VisualMATE™ ,  WattPlot™ , and  WattPlot™ PRO  compared

(as of March 2015)

The following is an overview of some of our major products.  More information about the WattPlot software suite is available from our extensive Frequently Asked Questions page.

Single System Applications
(Read about WattPlot's Multiple MATE solutions here)

VisualMATE is a simple animated graphical look at your entire system, all in one compact window, showing production details and what power is flowing where.  The product is simple and straightforward, making it easy to use and see what is happening with your system in real-time.  There is no data logging, beyond what is available from devices such as the FLEXnet DC.  VisualMATE is well-suited to non-technical residential customers with few devices who want to see what their system is doing right now.      $30 license fee

Wattplot uses a single multi-document-interface to show both real-time snap-shots and per-second pen-plots of system values for each device.  The product is feature-rich and thus there are many optional user-customizable settings available to take full advantage of the capabilities.  Its key strength is in plotting and logging every one of the system performance values, showing exactly what the system has done (every second) for any space of time.  This extremely user-friendly, Windows-based, package-priced product is regularly being enhanced (often in response to user requests) so new versions can be a frequent occurrence.  WattPlot is well-suited to sophisticated users and dealers who need to precisely track complex system behaviour or perform detailed analysis and diagnostics for one or more client systems.      $120 all-inclusive ($180 for PRO)

OutBack's own support department staff use WattPlot to monitor in-house systems and to resolve firmware issues.  Customers have often had their system problems diagnosed by emailing WattPlot logs to the support staff who then can then review precise per-second system behaviors.

Some Clarifications

bulletALL of the products that monitor an original OutBack MATE must be running in order to capture data.  No data or errors or anything else is logged unless a program is running (either locally or remotely).  The MATE3 or AXS Port devices, on the other hand, can log data to their own SD card.

bulletThe term "Remote Monitoring" might be confusing.  We use the term to mean the ability to monitor MATE performance data over a network or internet (via TCP/IP), where the MATE is remote from the monitoring computer.  The concept where a second computer can connect in to an existing MATE monitoring session is what we call Piggy-Back TCP/IPAll WattPlot programs support BOTH Remote Monitoring via TCP/IP AND Piggy-Back TCP/IP.

bulletWith an original MATE device, control of your OutBack system through any computer is limited to the small MATE command set supported by the MATE itself.  ALL programs on the market, regardless of supplier, are limited to supporting exactly the same MATE commands, including turning on an AUX port with a few mouse clicks, although some (like WattPlot PRO) can issue them automatically, subject to built-in intelligence.  A MATE3 with the optional USB card supports a much richer command set.  WattPlot may well be the only software on the market that currently supports the MATE3/USB command set.

bulletNO program on the market has read or write access to the settings on the OutBack MATE - the hardware simply does not support this.  WattPlot PRO can display MATE settings (along with extensive setting descriptions, and can pre-load the MATE defaults, but any setting changes must be made in both places to keep the computer record current.

Feature Table

Click on any underlined feature for a more complete description of the differences:

Features VisualMATE™ NetMATE™ WattPlot™
WattPlot™ PRO WattPlot™ SumMATE
Real-time monitoring
MATE/MATE3 Connectivity, including USB Card N/A
MATE3/AXS Port Modbus/TCP Connectivity N/A
MATE/MATE3 Data Compatibility
Full remote operation (network/web) N/A
Snapshot performance data
Combine parallel devices N/A
Compensates for Data Truncation N/A
Additional data information from hovering mouse
Power production/use summary
Can transmit commands to MATE N/A
All data logged (per second) N/A
Multiple users can monitor a single MATE (TCP Server) N/A
Scrollable pen-plots
Produces spreadsheet summary files
European comma decimal format N/A
Logs all warnings and errors
Flat Price includes: FX and Radian inverter(s),
and FlexMAX charge controllers,
and FLEXnet DC monitoring
Yes: Free Yes: Free Yes: $120 Yes: $180 Yes: $90
Monitor multiple systems from one license
User able to move license
Fully functional evaluation copy
User fully guided through set-up
Simultaneous view of all device plots
Animated graphical view of system activity
View full past performance details by second
Emailable performance logs
Comparative monthly graphs
Free Log Viewer program
Free Test and Data Capture program
Built-in organization of data from multiple client systems
Device limit per MATE (OutBack supports 10) all 10 all 10 all 10 all 10 all 10
Best data resolution 1 second 1 second 1 second 1 second 1 second
Auto-response with Email
Automatic MATE command capability
Tracks MATE settings
Send Past Info for Support
Show relative DC voltage settings
System maintenance log
Built-in Dealer Branding available
Read our best WattPlot testimonials here.

Monitoring Concept

VisualMATE displays the current state of your system, for any given second.  The screen shows both the raw numbers and calculated wattages, and some informative graphics to indicate where power is going.  No logged data or output is available.

