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Flexible Monitoring: IoT Solves Communication Challenges for Utilities

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers the utility industry an invaluable opportunity to perform targeted preventive maintenance. With the IoT utilities market expected to exceed $15 billion by 2024, it’s clear that the technology is quickly becoming an indispensable tool for utility companies.

Without an IoT system in place, maintenance workers manually perform a variety of tests to determine pole stability and structural integrity. These tests are time-consuming, expensive and at times dangerous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical power-line installers and repairers had a 20.5 percent fatal work injury rate in 2015, making it among one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Nonfatal occupational injuries are also all too common. In addition to the suffering these injuries cause, they also translate to many days away from work. In 2015, electrical power-line installers and repairers spent an average of 20 days away from work, higher than the eight-day average for all occupations.

IoT is changing all that. Ameren did a pilot program that involved attaching a small IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors to utility poles in Champaign, Illinois. These sensors included circuitry designed to measure movement and send data back to Ameren operators. The platform helps the utility efficiently and accurately monitor pole stability and structural integrity.

With the power of edge computing, the system learns what “normal” behavior for the pole is, and rather than inundate users with mountains of data, it sends an alert only if anything beyond that threshold occurs. Because the system is only dealing with a narrow margin of benefit, the sensor’s data usability and battery life are maximized. By analyzing the abnormal movement or angle of the pole, the system knows what needs to be serviced and can alert the right teams. Finally, the system has location ID, directing operators to the precise location of the pole. 

Having real-time data on hand translates to better and more informed decision-making. Problems are caught and corrected before they cause widespread damage or require most costly overtime or nighttime work. Additionally, the flexibility of this IoT system and others like it means the technology is well suited to address the unique challenges the utility sector faces in urban, suburban and rural areas.

In rural areas—referred to as the “corn desert” in the Midwest—it can be logistically difficult to change out batteries. When edge computing is used, the system continually collects and saves data but can be programmed in multiple ways from the pole to the cloud, the pole to the gateway to the cloud or through mesh networking, using a combination of poles and gateways.

This arrangement maximizes the system’s battery life and minimizes the need for manual service. When data is needed on a frequent basis, mesh networking will transmit the data from pole to pole, solving the problem of how to communicate frequently without relying on battery-killing 3G or 4G.

In urban and suburban areas, interference from an abundance of devices poses a problem, as does over communication. Dense materials such as steel and concrete can also interfere with communication between the sensors and the cloud. Navigating that density can be difficult, but IoT solutions like those offered by Second Sight Systems / Atomation that are not wed to one communication protocol have the flexibility needed to adapt communication protocols to the environment. That flexibility serves utilities well in suburban areas, too, where the challenges usually fall somewhere between those posed by rural and urban zones.

About Second Sight Systems

Second Sight Systems has been providing communication tower services, IoT system integration, and utility field services since 1999 and has engineers on staff with extensive experience with SCADA communications and telemetry applications for remote monitoring.  Second Sight Systems partners with Atomation, an IoT platform provider, to deliver technology solutions for use in the utility and communication tower industries.

Second Sight’s track record of completing highly secure projects on schedule and at the highest service level can’t be matched.


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Our GE MDS training event at Ameren headquarters was a big success!

Second Sight’s recent customer event at Ameren’s headquarters in downtown St. Louis was a big success. Our team put on a first-class technical training session for over 55 attendees, representing 10 different utilities and engineering firms, many of whom traveled from several hours away to take part in the full-day training session.

Second Sight is extremely proud to have some of the industry’s most talented RF engineers representing our company and our technical team continues to provide our customers everything they need to know about GE MDS radios and how to optimize a wireless SCADA network around the Orbit platform.  

GE MDS training event at Ameren headquarters

We received countless remarks from the attendees about how much they enjoyed the event.  I want to thank everyone who attended our training session and hats off to our team for all the time and effort put into preparing the presentation material.  Second Sight looks forward to more events as we provide utilities a customer-focused partner for all their wireless network and field service needs.


Todd Deibel

President of Second Sight Systems


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Need to amplify your wireless engineering plans?

Get the expert help of RF and network Engineers today!

When designing Industrial Control or SCADA projects, engineering firms will undoubtedly encounter data transport challenges in their planning. What are the best technologies, protocols and capabilities out there to give my clients what they need?

Wireless industrial communication networks help your clients achieve reliable data transfer for a range of applications. As RF network technology evolves, wireless networks offer the speed, cost efficiency and security features to meet the demands of an IoT-vectored industry.

