May 7, 2015 — A startup company with offices in Northern Virginia and North Carolina has developed technology to monitor multiple systems at a tower site, beyond FAA hazard lighting and security. TransHawk Systems, which has been testing a site monitoring system in Maryland for two years, is now ready to go to market. The company plans to market the monitoring system for use by wireless, broadcast and public safety tower sites.
“We are reaching out now to interested parties to start deploying the systems. We are just now hitting the streets hard, meeting with the cell tower companies directly. In the future, our system will meet every requirement for hardened tower sites of FirstNet and then some,” Terry Woodbridge, co-founder and CTO, told AGL Media Group
The company was formed by Terry Woodbridge, CTO, who has a history in medical technology and sensor development, and Bill Pommerening, president and CEO, who also heads RP Financial.
The genesis of TransHawk came from a meeting with a wireless carrier that needed monitoring for a cell site. Looking around the industry, Woodbridge and Pommerening found that most cell tower companies perform the minimum amount of monitoring, including tower lighting and security. TransHawk raised $300,000 in equity last month, according to filings with the SEC, to lock down intellectual property rights and fund beta test sites.
“One of the major concerns of cell tower companies is monitoring their assets. One tower company said it had a monopole that was twisting in the wind and they were not aware that it had fallen down until they saw it on the evening news,” Woodbridge said. “They don’t know when their grounding bars have been stolen until their annual inspection. We learned that inspections are not happening on an annual basis, because tower companies are growing so rapidly that they cannot get out there to do their inspections.
Holistic Tower Monitoring Includes RF Performance
Woodbridge and Pommerening developed a system that provides cameras, which set off an alarm if movement happens in predetermined areas of the compound, but also monitors myriad systems, including the site’s generator, air conditioner, fiber optics between the mux and the antennas, grounding and RF signal performance. Additionally, sensors can be deployed that detect twist and sway of the tower structure.
“We have tried to address every unique possible need for monitoring at a cell tower,” Woodbridge said. “Using TransHawk, the tower company can interact with the site, including weekly tests on the generator or turning it on and off as needed.
“If you are losing performance from the tower, the problem could be at the mux on the ground or up on the tower. We can help to locate the problem. So you don’t send out a tower crew and find out the problem is on the ground,” he added.
The Need for a Revamp at Network Operating Centers
Rapid growth, aggregating towers from different companies has also left the tower companies with NOCs filled with a hodgepodge of different monitoring systems that do not work effectively together, he said.
All the intelligence is at the tower so the tower company does not depend on a communications link to the NOC to maintain the monitoring of the tower. If communications is interrupted with the NOC, the monitoring system continues to work. Additionally, the NOC can be accessed by any mobile device.
The TransHawk technology can be integrated into the current NOC of the cell tower company, or TransHawk can provide the monitoring of a cell tower company’s sites as a service.
Ready to go to Market: but Who is Buying?
The company, which has been in business for two years, has a fully operational monitoring system up and running at a cell site in Maryland. It has seven patents on technology that was developed for monitoring cell towers.
One of the IPRs is for a device that monitors the twist and sway of the tower. An alarm is triggered if the tower sways beyond a preset parameter. Another monitoring sensor was developed that not only measures whether the grounding bar is there but also measures the grounding and impedance of any piece of equipment on the site and compares it with the ground loop under the site.
The question now is who pays for the system. TransHawk has been marketing the product to tower companies. In fact, it had a partnership with a cell tower company for a while until it was bought out by an aggregator.
“We have been talking with tower companies, because they own the towers, but we are beginning to think that it is a wireless carrier play,” Pommerening said.