Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is the DFS system proprietary?
You decide! We have found the definition of proprietary differs among people. The following addresses various perceptions.
Q: Do you support open Modbus Communications?
A: Yes, our system supports Modbus ASCII, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP/IP. These protocol drivers are included with every DFS at no charge.
Q: Will you provide the actual PLC programs?
A: Yes, every PLC program developed by DFS is provided to the end user. We do not hold PLC programs hostage, requiring that you contract us for modifications. You paid us to develop the program, so we believe it belongs to you.
Q: If I buy your system, can I use RTUs manufactured by others?
A: Yes, the Hyper SCADA Server is compatible with RTUs by other manufacturers that support Modbus ASCII, Modbus RTU and/or Modbus TCP/IP communication protocols. We have also written add-on communication drivers for Allen Bradley DF1 Serial, Seiscore, Uniface, and Motorola Intrac.
Q: Can I use SCADA Software manufactured by others.
A: Yes, the Hyper SCADA Server can be used to serve remote data to other SCADA Software packages such as Intellution, Wonderware, ESRI ArcGIS, and many other ODBC (open database connectivity) compliant applications. This can also be done utilizing the Hyper SCADA Server's Modbus TCP/IP Emulation Driver over a network. In addition, any SCADA Software with a Modbus ASCII Driver can be serially connected directly to the DFS master radio.
Q: Can I install and/or service the RTUs myself?
A: Yes, DFS is willing to train its customers to know their systems as well as we do. Our installation and service procedures do not include practices that require customers to contact DFS to add I/O points, update configurations, install additional RTUs, or troubleshoot problems. DFS is willing to train customers to the extent they desire. Several of our customers buy RTUs and perform the installations themselves. Many of our customers troubleshoot problems and contact DFS only when a factory repair is necessary.
Q: Is it only available from DFS?
A: No, DFS is the manufacturer. We offer a network of authorized Value Added Resellers (VARs), located throughout the country. We expect the users of our systems to receive superior support and service. By instituting a network of "authorized" VARs, we can be assured that you receive the quality installation and responsive support you deserve.
What is SCADA?
SCADA is an acronym that stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. SCADA refers to a system that controls and/or collects data from various devices, such as a pump, and sensors, such as a flow meter, at a plant or in other remote locations and then sends this data to a centralized location which then manages and controls the data.
SCADA is a term that is used broadly to portray control and management solutions in a wide range of industries. DFS provides SCADA for Water, Wastewater, Leachate and Stormwater applications.
Do you offer financing on product purchases and system installations?
In addition to the traditional direct-purchase method, we also offer rental systems. Our rental systems include all maintenance, repairs, spare parts, and 24/7/365 service & support of all supplied equipment for the “life” of the rental agreement.
Although DFS does not offer lease-purchase financing, we can assist you in obtaining funds from one of the many national municipal leasing companies available. In the past, we have helped customers obtain funding from the following companies:
CitiCapital Public Finance of Irving Texas
Government Capital Corp. of South Lake Texas
SunTrust Leasing of Atlanta Georgia
https://www.suntrust.com/ (search Public Sector Leasing)
What type of warranty do you offer?
DFS offers three types of warranties - product, software, and onsite installation.
Product Warranty: DFS products carry a one (1) year warranty against defects in material and workmanship. The product warranty will be in effect for a period of one (1) year from the date of system acceptance or fifteen (15) months from the date of product delivery, whichever comes first. When installed with factory required surge protection, all Plug-in Function Modules, Telemetry Control Units, Power Supply Modules and Radio Interface Modules carry an extended two (2) year return-to-factory warranty. Products that carry an extended warranty are covered against damage due to lightning and surge for the entire three-year period.
Software Warranty: The HT3 SCADA Software is warranted for as long as it is in use by the Owner. All HT3 SCADA Software upgrades are provided to the Owner and are performed free of charge, but they must be installed by an authorized DFS service technician. If remote access to the SCADA server is available via a VPN or dial-up connection, our service department will perform all upgrades free of charge. Please open a service ticket to coordinate a time to perform the remote upgrade. If remote access is not available, or if preferred, an on-site upgrade can be performed. Please request a quotation by contacting our Service Department via telephone at 321-259-5009 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Onsite Installation Warranty: When a DFS product has been installed and/or on-site inspected by a DFS certified technician, on-site warranty services are provided for one (1) year, from the date of system acceptance, covering defects in installation, material and workmanship. The one year onsite installation warranty also includes 24/7 factory phone support. On-site warranty services must be initiated by contacting our Service Department via telephone at 321-259-5009.
