Improved Monitoring of Power Generators Nationwide

8 min video  /  9 minute read

Project Scope:

  • Tags: 6,000
  • Screens: 10-20
  • Clients: 50+
  • Alarms: 200 alarm tags
  • Devices used: 40 Signal-Fire Rangers with MQTT
  • Architectures used: AWS cloud-based single gateway
  • Databases used: 1 MariaDB
  • Historical data logged: 150,000 rows/month, 400 historical tags

Project Summary:

Brown Engineers developed a USA-branded solution specific to their needs for monitoring a nationwide fleet of generators for high-reliability customers.


Ultimate Service Associates (USA) is the nation's premier generator set maintenance and repair management organization. Since the company began, USA has maintained a very high client retention rate, many of whom are Fortune 500 companies who chose USA over all other options. USA's mission is to provide "Ultimate Service" for Single Source Nationwide Generator Service and Maintenance — their name says it all.

The problem was that a variety of third-party monitoring systems were being used. None of them interfaced with the local offices as well as the national fleet office, or even the customers' staff. What USA needed was a USA name-brand solution that worked across all of their customer accounts.  


When USA approached Brown Engineers about a USA-branded monitoring solution, the choice was easy. The full Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) toolset was there to leverage a cloud-based monitoring system.  

Based on: 

  • IIoT Solutions
  • Industry Standards
  • Scalable

Technology Features: 

  • MQTT Protocol
  • Persistent Connection
  • Report By Exception
  • TLS Security Certificates to keep your data safe
  • Fast Response, 2 or 3 seconds
  • Bi-directional, two-way communication for command and control

Translate into these customer features: 

  • State of the Art Industry Standards for Cloud-based systems
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT Technology) 
  • Security certificates to keep our customers secure
  • Bi-directional communications for command and control 
  • Works on Any Generator
  • Anywhere in the USA
  • Data displays on any web-based smartphone, tablet, or computer using Ignition Perspective
  • Alerting systems to notify the appropriate people
    • Customer: Facilities, Maintenance, IT, Factory Floor
  • USA Service team; Local Technicians and Service Centers, National Service Fleet Management

Key Solution Stack: 

  • Edge Devices using Signal-Fire RANGERS 
    • Cost-Effective Packaging  
    • I/O on board
    • Internal Battery
    • Cellular LTE-M1 
    • GPS 
    • Built in MQTT
  • MQTT Broker by Cirrus Link in the cloud using AWS
  • Ignition Perspective in the cloud using AWS


Dee: I'm Dee Brown with Brown Engineers and it's great to be able to present to you this Discovery Gallery video on the USA, Ultimate Service Associates, a remote monitoring system that we call Gen+Check. And the Gen+Check system was built for the Ultimate Service Associates team, they're the nation's premier generator set maintenance and repair management organization in the country. They help fleet management companies deal with large generator systems around the country, so we needed a system that could support those kinds of applications and a variety of equipment.

Dee: I wanna give credit to Chris Kappes, he's the President at Ultimate Service Associates for helping us get this system launched, and Phillip Pate, board member and partner at Ultimate Service Associates who is really one of the brains behind the operation when it comes to remote monitoring and the service that's needed here. At Brown Engineers, we are an Ignition Premier Integrator. I can say Ignition is the perfect application to use for this kind of technology and the Industrial Internet of Things that we're connecting to a variety of equipment in the field. This is based on Industrial Internet of Things solution so that it's built on industry standards and it also makes it completely scalable throughout the country for the size of systems that we're talking about. Some of those features include security certificates to keep our customers secure, we have the ability to do bidirectional communications for command and control and it does work on any generator in any location. And so what we translate that into for some of the features of this Discover Gallery are the benefits of using MQTT as a protocol. Publish-subscribe capabilities there are super important to us, gives us persistent connections to the edge devices out in the field, provides report by exception, TLS security certificates to keep the data safe and very, very fast response times.

