We offer many types of professional engineering and technical services to a wide variety of industries. The communication technologies we understand range from fiber-optic and wire-line, to broadband wireless and WiFi to land-mobile radio and cellular, to microwave and satellite communications. The Semaphore Group can leverage each of these tools to provide the right communication systems plan and design for your industry application. The Semaphore Group has supported industry sectors ranging from transportation to process control to national defense and public safety. If you already have a communication system that needs to be expanded or updated or if you are experiencing difficulties with your current infrastructure The Semaphore Group can help. Below the slideshow are a list of the main types of services we offer. We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about what your needs really are. We are happy to help point the way toward improved communications.
System Design and Construction Related Services
Designing a new communication system usually starts with a needs assessment and review of the current infrastructure. After a conceptual design is agreed upon with the client, a detailed design can progress. If an RFP or RFQ is necessary it is usually developed through an iterative process involving technical specifications and drawings. Cost estimates are also provided. Bid support services usually involve vendor question response preparation and bid evaluation. Construction related services can involve complete construction management or a subset including such services as RFI response preparation, and submittal review. If the client undertakes construction internally, construction related services sometimes include construction oversight and training.
Some clients chose to develop an agency wide plan for using communications technologies. These plans are often used as technology road-maps but also as financial tools to secure funding for 5 and 10 years in the future. Preparation of these plans usually begins with detailed interviews with all agency stakeholders. Strategic planning is about looking forward and identifying synergies between the departments and available communication technologies. A current understanding of the technology marketplace is crucial to developing a successful plan. The final version of the plan usually describes one or more optional paths the agency can take. Recommendations are included and cost estimates are provided. Where communications services are compared to procured infrastructures, a return-on-investment analysis is made. When the agency is sensitive to capital vs. operational budget issues these factors are taken into account as well. A critical part of strategic planning that is sometimes overlooked are maintenance projections. This is generally an operational budget issue and must also be considered in any comprehensive strategic plan.
System Performance Analysis
Communication systems can be complex. When they are built, if they are done right, a baseline is established that allows the owner to understand the initial level of system performance and also the performance envelope. Over time these parameters change. Communication systems take on additional traffic and system components age and deteriorate. When a significant increase in traffic is expected or if the network is to be modified it is often a good idea to establish what the current level of system performance is and whether the envelope has changed. In addition, simulations and predictive modeling can be used to verify that a planned change will be supported by the network. Whether the system is a voice radio or telemetry radio network, fiber-optic wide area network, a microwave network, a local area network, a process control network, a satellite network, or a plain old telephone network, system analysis is an important part of maintaining and expanding a communications system.
One of the most challenging tasks we undertake at The Semaphore Group is communication system troubleshooting. When a system has a performance problem or has ceased functioning all together an owner may not have the time or resources to identify the problem. Bringing in an outside agent with a fresh objective viewpoint is a good idea. It usually requires an accelerated approach where the outside agent quickly comes up to speed on the system and the known issues or anomalies. The troubleshooting can sometimes involve network monitoring where the system's heartbeat is taken simultaneously at multiple points to watch how traffic propagates. Sometimes system performance analysis is necessary to identify an overloaded network. And sometimes the only thing needed is to sweep an antenna, tone out a circuit, or measure the attenuation on a fiber link.
As communication systems grow and mature changes are made to maintain the desired level of performance. Sometimes maintenance activities require quick changes that may not be well documented. Personnel changes can often mean intellectual capital is lost and with it a comprehensive understanding of the infrastructure associated with a communication system may be lost. When system modifications are anticipated or if a strategic planning effort is undertaken it is necessary to reestablish an understanding of the assets associated with the existing communication systems. To gain this understanding a survey is necessary. Generally, surveys are targeted and involve only the required subsystems. The granularity of the survey is also adapted to the level needed. Collecting serial numbers is necessary for a complete asset management effort but may not be necessary for a strategic planning effort. Communication network surveying tools involve everything from cameras, GPS receivers, and range-finding scopes to notebooks and laptop computers that can auto-discover a network.
Network Management and Asset Management Planning
Older communication systems were often installed without significant network and asset management tools. The fact is the tools just didn't exist and the ones that did were cost prohibitive or had to be developed from scratch. In addition, some new networks that are put in on a tight budget sometimes sacrifice network and asset management. Unfortunately, from an operational standpoint, the cost of not having these features can be significant. Frequent and long duration service interruptions as well as unnecessary failure cascades can sometimes be avoided with proper network and asset management. Retrofitting these tools requires planning. It is often accomplished in phases as funding permits. In some industries network management and asset management tasks are being combined with logistics and maintenance creating an Enterprise Management approach that seamlessly identifies a problem, the assets involved, who should be deployed to repair it, how long the repair will take, whether any replacement assets are available and if so where they are stored. Regardless of the complexity of the management tools, it is always necessary to have a well developed operational plan for using them. If the plan is too complex then it will not be correctly implemented. If the plan is to simple it may not meet the needs of the organization or achieve the return on investment in the tools. The Semaphore Group can work with you to ensure not only that you chose the right tools but that you establish an appropriate plan for using them.
One of the most diverse activities The Semaphore Group engages in is product development. We offer system level design services which are usually part of the initial stage of bringing a product to market. These services often involve simulation and analysis work to identify performance issues and envelopes. An example would be simulating a receiver design to ensure the output meets performance requirements. Another example is simulating a satellite communication channel to take into account non-linear effects. After design, The Semaphore Group can also assist in product test plan development. Once prototyped, assistance is also available for test plan execution.