Brainboxes, the Bluetooth and serial PC add-on specialist, is working with Power Isolators, part of Oxford-based LUCY Switchgear, to improve the safety of power engineers working with electricity poles. Brainboxes’ Bluetooth wireless technology will enable power engineers to interact with Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) – the control panels found on electricity poles – safely from a range of up to 100 metres.
Bluetooth is the rapidly growing wireless technology designed originally for the cable-free connection of PCs, printers and other office equipment. However, it is finding increasingly wide usage in other areas such as mobile phone headsets, in-car handsfree and many industrial applications.
The Health and Safety Executive in the UK now requires that power engineers have no direct contact with RTUs; this directive follows a recent fatal accident in Ireland which resulted from an engineer touching a corroded RS232 port.
Brainboxes Class 1 Bluetooth products provide a simple and low cost solution to this problem by permitting wireless access and control up to at least 100 metres from the RTU. Since all RTUs have RS232 serial ports fitted as the standard interface, wireless operation is possible without any configuration. The RTU’s Bluetooth serial ‘plug-and-play’ converter simply communicates with a similar Bluetooth adapter plugged into a laptop PC via any USB, CompactFlash, PCMCIA or serial interface.
Brainboxes will initially supply Power Isolators with its BL-521 RS232 Bluetooth converter and the BL-565 Bluetooth CompactFlash card with PCMCIA adapters. The Brainboxes BL-521 converter can turn any RS232 serial device, such as PC, printer, oscilloscope or any device which can be connected via a simple serial port. Future generations of RTUs may be designed with embedded Bluetooth technology, such as Brainboxes BL-730 Class 1 Bluetooth module – fundamentally the same device fitted in the BL-521, also capable of 100 metres wireless operation.
LUCY develops pole mounted switchgear to meet the need of power utility companies worldwide. The company’s largest customer base is in the Middle East where it has already supplied some 65,000 RTUs. The company is also currently quoting for the rebuilding of Iraq’s electricity network as well as major projects in other European and African countries. The demand for such Bluetooth wireless access is likely to increase as more emphasis is placed on workers’ safety.
Anne Busson, Commercial Development manager for LUCY Switchgear, commented, “We are keen to bring safety enhancements to our range of RTUs as quickly as possible and the Brainboxes Bluetooth devices will make it possible for us to upgrade all RTUs without creating additional configuration or installation issues.” Busson continued, “Brainboxes Bluetooth devices also offer a convenient minimum 100 metre operating range which means our customers’ power engineers can access the units from a safe distance – even from the comfort of their vehicle.”
Eamonn Walsh, managing director of Brainboxes, added, “Brainboxes seeks to work with its customers to find the easiest wireless solution to limitations of legacy equipment”. Walsh continued, ”Safety in the working environment is a major area where we are increasingly using Bluetooth being able to provide a clear business benefit at low cost – whether it be removing wires from a classroom floor, or permitting wireless access to, and control of, inaccessible or dangerous industrial equipment as in the case of RTUs. We are very happy to be working with LUCY on this important project“.
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Established in 1984, Brainboxes is one of the leading PC communication card developers and manufacturers in the World. Headquartered in Liverpool, UK, it has a team of highly qualified software and hardware designers, matched by a world-class volume manufacturing facility.
The company develops and owns all of its own core technologies, including USB, CompactFlash, PCMCIA, RS232 and PCI products. It is at the forefront of developments in serial card and wireless technology. Current customers include IBM, Fujitsu, Reuters, Motorola, Agilent, and BT.