The vastly improved stability in South Africa’s power system, in the past six months, has shifted focus from working around a loadshedding schedule to the management of more routine power outages – the kind endured by businesses and homes even in countries with an oversupply of electricity. While this is no less of a nuisance to business and homeowners, it is a considerable luxury given the experiences of the past eight years.

Power outages occur for any number of reasons, some relating to the distribution system as in when a power or substation experiences a fault or there’s damage to power lines, and others a little closer to home, for instance, when we overload a circuit or rats get into the wiring.

The irksome thing about these outages is their unpredictability – I bet you never thought you’d miss that loadshedding schedule. Unpredictability is the enemy of business. But how do you effectively mitigate unpredictable risks or respond to an unexpected power outage that occurs, unbeknownst to you, while you’re tucked in for the night?

Devastating Losses
For some businesses, like an accounting office, a midnight power outage with a return to power by start of business is not even a minor inconvenience, for others it can result in devastating losses. Butcher shops, spazas and corner cafés that run freezers and refrigerators spring to mind. What could be more damaging to a small business than to learn that it has lost an entire fridge/freezer of perishable goods due to a power outage that lasted several hours?

These are the types of businesses Netshield had in mind when we introduced our Simple GSM Power Monitor PH1. Affordable and incredibly simple to use, this plug-in mains power monitor uses its battery power and cellphone SIM card to send an SMS to the business owner, alerting them to the fact that the power is off.

Thanks to nearly a decade of loadshedding, many businesses do own backup generators, but in the case of small businesses, these are unlikely to be the more expensive kind that automatically switch on in the event of power loss. So a text alert to say the power is out, allows the business owner the opportunity to get to the business and start up the generator that will keep those perishable goods refrigerated.

Identify Outage Patterns
In addition to letting the business owner know that the power is out, the Simple GSM Power Monitor will also let them know when it is restored. The owner can also request an SMS-based status report from the device at any time. These power notifications have another key benefit to the business owner, namely the ability to identify patterns where they exist.

It may be that another tenant in the building unintentionally, but routinely overloads the building power supply at a certain time of the day, causing a loss of power to the entire building. Once a pattern is determined, the business owner is able to investigate, identify the cause of the problem and take mitigating action – whether that involves having the guilty party take corrective action or motivating the need for additional electrical circuits to the landlord.

In instances where the business owner is not able to determine the cause of routine outages, despite their best efforts, the information on outage patterns is nevertheless useful to determine the viability of investing in a generator. Information on the average duration of such outages is moreover helpful in determining the size of the generator required, while the time of day may determine whether it’s viable to purchase one that switches on automatically, so the business owner doesn’t have to make a special trip to turn it on.

Information is Power
For small businesses that can afford it and whose business is reliant on power supply, insurance companies do offer Public Utilities cover. This covers the business against losses incurred as a result of interrupted power supply due to mechanical and electrical breakdown.

Usually, however, these policies stipulate a minimum time frame during which the power must be down – typically 24-hours. So when it comes to putting forward the evidence necessary to claim against such policies, a report from your Simple GSM Power Monitor may prove very useful indeed.

The unit can also be expanded to measure environmental temperature in a range from -45 to 145+ in one degree steps and also has and optional connective to stream warning through GPRS connectivity. Furthermore, the unit’s GSM capability has been Icasa approved.

The Simple GSM Power Monitor PH1 is ideal for small businesses, while the price tag makes it attractive and affordable to homeowners too. In fact, any company or person who has a need to monitor their power, and a spare three-prong mains socket available to plug it into, can benefit from this product, which has a rechargeable battery, LED status lights and an externally accessible Micro SIM socket.