Dee: So an incredible platform that we've got here using Ignition at the center of this, using a cloud-based application with MQTT servers to gather data from the field and get it into the application for monitoring. So this is our home screen with some of the devices we have connected. I'm gonna show you a map around the United States as we began to deploy these devices all over the country and we've got certainly some here around the central part of our state and even up north, we've got some other distributors that are using the system. One of the things that's great about this is it's built so that each of the distributors that are part of the USA team get to have the ability to log in and see only the sites that are relevant to their territory or their area. So this shows one of the sample generators on our system, and you've got several options here on running alarm, communication status. If I get the two-month window view here, you can tell that it's run... That generator ran each week on its regular exercise schedule just like it should plus a couple of other times that it ran due to some power outages. We've got the fuel tank level here again, I'll expand this to a couple of months where we've been monitoring level, and then we have Modbus communications right off of the digital engine controller that allows us to populate these parameters when the generator is running as well as starts and run time.

Dee: We have the sensor-to-cloud data so we know it's connected and persistent connection doing very well, battery voltage unit, temperature, things like that, as well as the GPS location as to where that generator is located. And I wanna show you one here that we know this generator has a mechanical issue with the transfer switch and some parts are on order for this one, and just wanted to show you what one of the alerts looks like. We have the map screen here, things going on around the country. Again, GPS information is super important so that we know where this is located, that's helpful for our service technicians. It's also helpful for towable and portable generators that are capable of being moved around. And we have the capability to do any kinds of trends on those parameters as well as reports that we have, this is a demo report that allows us to look at any alarms that have been active on generators in the last couple of days and this is important so that we send these out to each of the distributors on the team or every day at 5:00 AM and so they get a report on any of those that may need some attention.

Dee: And we have other diagnostics on communications and these are demo units that we have in-house that we're working with, the others are all communicating very well. And we have some help screens that are great, all of this is embedded within Ignition in the Perspective app. So Quick Start installation videos for the service task, Quick Start guide on the I/O wiring that's required. So here's alert notifications, it can be sent by email or SMX, Twilio, Slack, any of those that show on this particular generator a transition to running and automatically ‘Click Here’ to log into the app and get more detail.

Dee: So these are the kinds of real notifications that go out and they can be set to go to the distributor team, the customer team, which could be facilities, IT, supervisors, anyone who needs to know this kind of information about what's happening with their generators and their entire facility operation. And then I wanted to share this particular case study where a customer generator, it was not showing that it was running on its weekly test, and so we went out and checked on that system to see what was going on, and for whatever reason that clock had lost that memory to be able to tell the generator when to start. Once we reset that, everything's been working great, and it's an example of what happens in the real world with mechanical equipment things, it's just like the engine in your car. You have a check-engine light that could be any number of things that go wrong. So it's really important to be able to get this information out to the right folks at the right time. This is a towable generator application, and we were asking if this particular edge device could be mounted in a towable system, would it hold up okay? 

Dee: And can see from the SignalFire folks have this one mounted on this car and have it, at that time, this was taken several months ago, but they had about 28 hours of hard track time on this set up at speed of over 115 miles an hour and the internals of the Ranger are holding up great. So what a beautiful picture of a way to put a very robust device out there that can grab this information and get it into your Ignition system for you. It's super important being able to save the Ignition app out to your desk or your iPhone, smartphone, and then even changing the icon, this gives brand awareness for the Ultimate Service Associates team to share with their customers and show how their information is very timely and relevant and very much present on your smartphone at all the times. So today, that was an example of how the Ultimate Service Associates team is using their Gen+Check remote monitoring system and the technology that's in place to do that. The USA team is currently rolling this out to other distributors on their team around the country and looking at expanding Ignition services beyond field devices to more of facilities monitoring, building monitoring systems, other larger facilities to have a lot more I/O points and Industrial Internet of Things points that they wanna be able to bring into their systems.

Project Information

Created By:   Brown Engineers

Brown Engineers was launched in January 2006 by electrical engineers with advanced SCADA automation proficiency. While the firm later expanded into a full MEP-A design firm, automation remains a core specialization. Dee Brown's automation team maintains IA's Ignition Premier Integrator certification, and an award-winning reputation for successful, innovative application of Ignition to address SCADA challenges. Brown's SCADA team serves a wide range of clients, from public water, wastewater and electric utilities large and small to production line manufacturers to retail giants like Walmart.


Project For:   Ultimate Service Associates

Ultimate Service Associates (USA) is a management services provider solely focused on maintaining networks of generator systems. USA offers facility managers a dedicated solution for maintenance and support of their backup power networks. The nationwide generator service provider serves many Fortune 500 companies, helping ensure continuity of operations during power outages.


Posted on October 19, 2022