Conversation with Dane Overfield

Product Development Lead, Exele Information Systems, Inc.


Who is Exele Information Systems?

Exele Information Systems started in 1978 in East Rochester, NY. We became and integrator and distributor for an early data historian software product for the oil industry that later expanded to power, chemicals, oil and gas, and paper. While integrating and customizing this software for customers, a few products emerged which we now sell as “off-the-shelf” products. In addition to these products, we also offer various integration services and are heavily involved with environmental and emissions monitoring and reporting.

As product development lead for Exele Information Systems, Inc., what products do you offer for the wind energy market?

Many of our products satisfy a need that crosses many industries, including the wind energy market. One is a process calculation engine that is also heavily used in the refining and power industries, allowing engineers to easily create logic and calculations involving process data. TopView is a software product that monitors user-selected process measurements for abnormal conditions or events, notifies responsible parties, and makes details of the data and events available through various presentation tools.

How does TopView work?

TopView is an alarm management and notification product that allows customers to address the universal need to let people monitor, notify, and record specific unexpected or abnormal process events. Sometimes the events are simple limit violations, but TopView also allows more complex event detection involving multiple inputs or behavior over time.  Once the events are detected, we record, notify, and distribute this information through a variety of channels.

We started with the ability to monitor data from a single vendor. Our customer base expanded when OPC emerged since it allowed a client application such as TopView to monitor data regardless of process data vendor. More recently, we added the ability to monitor data stored in relational databases. Today, TopView can be used with most PLCs, SCADA systems, control systems, process historians, and relational databases

What are the main features of the software?

TopView started in 1997 as a way for people to visually and audibly monitor current process conditions from one vendor’s database. Once we released the product, people began to request more features such as email notification, voice call-out and pager notification, and various other monitoring and reporting activities. We also added remote operator consoles to allow real-time monitoring and acknowledgement of alarms as well as the querying of alarm history and the execution of alarm analytics. We keep adding great features to the product as technology and trends change.

How do customers customize for their needs?

We want the user to apply their process knowledge to the configuration of the product and we rarely get involved in the detailed customization of an installation. The interesting thing about our customers is that they often have a unique list of needs, but they all use the same TopView product because they can pick and choose the features that bring them the most value. The challenge for us is to create a feature-rich product that is easy to configure. We have a Configuration tool to address this task, and so far the feedback has been very positive. We also provide a real-time administrative tool to help the user “look under the hood” and monitor the current running state of the product. We try to empower the user by providing good tools.

Who are your customers?

Our customer industries span from wind farms to power plants, refineries, data centers, pharmaceuticals, water/wastewater, and more. The initial interest in TopView is often from a process engineer, process data analyst, or system integrator looking for real-time monitoring event detection, and notification software. Once installed, the users expand to those with interest in the data and events including maintenance, control operators, engineers, managers, and even suppliers and vendors.

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