I&C Obsolescence & Cybersecurity Compound Maritime Problems

Dr. Otto P. Fest, President, OTEK Corporation 


Main Control Rooms (I&C Rooms) in many industries are facing worsening obsolescence, and our US Navy and Maritime fleet are no exception. Other sectors such as Nuclear, Waste Water, and Offshore Drilling have similarly experienced this issue. They have primarily turned to Flat Screen Monitors that can handle thousands of data selectable by the trained operator and automatically display when the process reaches marginal/limits to attract the attention of the operator and/or automatically take corrective action.

This highly needed technical evolution is beyond the financial capabilities of most aging installations, not only because of the high cost of the modernization but also government-mandated cybersecurity protection. 

The problem is not only the labor of digitally converting an Instrument and Control (I&C) room but also the cost of implementing cybersecurity protections and awaiting government approval which could take years, that compounds the issue.

The typical cost for the “ideal” I&C room, with Flat Screen Automatic Process Control I&C Room conversion, is approximately $200 Million and takes over five years, plus NRC approvals [Fest, O. P. (2019, November 10). PPT. Tucson.].

“What we need is a Class 1E 100% Form, Fit & Function, Plug & Play replacement for our obsolete analog and digital meters, our plant is 38 years old!” an I&C Manager at North Anna NPP once told Dr. Otto Fest [Fest, O. P. (2017). Lunch & Learn North Anna NPP.]

About two years later, Dr. Fest introduced his solution for obsolete analog and digital meters that replaces outdated analog meters 100% Form, Fit & Function, with Plug & Play and One Size Fits All technology. Dr. Fest developed two versions of the meter. The first is cybersecurity meter compliant to NEI08-09 (direct and indirect critical digital assets), NEI 10-04, and 10CFR 73.54, compatible with DAS & APC. The second is a cybersecurity exempt meter, which is ideal for older plants or vessels with a short life expectancy that cannot afford the cybersecurity expense, and use the same panel cut out, wiring, signal & operator. 

Options This Paper Will Explore:

1. Do Nothing and wait for the inevitable? Is this an option?

2. Spend Millions of dollars on a brand new installation with Flat Screen Technology? 

3. Replace obsolete analog and/or digital with Class1E, Mil-Spec, or Industrial Grade “Plug & Play” New Technology Meters, either cybersecurity compliant or CS exempt, all at once or as they fail at a fraction of the cost and time Flat Screen installations require.  


The simplicity of the analog meter, along with its low manufacturing cost, has been offset by its unreliability, inaccuracy, fragility, and subjective interpretation. The developer of its challenger, who has several patents on loop and signal powered technology, claims that his latest invention of a “Solid State Analog Meter” (SSAM Patent #: 10,222,405) would help prevent tragedies like those caused by traditional analog meters.

Advances in LED technology, coupled with market challenges like cybersecurity protection in the Nuclear Power and Maritime industries, motivated Dr. Fest to both create a substitute for unreliable analog meters and offer a 100% compatible replacement that accepts all standard industry input signals. The SSAM technology allows all legacy signal inputs, including 4-20 and 10-50 mA current loops, ACV, Watts, Hertz, and DC Volts, Amps, and Watts. The SSAM can be powered by any signal that can provide >5mW of energy, even if no other power or current is available. It can also be powered externally with 3-32Vdc or 90-265 Vac. 

To expand the applications of the SSAM, OTEK’s Engineers have included other patented options that enhance the use of the new technology. These are loop power: 1) Hi-Low alarms (Pat. #6, 285,094); 2) Loop Isolator (#7, 477,080); 3) 4-20 mA isolated 4-20mA retransmission (#7, 684, 768); 4) Signal Failure Detection and Alarm (#9, 054, 725); 5) AC Volts, Amps, Watts, and Hertz Signal Powered options (#7, 626, 378), as well as isolated USB and RS485 serial output (patent pending). The SSAM technology is the culmination of his 40-years of experience with current loop technology. Dr. Fest created the industry’s first loop-powered digital panel meter (DPM) back in 1974 and has been expanding on it ever since.

Why was the obsession with replacing the old faithful analog meter invented by Dr. Edward Weston in 1893? As much as Dr. Fest admires Dr. Weston’s invention of the analog panel meter (APM) and the fact that it has survived for over 120 years in use and popularity, it is essential to challenge its legacy. Numerous tragedies occur due to the analog meter and the tendency towards stuck needles, inaccuracies, and operators’ erroneous readings.

The inherent inaccuracy of the analog meter has caused many industries like the military and nuclear power to adopt a precautionary ~5-10% safety factor on all readings [Nuclear News, 2018]. Most APMs have an accuracy of only +/- 5% (+/- 2% if you are looking at it straight on from a distance of +/- 10 inches), plus parallax errors when interpreting the reading. The result is that a typical power plant could lose over $100,000 of saleable power daily because of this safety factor. We can and must do better after over 120 years!