What are your software licensing costs?
The HT3 SCADA Software is included free of charge with our Hyper SCADA Server product. There are no initial, or even on-going, software licensing costs or maintenance fees. In addition, all HT3 SCADA Software upgrades and revisions are provided free of charge via the website.
What is the I/O count licensing cost?
The HT3 SCADA Software includes an unlimited number of I/O points free of charge. We do not offer I/O point count versions with associated upgrade fees. Whether your I/O requirement is 100 or 100,000, you receive the same software version and capability that's included free of charge with all of our Hyper SCADA Server models.
What frequencies do you use?
DFS exclusively uses FCC Licensed Frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands for their performance characteristics and licensing protections. We do not recommend the use of licensed/unlicensed 900 MHz frequencies or 2.4/5.8 GHz spread spectrum for SCADA communications.
Can I control VFDs with a TCU?
Yes, the TCU can be outfitted with our RIO-032 I/O expansion device to accomodate the additional analog inputs and outputs required. Contact DFS sales to discuss your specific VFD application.
What communication protocols do you support?
The DFS TAC II SCADA System supports multiple communication protocols such as Modbus ASCII, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP/IP, Allen Bradley DF1 Serial, Seiscore, Uniface, Motorola Intrac, TAC II Serial, and TAC II TCP/IP.
Can I integrate with a GIS system?
Absolutely! The Data Flow Systems' Hyper SCADA Server runs an SQL database that is completely ODBC (Open DataBase Connectivity compliant). This allows the two systems to "talk" to one another. We have worked with ESRI, the creators of ArcGIS to actually allow their program to act as an HMI (Human Machine Interface) for the Hyper SCADA Server. There is some additional programming, and it is necessary to have an understanding of the GIS program, but it is completely do-able.
What reports are available? What solution do you have for DEP reports?
We offer several standard reports including pump activity, derived flow, totalized flow, accumulated rainfall, and communication error. Most of the information required in a typical DEP report are available through our standard reports. We also provide direct access to the raw data through a standard ODBC compliant database connection for third-party reporting tools that can create DEP mandated reports.
What is digipeating?
Digipeating provides a way to communicate with RTUs that are otherwise unable due to obstruction, terrain or distance. Digipeating is similar to the "store and forward" concept. Under normal circumstances, the Master Radio transmits (TX) and receives (RX) messages to and from the RTUs. When digipeating, selected RTU stations are utilized to relay the TX & RX messages to and from the Master Radio. Up to four (4) RTUs can be configured in a chain to relay a single RTU’s messages.
Digipeating is a standard feature included with all DFS TAC II SCADA Systems. No special programming is required. Digipeating is an easy to implement menu driven configuration in the SCADA Software.
What is a forwarding terminal unit?
The FTU provides a way to establish communications to a network of RTUs that are too distant from the master radio or otherwise unable due to terrain. The Forwarding Terminal Unit (FTU) is similar to a repeater. The traditional repeater swaps the receive (RX) and transmit (TX) between the master radio and RTUs. The FTU utilizes one frequency for RX & TX to communicate with the Master Radio, and another frequency for RX & TX to communicate with the RTUs. This difference permits RTUs to act as Digipeaters since they receive RX and TX on the same frequency (see FAQ: What is digipeating?).
How many RTUs can one of your SCADA systems support?
Our systems is highly scalable addressing over 3,500 RTUs and hundreds of thousands of points.
Can I build my own screens?
You can create your own custom screens, and many of our customers do. We provide the screen building tool and full documentation with the rest of the system, and a training course is offered. You don't have to create custom screens. The SCADA system generates generic tabular screens by default, and you can have DFS create custom screens for you.
Can I install my own RTUs?
Yes, the TAC II SCADA System is likely the most user-friendly and user-expandable system that you can find. DFS is willing to train its customers to know their system as well as we do. Our installation procedures do not include practices that require customers to contact DFS to add I/O points, update configurations, or install additional RTUs. DFS is willing to train customers to the extent they desire. Many of our customers buy RTUs and perform the installations themselves.
How much is the maintenance contract?
