Remote Power System Monitoring with Victron's GlobalLink 520 and Ruuvi Sensors
Remote monitoring systems are all about efficiency and labor savings. How quickly can a problem be identified? How easily can the team troubleshoot and resolve an issue without traveling to the site?
While the value these systems offer can be priceless regarding time saved and headaches prevented, they sure don't need to be expensive and over-engineered.
The Global Link 520, a newer product released by Victron Energy in 2020, has been warmly embraced across many markets, especially among those looking to monitor smaller off-grid power systems such as an RV or trailer-mounted camera systems on a job site.
Thanks to a recent firmware update, this remote monitoring device is no longer limited to two VE.Direct ports, but rather, can use its onboard Bluetooth receiver to talk to up to 10 Bluetooth-enabled devices such as SmartSolar charge controllers, SmartShunts, and Ruuvi temperature sensors. **This is a significant advantage if cabling is a challenge on your application. See the complete list of compatible devices in the GlobalLink 520 manual.
In this article, we'll talk about the GlobalLink 520, new functionality made possible with this update, and address a few related questions from our customers.
First, what is the GlobalLink 520?
The GlobalLink 520 is a remote monitoring device that uses LTE-M, a cellular network to connect your off-grid power system to the internet - and, therefore, the Victron Remote Management (VRM) portal. It's an extremely easy way to get your system online; you plug it in, it powers up, and it immediately starts talking to the internet (which is pretty awesome if you ask us). And it's relatively inexpensive for the value it's offering.
The GlobalLink 520 comes with a pre-paid, pre-installed SIM card that will operate for five years. You can also install your own SIM card; just make sure it supports LTE-M. There are some nice LTE-M maps out there that you can use to confirm coverage in your area, but generally, in the US, coverage includes most places that receive a cell signal, and that geographic coverage is ever-increasing.
Suppose you manage a fleet of emergency vehicles, trailer-mounted traffic safety equipment, or security systems on a construction site. In each case, the GlobalLink 520 offers an easy, low-cost way to get your system online and start gaining valuable insights on the system's performance—right from your phone or laptop. As a result, the GlobalLink 520 has become a popular product for engineering teams that need a reliable and inexpensive way to gather evaluation data for product development.
Pro-tip: If you're not yet familiar with VRM, this portal provides you with online, password-protected access to your installation anywhere, at any time. It's also completely free. From VRM, you can check the status of your connected products, view detailed history graphs of your energy consumption, and generate detailed analytical reports. You can even configure automatic alarms to let you know when, for example, a temperature or humidity measurement is out of bounds.
More data. Better Decision making.
Sometimes having one piece of information, such as the temperature inside the equipment bay or the battery's state of charge, is the whole point of a remote monitoring system.
Recent updates to Victron's GlobalLink 520 have made it possible to connect to even more devices, with more potential to gather valuable information.
The GlobalLink 520 has two VE.Direct inputs for a list of Victron equipment. This would allow you to connect a VE Direct-enabled SmartSolar MPPT Solar Charge Controller, a IP65 SmartShunt, a BMV 712 Smart battery monitor or even a Phoenix Inverter with VE.Direct straight to the VRM.
- The GlobalLink 520 has a relay with a NO and NC contact, which can be toggled on or off remotely with VRM from your phone or laptop. You could use this to turn off a generator or to turn on a heater. In many cases, this enables our OEMs to power cycle their systems with this relay, saving a costly trip to the field to, for example, reset the camera system on a mobile security trailer.
- There are also two analog inputs with pull-up resistors that are pretty handy. Measuring digital inputs can be extremely useful. Tracking the door closure on an RV or boat is a common application. Or, perhaps a tripwire on the perimeter of a bunker for us Montanans (Gotcha!).
Pro-tip: It's worth noting that the GlobalLink 520 syncs up to VRM every 15min. This reporting rate is fixed so a relay closure will take up to 15min to happen and possibly up to 15min to reverse. If it's important to make this happen quickly, a little relay logic or a simple timer will reduce that time.
- The GlobalLink 520 always had a Bluetooth radio. Now, it can communicate with up to 10 such devices, including wireless Ruuvi temperature sensors.
Temperature and Humidity monitoring with Ruuvi sensors
Ruuvi temperature and humidity sensors offer an extremely reliable and affordable way to add weather data to remote monitoring systems. This recent update also allows Ruuvi sensors to communicate with the GlobalLink 520.
>>> Read our article for more information on Ruuvi's open-source temperature and humidity sensors.
