Western Australia’s 50-year-old Hinco Instruments has slashed up to $4000 from the cost of remote monitoring installations using SDI-12 protocols, thanks to a specially developed Maxon modem that eliminates an expensive RTU. Hinco technician Wes French believes that the modem Maxon developed in conjunction with Hinco may well be unique.

“To my knowledge, the Maxon modem is the only one that enables elimination of the RTU in SDI-12 applications. As a company we looked very hard for a very long time and there was nothing around that could do that and no other companies with the vision to develop it,” Wes said.

Wes believes that the development will have wide reaching ramifications, particularly in the areas of environmental monitoring where there is always a price barrier.

“Where before we had a $12,000 remote monitoring package, now we are almost half that and that’s a level at which people can justify the expense,” he said 

Established in 1956 as the Henderson Instrument Company, Hinco Instruments supplies quality instruments for diverse process control and test and measurement applications backed by full technical support, testing, calibration and repair services. Almost 50% of the company’s staff are technicians. Far more than a retailer, Hinco also sets up and develops systems for clients.

“We’re very much a one-stop shop. Our clients can come to us for anything from a single sensor or signal conditioner to an entire package configured to suit any application,” Wes said. “In WA there’s no one we haven’t sold to.” 

Hinco’s relationship with Maxon started more than five years ago in the CDMA days when Maxon’s robust modems proved themselves in remote locations, providing the means to dial in to data loggers on everything from water tanks to weather stations.

Although the relationship evolved as Maxon’s products and the networks evolved, Hinco did not initially think to go to Maxon with its SDI-12 protocol problem.

SDI-12 is a popular protocol in remote monitoring systems, particularly within the water industry, primarily because it simplifies installations and uses little power, thus requiring smaller batteries and solar panels. However, it requires different hardware configurations to normal serial communications. Hinco mentioned their ongoing search for a better communication solution to Maxon at a trade show in WA and, unlike other modem specialists to whom Hinco had spoken, Maxon saw the benefits immediately and suggested they would develop the modem if Hinco was prepared to do the testing. 

“We had the staff and the time so we came onboard because we knew if they could do it it would cut out other hardware and therefore reduce costs. 

“From the time they found out about our need they had something ready for testing within 12 months, On the scale of things, considering how long we had been searching and talking to other people about it, that was pretty quick.

“That’s one of the good things about Maxon. They evolve quickly and do get products to market in good time.”

Wes said that the process was very straightforward. Maxon provided a board and asked for Hinco’s input as to required functions. 

“They had a good idea what was needed and it was just a case of finding out what sort of interface would be required. They gave us something pretty close to a working product. 

“We tested it, found a few bugs that they fixed and had something going, sitting on the bench running tests within a month. It was not a drawn out process.