ZERO! No maintenance contracts or annual fees required to receive support from DFS. DFS provides no-charge factory phone-support, during normal business hours, for the life of the TAC II SCADA system. Normal business hours are weekdays, excluding holidays, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern Time Zone. Following any included on-site warranties, DFS will provide on-site support charged against the hourly rates and expenses established at time of service.
Do you really offer free training?
Yes! For two weeks each year (January and July), Data Flow Systems offers an HSS Basic Operations course - free of charge - to its customers. This eight-hour course - held at DFS' Melbourne, FL Training Facility - is limited to 8 students to ensure that each student gets the most out of the training. Learn more and sign up...
Do you offer a panel mounted touch screen?
Yes. We offer a software package that can be easily loaded into any compatible panel mount PC. This offers a customizable version of the HMI interface of the central work station. The PLC033 with PMT can hook up to any compatible PC, or Panel PC, to permit the user/integrator to create custom screens with many of the same great features provided on our Hyper SCADA server. Co-locating a PLC033 with Ethernet connectivity to the Hyper SCADA Server at a facility is a truly dynamic combination. In this configuration the ability to have a complete front end user computer station at every panel PC location is at your "finger tips."
Can I program my own PLC? What is the cost for the software?
Yes! The programming software is included free of charge with the purchase of our PLC. The PLC programming software is an easy to use ladder logic programming tool. You can also choose to have our SCADA Engineering & Design team develop your PLC program for you.
Does your SCADA server include a redundancy feature?
The HSS002-2 Hyper SCADA Server model incorporates Hot-Standby Redundancy featuring dual Hyper Server Modules that automatically switch primary and backup roles - without human intervention - in the event of a primary Hyper Server Module failure. Dual 100W Power Supply Modules and dual 7.0 aH backup batteries serve as redundant power and UPS.
What services do you offer?
Data Flow Systems has over 30 years of experience in the water/wastewater management field. This benefits our customers in many ways. The lessons learned through years of constant effort in the industry are one of our best assets. Why learn everything from scratch? Our dedicated team of professionals are there to assist you every step of the way. From conceptual design through start-up and training, we are there make sure you get the most out of your SCADA system.
Browse to the "services" section of the web-site for more information.
Whose SCADA products do you use?
Data Flow Systems is a manufacturer not an integrator. We design, manufacture, install, configure, program, customize, support, and provide training on a complete line of products that represent all of the pieces required to create a comprehensive SCADA system. However, we will use any product that helps create the best solution for each customer application.
How far will your radios communicate?
Distance in radio communications is a factor of antenna gain, power, height and the terrain. DFS will design a radio system specific to your required coverage area. We have designed systems to cover as little as 3 square miles and as large as 2,300 square miles.
Can I maintain my own system?
Yes! DFS is willing to train its customers to know their systems as well as we do. We have troubleshooting and maintenance training courses available.
More information is available here
Do you offer plant automation?
Yes. We have offered custom plant automation solutions ranging from a single well to 300 MGD plant operations. DFS has been incorporating RTU PLC local control since the early 90s. The capabilities of our PLC have grown to meet the needs of our customers and beyond. The DFS PLC line up includes the PLC001 and the PLC033 - both designed for direct installation into a DFS modular back plane. Both PLCs come ready to take on the many diverse challenges a customer may require of them, and both are backed by the industry leading warranty that DFS is known for!
How much are software and firmware upgrades?
ZERO! All HT3 SCADA software upgrades, as well as product firmware upgrades, are provided free of charge via website.
Where are you located?
We are located in Melbourne, Florida. Our 31,000 square foot facility encompasses sales, engineering, radio study and licensing, customer service, product manufacturing, certified UL-508 panel shop, and warehousing. We currently employ over 65 full-time employees – all dedicated to water & wastewater SCADA systems and applications. All the functions required to provide product and support customers are located under one roof. We also have DFS-Authorized VARs (Value Added Resellers) located around the country.
How large is your customer base?
At the present time there are over 250 individual TAC II SCADA Systems and over 15,000 RTUs installed and operational throughout the United States. DFS' TAC II SCADA System installation base ranges from small Water Control Districts to large WW Collection Systems, and Automated Plant Control Systems. Our single largest user, a County located in Florida, currently has over 700 DFS RTUs for the monitor and control of their sewer lift stations.
Do you have representation in my area?
Data Flow Systems' home office is in Melbourne, FL, but we also have authorized representatives (Value Added Resellers) located in other parts of the country. Find a representative in your area...