Second Sight Systems (SSS) exists to help you navigate wireless network requirements and provide you with the leading-edge GE radios and installation services. Partnering with you, we help develop comprehensive communication networks that adapt to applications, security, and regulatory requirements.

Firms benefit from SSS’ extensive knowledge and expertise in GE radios and installation.

Complete RF Engineering Services

Your firm will benefit from SSS’ extensive knowledge and expertise in GE radios and installation.

We are a one stop shop for your industrial wireless needs, allowing you to design your industrial wireless systems with the help of our RF and network Engineers. From beginning to end we do it all – engineering, path studies, radio sales, install, and support.

A nationwide provider of Industrial Wireless Solutions, SSS is also a full-service provider of GE radios, including the MDS Orbit Platform series which is well-suited for a wide variety of wireless applications while including network flexibility and military-grade encryption.

These next-generation radios allow Engineers to integrate a range of technologies, from cellular to Ethernet and licensed to unlicensed radios, while supporting your client’s need for secure private, public, and oftentimes hybrid communication networks.

To learn more – or to request a free 30-day, no obligation demo of the GE MDS Orbit Platform – give us a call at 844-789-9111. You can also email us at We’ll take it from there and get you the insight and support you need.

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SSS Ramps Up Field Services to Rural Electric Co-ops

Second Sight Systems (SSS) is proud to announce that we have officially joined the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) as a Gold Level Associate Member. This means we’ll be able to better connect with you and meet the needs of co-op members undergoing rapid change.

Rural co-ops urgently need SCADA upgrades, network security and affordable personnel solutions. To meet the demand, many are looking to qualified third-party providers such as SSS to deploy an array of utility field services, including:

• AMI / AMR meter installation and maintenance
• Contracted meter reading services
• Surveying for pole audits, inspections, grounding (Motorola R56)
• Certified tower climbers for antenna repair and equipment installation
• Fiber testing and maintenance

SSS is boldly stepping up to the challenge. By delivering these services at the highest level we help rural co-ops drive new-era operational productivity and efficiency. SSS provides qualified utility technicians, professional fleet vehicles, and acts as an extension of your existing field team… no matter where you are located across the country.

Call SSS to learn more about how we can help your rural co-op.


If your co-op is looking for a strategic partner, Second Sight is ready to support you. Working together, we ensure co-ops:

• Achieve cost-effective upgrades
• Rapidly deploy metering technology
• Achieve high-level security

To discuss how we can assist your co-op, feel free to call us at 844-789-9111. Or email me at I’ll take it from here and get you the help you need.


Spencer Halbrook,
Second Sight Systems | Regional Manager

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Key points from #UTCTnT 2017 in Charlotte, NC

SSS is excited to be at the UTC Telecom & Technology 2017 event in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a jam-packed program bringing together top utility thought leaders and the latest technology providers for a week of educational sessions, training, workshops and demos. A big focus has been on harnessing IT/OT synergies to build more secure networks. SSS is a leading provider of secure network solutions for utilities and champions IT/OT-driven innovation for a better, more resilient grid.

Key points from #UTCTnT

The biggest takeaways from #UTCTnT so far are:

1. IT/OT professionals must work together in order to build secure and reliable networks in the future.

2. It’s very important to physically test network designs before you deploy them. Modeling them is a start, but they need to be brought into the real world and scrutinized from both from a security and operations standpoint.

3. Celebrate failures – when things go wrong in the lab that is when learning occurs. If you have never had to use the fire extinguisher in your lab then you are doing it wrong.

If your utility needs a network solutions partner, SSS is ready to help. We understand the emerging nexus of IT and OT technology and the security practices required to realize the benefits of the IIoT. We looking forward to partnering with you!

Andrew Krekow
Second Sight Systems | RF Engineer
844-789-9111 |

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[FREE WHITE PAPER] Utility Cyber Security 2017!

No utility wants to make the news for a cyber breach, let alone pay the price of a ransom demanded by cyber gangsters. Yet every single day, utilities are on the brink – that is – just one nefarious hacking scheme, or one employee slip-up from falling victim. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology, regulation, and corporate gumption are perfectly aligned to safeguard against the most urgent cyber threats. To help you seize this opportunity, SSS has compiled its 2017 Cyber Security White Paper – defining the cyber threat and outlining the top best practices all in one convenient report. A multi-layered, team approach to cyber security, and a focus on worst-case scenario attacks is key to defending today’s grid. Take a look.


Get your cyber security report now!