Ruuvi sensors are battery-powered and, when connected to a gateway (in this case, the GlobalLink), log real-time temperature, humidity, and air pressure data, viewable on the VRM platform.
Pro-tip: To learn how to set up alarms in VRM based on Ruuvi data, follow the steps described in this article. The steps are exactly same, whether you are using Victron's Cerbo GX device or the GlobalLink 520 to talk to VRM. Of course, you can create alarms for any data streams on connected devices in the same way.
When can temperature data aid in troubleshooting?
To fully understand your system's performance, it's critical to know what the inside and the outside temperature are doing. The GlobalLink 520, combined with Ruuvi environmental sensors, just karate chopped this issue. How so?
Imagine that you have 350 mobile security trailers with a lithium battery bank that will shut down at 32 degrees. You keep them in a well-insulated enclosure, but it's -20 outside today. Worst case scenario: the systems stop responding. Did Billy the Kid take your trailer across the border? Maybe. Who knows! In the best-case scenario, you have installed a RuuviTag Pro 3in1 sensor inside the equipment bay and set an alert in VRM to send you a warning message when the batteries reach 40 degrees. Via the GlobalLink 520, you could manually toggle on the built-in relay to turn on a heater and warm those batteries up. By looking at your VRM logs, you could also confirm the problem: the inside temperature has been dropping, and the batteries have been getting progressively colder. With this information in hand, you can discuss the best course of action with your team (and avoid that call to your cousin Vinny to get your stuff back). That's what you'd call a win-win.
Is the GlobalLink 520 preferable to a Cerbo GX device?
Victron makes different products, and they make them differently on purpose. There are things the GlobalLink doesn't do that the Cerbo GX does. The GlobalLink has more limited connectivity, 2 VE direct ports, allowing you to plug in a smaller inverter and a charge controller, for example. The GlobalLink has a relay that you can toggle on and off remotely. You can measure things like a high or low signal off of a digital input. In any system where the full capability of a Cerbo GX is not necessary or if you're looking for an easier, lower-cost way to accomplish remote monitoring, that's where the GlobalLink is the perfect fit. It's plug-and-play, no SIM card purchase required, and extremely easy to set up and start using.
>>>Related: Monitor Temperature on Victron's Cerbo GX Using Ruuvi Sensors
How do I connect a Ruuvi to GlobalLink?The Victron and Ruuvi R&D teams worked together on this integration for a simple, quick setup process. Here's our checklist:
- Buy a Ruuvi sensor from Intelligent Controls.
- Pull the plastic tab that allows the battery to make contact with the Ruuvi. (That was the hard part.)
- Move the Ruuvi close to GlobalLink with the Victron Connect app open.
- Look for and click on the gear icon, and it will ask you what firmware you want to use. Select the Beta version. It will download automatically and you can change or disable the auto-update settings by going to the Settings menu in VictronConnect or the Device list on the VRM portal.
- Your Ruuvi sensor will pop up as a new device. Click to enable it.
- Do a happy dance.
Pro-tip: Victron makes two free (and wonderful) apps: VictronConnect and VRM. Now you can create and move widgets, such as a temperature widget, to the homepage of your smartphone or tablet to avoid logging in or opening the app each time you want to check the status of your system. Watch Victron's latest video for a quick demo of these features: New Features in VictronConnect & VRM App, Widgets, Stored Trends & Instant Readout
My power system is mobile. Will the GlobalLink's built-in antenna work, or should I add an external antenna?
LTE-M supports handover and roaming, which makes it possible to use the GlobalLink in a moving vehicle such as an RV or Sprinter van. In addition to its internal antenna, the GlobalLink 520 has an SMA connector for mounting an external antenna. Just make sure it's an LTE-M antenna. Victron makes a nice one that can be mounted outdoors to improve your signal strength. A switch on the top of the device determines which antenna is being used.
Victron offers an extensive range of products to meet any off-grid and remote monitoring challenge you can think of.
The GlobalLink 520 is small, simple, powerful, and provides great insight into your remote power system.
We're excited about this (can you tell?). The ability to continuously monitor critical data—voltage, current, temperature and humidity, and more—from one easy-to-understand dashboard is nothing short of a revolution for the people that build, service, and depend on remote power systems.
Have a product question or need someone to bounce an idea off of? Reach out to us via our contact form or drop us a note in the chat box.
If your application is large, we have special pricing available to you and can assign an application engineer to review your project and provide any guidance for your use case.
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