What is your HMI?
Our HMI (human to machine interface) is a browser-based interface providing easy access to the SCADA system. Multiple users can simultaneously monitor, control, receive alarms, and run reports. The easy to use graphics are viewed in a fashion similar to navigating a website (drop-down menus, clicking on objects, etc.). This is not an Internet based system, but a system that utilizes the same website HMI technology. We currently utilize the Internet Explorer Browser as the preferred HMI, which is a program familiar to many and readily available free of charge.
Do you have a solution for my small system?
Yes, we can provide cost effective solutions for systems as small as one RTU.
What user-level permissions are available?
DFS' SCADA software (HT3) gives you much flexibility when creating user accounts. Each account you set up can be given one of three permission levels - Yes, View, or No - for each system function (for example, acknowledging alarms, starting and stopping telemetry, and creating ladder logic programs). Once logged in, actions within HT3 are limited by the permissions assigned to that particular account. With this level of security, access to system functions and operator displays can be limited, or restricted altogether.
What do you mean by "network-centric"?
This term accurately describes the Hyper SCADA Server's ability to both gather raw data, and distibute information over a standard TCP/IP or Ethernet network. This feature makes the Hyper SCADA Server look just like any other server (e-mail, web, printer, etc.) on a customer's network. Because there are no seat charges with our system, the distibution of accurate, on-time information to those who need to know is greatly facilitated.
How secure is the password protection/encryption?
The HT3 SCADA Software program installed on the Hyper SCADA Server is password protected to prevent unauthorized access to the system. A valid user account – login and password – are required to access the system. All passwords are MD5 encrypted for optimum security protection.
Can I put my system on the internet? Securely?
Absolutely! Many of our customers are currently using the capabilities of the World Wide Web to both distribute and access their information. Security is a prime consideration when implementing this feature, but with the use of routers and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), you can rest easy that only authorized personnel will be able to access your data.
Can you work with my IT/IS/MIS department?
Most definitely! In fact, the earlier your IT/IS/MIS department becomes involved, the better the system will accomplish its mission. Being a "network-centric" appliance, the Hyper SCADA Server delivers superior performane when it is allowed the use of a utilities network. The network "owned" and maintained by your IT/IS/MIS department. With their support, your SCADA information becomes another distributed service to authorized employees.
How do I back up my data?
Our SCADA software, HT3, features an automated backup routine that protects your system from the loss of critical data. HT3's data redundancy process uses a designated Windows workstation as a backup location. Data backup occurs every night at midnight, and an entry is made in the current day's Access Log to indicate if the previous day's backup was successful or failed. When the system performs a backup, all of the configuration databases, and the logs and journals for the previous day are backed up.
Why should I choose DFS for my SCADA project?
DFS has gained national recognition for its durable and obsolescence-proof TAC II SCADA System, as well as its technical capabilities and guaranteed radio links. Today, DFS is recognized as an industry leader, providing remote monitoring and control for remote facilities, and water & wastewater treatment plant automation systems. With our combination of design, installation, and service capabilities, DFS offers complete SCADA solutions. Emphasis is placed on developing long-term relationships as the supplier of choice for SCADA applications. At the present time there are over 250 individual TAC II SCADA Systems and over 15,000 RTUs installed and operational throughout the United States. DFS' TAC II SCADA System installation base ranges from small Water Control Districts to large WW Collection Systems, and Automated Plant Control Systems. Our single largest user, a County located in Florida, currently has over 700 DFS RTUs for the monitor and control of their sewer lift stations. Find out more about why you should choose DFS for your next SCADA project.
Is the system easy to use?
All aspects of DFS' SCADA system have been designed for use by operators and technicians who are focused on the operation of an industrial process and are not specialized telemetry technicians. The objective of any good SCADA system should help the operator understand and manage their process and not require extra attention to manage the SCADA tools. Our custom screens can be used to display critical information in an intuitive graphical interface. The alarm functions alert the operator to problems in his process. Reports and trending are great tools to display captured data over longer periods time. it's also easy to configure the system to match changes in process hardware. Professional training, quality documentation and available telephone and on-line support give operators the confidence to get all of the benefits of DFS' comprehensive SCADA system.
My current system - from another manufacturer - is obsolete. Will this happen with my DFS system?