The most outstanding technical and cleanest electrical power of humankind relies on a 19th-century metering technology (D’Arsonval movement) perfected in 1893 by Dr. E. Weston. That’s the reason Dr. Fest rose to the occasion when he was challenged by a nuclear plant manager to develop an electronic numerical bar meter identical to the company’s New Technology Meter (NTM) but without a microprocessor.

Why, without a microprocessor? Nuclear power plant Instrument & Control rooms (as well as those of Navy and Maritime vessels) must comply with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cybersecurity regulations (NEI08-09 and many others) to digitize. Meeting these regulations may cost facilities millions of dollars, and take years to implement. In the meantime, if they keep their +/- 5% analog meters, they have to operate below optimum efficiency (+safety margin), losing 8-10% of their maximum electric power output; translating into a real loss of about $100,000 per day for a typical reactor that produces about $1,000,000/day of electricity!

After being presented with this challenge by a customer, Dr. Fest asked, “How can I design all the features of the NTM without a microprocessor (digital asset) to avoid cybersecurity requirements and expenses?” Suddenly, he remembered experimenting with a hardware-only CMOS logic (no microprocessor) bar graph-digital meter back in 2004. He went into a hunting frenzy, looking for a notebook and the prototype breadboard of what he code-named “3914.” After blowing the dust off the notebook and the meter, Dr. Fest applied 4-20 mA of power and voila! It lit up. However, it was not fully working. Two weeks later, he made it work as expected. A multicolor bar-digital meter solely powered by the 4-20 mA (~5-60mW) current loop without a microprocessor!  

Although this would have been enough to satisfy the plant manager’s challenge, it did not meet his challenge of replacing the 1893 invention by Dr. Edward Weston with a 100% comparable digital. Dr. Fest gathered all his patents related to loop and signal power and ended up with a new breed of LED electronic meters that will measure, display, control, and transmit DC signals and alarms without a microprocessor, and all with a +/-0.5% digital accuracy!

The new microprocessor-less & Powerless TM meter series, named SSAM (Solid State Analog Meter) can be used as a basic bar graph (like the analog meter), as a bar-digital (like obsolete digitals), or as a multi-function meter field configurable (no programming) by the user. This multi-functionality in one unit reduces inventory cost, as all you need to do is change the scale plate, pluggable modules, and calibration (if required) to meet facility needs.

Custom Display Colors? The SSAM has high-efficiency, white LEDs whose colors can be customized by simply adding colored filters embedded in the scale plate at the user’s facility.

After Dr. Fest’s PowerPoint presentation and demonstration of the new powerless technology at a nuclear corporate “Lunch & Learn” session, a manager asked him: “What would you do if you were the I&C manager?” He responded, “Let me ask you – what is the simplest, most reliable & efficient means of transmitting analog signals?” The Current Loop someone in the back yelled. “Yes! If I had the wire and EMF, I could transmit an analog (or digital) signal to the moon and back!”

Dr. Fest continued. The first thing I would do is to decide whether to: 

a) replace only the analog meters, or 

 b) to add a DAS (Data Acquisition System), or 

 c) add a state of the art SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System) with Triple Redundant Control TRC.  

Both options b & c require Cyber-Security compliance. Option a does not have to comply with cybersecurity requirements. In replacing analog meters, Dr. Fest would change all signals and wiring to 4-20mA, install the best 4-20mA transmitters, and the SSAM (or equivalent). The SSAM does not have microcontrollers or serial I/O! With its easy wire-per-wire and panel compatible drop-in capability, even existing wiring and panels can are reusable with SSAM! All other sections of the control room could remain the same, except that the efficiency, daily productivity, and profits would increase.

A typical reactor produces approximately $1million in electric power daily. Every 1% increase in productivity is worth ~$10,000 per day or ~$3.65 million/year in profit! [Fest, O. P. (2019, November 10). PPT. Tucson.].

All of the above is explained & analyzed in Dr. Fest’s upcoming white paper, “Nuclear Reactor Efficiency and ROI Assessment.” 

In response to the Nuclear News June 2017 editorial by INL Engineers titled “Human Factors for Main Control Room Modernization.” In this article, Dr. Fest identifies and analyzes six options for the digitalization of I &C rooms and their respective costs, including full flatscreen conversions and replacement of obsolete meters with OTEK’s NTM and SSAM meters (or a serviceable industry equivalent).


For over 40 years, Dr. Fest has continually encouraged excellence in the evolution of Dr. Weston’s analog meter. Today, OTEK is proud to produce the NTM and SSAM series’ meters that extend functionality and profitability to wastewater, military, and energy facilities worldwide. We all have a choice: evolution or extinction, and we hope to see you evolve alongside OTEK Corporation.

Thank you,

Dr. Otto P. Fest, President/Founder of OTEK Corporation


  1. Fest, O. P. (2017). Lunch & Learn North Anna NPP. Lecture presented in North Anna Nuclear Power Plant, Mineral, Virginia.
  2. Fest, O. P. (2019, November 10). PPT. Tucson.
  3. Nuclear News: World List of Nuclear Power Plants (3rd ed., Vol. 61, pp. 31-59, Rep. No. 0029-5574). (2018). La Grange Park, IL: American Nuclear Society.
error: Content is protected !!