Photo Credit: Ameren Corporation

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ALERT: NERC proposes CIP revisions to modify cyber security protections

This past March, NERC proposed new revisions to help close the gaps in the CIP-003 Reliability Standard. The additional measures will modify the cybersecurity protections for low-impact BES Cyber Systems, including:

  • Electronic access control permitting only necessary inbound and outbound access to low-impact BES Cyber Systems for certain communications, whether direct or indirect, using routable protocols.
  • Protection of transient electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones, to mitigate exposure of low-impact BES Cyber Systems to malicious code.
  • Documentation for cybersecurity policies for CIP Exceptional Circumstances for low-impact BES Cyber Systems, including cybersecurity emergencies, natural disasters, civil unrest, imminent or existing hardware, and software, or equipment failures.

FERC is likely to approve these additional standards. Utilities have expressed their support in lengthy stakeholder engagement. The goal of the revisions is to close the gaps in the CIP-003 Reliability Standard identified by FERC. An upcoming notice and comment process at FERC will provide another good opportunity for utilities to help guide the new standards, or pose any challenges.

To help you define the cyber security threat and review the numerous guidelines and recommendations, you can download SSS’s FREE White Paper – Utility Cyber Security 2017! Get it now!


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Behind the scenes of advanced wastewater system management

SSS tours MSD’s pumping stations.

Have you ever thought about what it takes to keep a major riverfront city like St. Louis, Missouri free and clear of rising stormwater and run-off? Recently the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) provided SSS with a private, behind-the-scenes look at their operations and exclusive tour of the two main pumping stations around the city of St Louis:

– The Bissell Point Pump Station
– Mill Creek Pumping Station

It’s amazing to see the inner workings of these vast machines that help keep the city above water and keep cracks from flowing through the streets. With the pumping stations linked to thousands of lines of piping and infrastructure built decades ago, it’s also fascinating to see how operators manage this complex system through technology and innovation.

Tour of MSD pumping stations

Technology & innovation is key to maintaining MSD’s vast network.

An automated, integrated network

MSD’s mission is to provide effective wastewater and stormwater management to protect our environment and the health and safety of our community. The underground water system is literally the digestive system of the city, funneling non-potable water through pipes and into pumping stations that treat and safely discharge the water.

A fully-integrated SCADA network that enables automated monitoring and alerting is key. For sites that aren’t manned, MSD has vast telemetry sensor arrays that monitor the status of these giant pump stations and control systems. Often, the remote locations of these stations require that the data be carried using wireless technology. Preventing the need for costly physical data transport infrastructure. This wireless network allows their system engineers to monitor the operation from one central location and identify and fix problems using both historical and real-time data.

Automation also helps MSD by reducing engineering time and maintenance costs. This in turns allows the agency to balance water quality protection and compliance with economic growth and sustainability.

Mission-critical radios

MSD uses GE’s MDS radios to transport telemetry data from lift stations forming a broad SCADA network encompassing multiple sites and allowing command and control of remote PLCs that manage tank levels and water flow. This industrial wireless solution provides long distance communications over licensed, unlicensed and cellular radio bands, allowing users to interface with both Ethernet and serial devices such as PLCs, RTUs and meters with host monitoring and control systems.

Behind the scenes tour of MSD pumping stations

Team work makes the dream work.

Strategic partnership

SSS is a strategic technology partner with MSD, supporting their deployment of SCADA communications products across their operations which covers over 1.3 million residents. This includes providing wireless data solutions that allow for remote monitoring of pumps, water level sensors, flow meters, and alarms. SSS is also in position to help MSD find synergies with the city’s major electric utility – Ameren Corp – identifying ways both agencies can benefit from each other’s knowledge asources.

Learn more

To learn more about how SSS provides strategic partnership and solutions for water and wastewater operators, or to get a free demo of the GE MDS radio technology, contact our Engineering Services Team today at 844-789-9111.

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Electricity’s fantastic journey from generation to transmission

So much of what we do is helping utilities maximize the functionality of the smart grid to better serve their customers. For many end-users, the question of how the power grid works is still a mystery. SSS is happy to share a new animated graphic by Choose Texas Power that brilliantly explains electricity’s fantastic journey from generation to transmission.

Take a look.



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SSS joins #SAMEDOD for annual conference


Second Sight Systems is excited to be near our nations’ capital for the annual SAME (Society of American Military Engineers) conference. This networking conference provides forecasts and insights on the upcoming design, engineering, environmental and construction programs of the Dept of Defense and other Federal agencies. Cyber security is a major topic and specifically as it relates to industrial automation, wireless controls, and protecting SCADA systems for military facilities. This is right up our alley!

Also – great to hear from the top brass of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), a long standing satisfied customer of Second Sight Systems!