their operations.

Remote monitoring and control systems have become part of daily business for many working professionals in property management, construction, mechanical services, manufacturing and health care.

These systems are used to remotely control and automate heating and air conditioning units, manage security and software services, monitor production lines, and collect data to improve patient care.

At home, people are buying smart products that can monitor doorways or control lighting from remote locations and be integrated with other voice-controlled devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

The goal of both business and personal remote monitoring services is to save time and money.

“It’s another tool in the toolbox,” said Jeff Winterborne, a partner at Hampden Township-based mechanical services company Enginuity LLC.

For his company, which serves commercial and industrial facilities, remote access can help the service staff run building-system checks for clients and determine where a technician should be sent for a repair call. Remote capabilities even allow the service team to potentially fix a problem without having to send anyone to the building.

“Most of the time we get in and take a look prior to dispatching a tech, so the tech knows what to expect onsite,” Winterborne said.

Other clients may use remote monitoring to track a building’s energy use and then modify temperature settings in certain areas, among other changes that can be made from afar.

The next trend, Winterborne said, will be broader systems and device integration, such as HVAC with security and lighting controls, under a centralized remote management system. That could speed up communications between property managers and vendors that service various systems for an owner.

“I think the industry is slowly moving in that direction, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “There are an infinite number of possibilities and programmers are only limited by their imaginations.”

Harrisburg-based D&H Distributing Co. Inc., a major wholesaler of tech products and the largest company on the Business Journal’s private companies list, also sees greater overlap coming between physical and remote systems.

“D&H sees surveillance and physical monitoring becoming more integrated with security systems, so that a light or sound sensor not only sets off an alarm, but it triggers one or more cameras to focus on the specific area where the original sensor was triggered,” said Bill Hersh, a solutions coordinator at D&H.

All types of companies are purchasing surveillance products and smart devices for monitoring purposes, he said. But usage is typically higher in retail where theft is more likely or in businesses with greater liability concerns like bars, restaurants and hotels.

D&H also is seeing more interest in monitoring-as-a-service in which third parties maintain and monitor surveillance equipment for a fee for other companies. In addition, surveillance system firms are doing more cloud-based monitoring across mobile devices instead of being locked to a security office somewhere.

Moving forward, wireless cameras are likely going to play a bigger role in surveillance, Hersh said, as they offer more flexible placement options.

Wireless capabilities also are getting more important inside buildings.

“There is greater emphasis on security and a more sophisticated networking infrastructure than what would have been needed in the past,” added Scott Dolmetsch, CEO of York-based Business Information Group Inc. BIG is known for its wireless infrastructure work, working for companies like Comcast. It also has divisions that handle network security for businesses and custom software development.

Dolmetsch said network security is probably the biggest opportunity for his company in an era of increased cybersecurity threats.

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