The average life of a SCADA system in the water and wastewater utilities market is around seven to ten years. While poor design and selection of materials accounts for the premature demise of many systems, it is more often the technical obsolescence of the system that brings about its end. Our TAC II SCADA System is a continuously evolving system for over 25 years. All DFS products incorporate current state-of-the-art technology, but maintain downward compatibility with older versions, demonstrating an obsolesce-proof design that can be found in no other SCADA system. New products are designed with pin-for-pin compatibly of like type and require no rewiring, adjustments, straps or configuration adjustments (plug and play). In addition, DFS provides support and repair for every TAC II SCADA product that we have ever manufactured. DFS does not have "generation systems" with a limited life cycle of availability and support. No matter how old, if we built it we will service it. DFS doesn't require annual maintenance contracts or renewal support program fees.
Explain what you mean by "obsolescence proof" system.
Although the DFS TAC II SCADA System is designed to withstand the effects of Florida’s harsh environmental conditions, careful planning in the engineering and design phase produced a system that has also achieved “technical durability.” The TAC II SCADA System is a continuously evolving system for over 25 years, and all new products maintain a downward compatibility with all older versions - allowing a utility to maximize their investment over the long term.
Over the last 25+ years our system users have purchased new and improved DFS products to expand their original installations. All DFS products incorporate current state-of-the-art technology, but maintain downward compatibility with older versions, demonstrating an obsolesce-proof design that can be found in no other SCADA system.
All DFS I/O modules, Pump Controllers, Powers Supply Modules and Radio Interface Modules are completely backward compatible with older versions and revisions of like type. New products are designed with pin-for-pin compatibly of like type and require no rewiring, straps, or switch adjustments (plug and play).
In addition, DFS provides support and repair for every TAC II SCADA product that we have ever manufactured. DFS does not have “generation systems” with a limited life cycle of availability and support. No matter how old, if we built it we will service it. DFS doesn’t require annual maintenance contracts or renewal support program fees.
What solution do you offer for pump control?
Our Telemetry Control Unit (TCU) combines powerful pump control functions with advanced SCADA radio or network communications, or an Autodialer, to provide a powerful, price-competitive solution. The TCU can be installed in your control panel, or in an environmental enclosure from DFS. It can control up to three fixed speed pumps while monitoring float switches or a level transducer. Learn more about the TCU...
How does DFS collect process status and provide that data to system operators?
All of the data collected from radio communications to Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) and Telemetry Control Units (TCUs), and from networked RTUs is stored and analyzed by the Hyper SCADA Server (HSS). Users connect to the HSS through an ethernet network from their PC workstations. There is no special software on the workstations; all functions of the HSS are available from a standard and familiar web browser. Learn more about the Hyper SCADA Server.
What type of training do you offer?
DFS offers formal training courses based on media presentation and hands-on practical exercises. A mobile training system is taken to a remote location so that the students gain real experience without interrupting service on an installed operational system. Students are tested with written exams and graded operational scenarios. This is challenging training, not a cake-walk. Learn more about our training
What are the minimum requirements for a computer to be connected to the HSS for HMI access?
Recommended Requirements for a Workstation Computer*:
Minimum Requirements for a Workstation Computer*:
*Microphone required for recording voice alarm announcements
**Read this FAQ to determine if you need the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Java (http://java.com/en/download/faq/java_win64bit.xml)
Is the DFS System compatible with Microsoft Vista OS?
Yes, with minor changes to the setup, a computer running the Microsoft Vista OS can be configured for HMI access to the Hyper SCADA Server.
What version(s) of Java is acceptable to use on a Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 installed when communicating to the HSS?
HT3 3.1.3 has been fully tested with Java Runtime Environment (JRE) version 1.7_4. If you currently have this or a newer version installed, there is no need to install the JRE. HT3 will work with newer versions.
We encourage you to keep your Java plug-in up to date to take advantage of new security measures introduced in each release.
Java home page: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/index.html
Java download page: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/index.html [Download the JRE file not the JDK file. The JRE (Java Runtime Environment) is used for running Java applications and applets on your computer. The JDK is for developing Java applications and applets.]
Do you offer CEU approved courses?
DFS training qualifies for Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits through the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association (FSAWWA). This accreditation may be extended to other regions as necessary. DFS serves as a collection agent for the FSAWWA and collects accreditation and registration fees accordingly.
See the DFS Course Catalog for CEU values.