WattPlot Monitor/PRO was developed around the central concept of retaining every single piece of data sent by the MATE.  The pen-plot approach also shows exactly what the system is doing and has been doing over the last several hours (or days).  The screens also show the current state data per second.  All data and history is instantly viewable and captured immediately to disk.  The data can be used to perform sophisticated analysis of device settings for fine-tuning of the entire system, as well as tracking performance over the long-term.  System support staff have the option of connecting in immediately to remote systems and the option of analysing detailed past performance.

Installation and Setup

The strength of WattPlot's user interface will be apparent the very first time you run it.  New users are walked through every step of the installation with friendly informative screens that immediately test communication parameters, analyze incoming data, fill-in device information, and only prompt for relevant information.  The entire setup can be completed in under 5 minutes in order to achieve the full functionality.  You may want to leave the advanced features until you are more familiar with the product, but they are ready right away.  Clients actually write to us just about the excellence of our user documentation, but most of them can still install and use the system without it.

User Interface

VisualMATE is simple animated graphical look at your entire system, all in one compact window, show production details and what power is flowing where.  Values for multiple devices are auotmatically accumulated, although the individual operating mode of each device is still viewable as a drop-down list.  Any device warnings or errors will be described and displayed on the main screen until they are cleared by the OutBack system.

Almost every single WattPlot data field is programmed to provide additional real-time information to the user simply by hovering the mouse over the field.  WattPlot pen-plot wattage and DC voltage scales are completely user-customizable (both minimum and maximums) - there is even a option to have a centered zero-line for wattages, so certain power transactions are treated as positive or negative.  Full information for all devices is visible simultaneously (subject only to screen-size limitations).  WattPlot highlights the appropriate display area in yellow for warnings and red for errors.  For example, a Low VAC Output error would change the AC Out display background for the appropriate device to red.  You see your entire system (or what's wrong) at a glance.  WattPlot 4 takes a unique approach to MATE settings that our users rave about.

MATE3 Compatibility

All WattPlot tools are fully compatible with the MATE3 data format and connectivity options, including UDP/IP, Modbus/TCP, and USB card.

Activity Logging

In addition to logging every second of system activity, WattPlot can log a selection of mode changes, and other events flagged by the Mate, as well as detecting and interpreting events from the raw data.  Most importantly, it maintains all events viewable and on file.  Logs can be sorted by time, event type, or device, and sort either most recent first or most recent last.  The user can search for any occurrence of some specified text in the log.  WattPlot PRO can automatically log any user-defined event.  WattPlot accumulates primary usage data to a single spreadsheet file every month that does not require any conversion (including support of European decimal format!).  The spreadsheet file uses a non-proprietary Comma-Separated Value (.CSV) format that can opened directly by any major spreadsheet program, or emailed on-demand.

Error Logging

WattPlot can log a selection of errors, warnings, mode changes, and other events flagged by the Mate, as well as detecting and interpreting events from the raw data.   Most importantly, it maintains all errors and warnings viewable and on file.  Logs can be sorted by time, event type, or device, and sort either most recent first or most recent last.  The user can search for any occurrence of some specified text in the log.  As noted earlier, all alerts are immediately displayed on the user interface by highlighting the actual value(s) affected as well as presenting an alert window.  WattPlot PRO can automatically respond to errors and alerts.

Device Limits

WattPlot has no arbitrary limitation on number of inverters or charge controllers, or special rules for port assignments.  WattPlot tracks the specific phase of each inverter explicitly (including 3-phase systems), and inverters can be in any port (so long as Master is in first one).  Devices can be combined in reporting sets, allowing for effective real-time and historical summaries of related devices or components in series.

Information Sharing

Multiple computers running WattPlot can access real-time data from a single MATE (using WattPlot's built-in TCP/IP MATE Data Server).  If the data sharing does not need to be in real-time, then the portability of WattPlot's data logs becomes its unique strength.  WattPlot uses powerful data compression schemes to produce daily performance files that store every second of activity in an easily emailed file.  Log files can even be dragged and dropped on the application, which instantly opens them for viewing.  WattPlot PRO can be easily set to automatically email daily log files to other users.  In fact, any WattPlot PRO log can be emailed on-demand from the program itself.  Users have successfully employed a variety of tools (ranging from virtual private networks (VPN) to automated screen-capture) to post WattPlot screens on web pages.

Pricing and Licensing

VisualMATE is free.  For more information, see more details on WattPlot VisualMATE.

WattPlot Monitor's price ($120) includes the monitoring of all devices: FX inverters, Charge controllers, and the FLEXnet DC monitor.  Licensing is by computer.  One computer can easily monitor multiple OutBack Systems.  WattPlot PRO is available for $180, and includes the functionality of VisualMATE and SumMATE built-in.  Dealer discounts are available.  Updates are available anytime by download, free-of-charge.

Product Evaluation

You can download the complete WattPlot product from our web site.  We will send you a free activation code, on request, giving you a 15-day (or more) trial period for the fully functional product.  If you want to move a license to another PC, WattPlot will issue a new activation code, allowing you to do this yourself, as often as you need.  The friendly and informative user guide is available as a free download.

Multiple Devices

With VisualMATE each device type (inverter or charge controller) has its own box.  With multiple inverters, the production numbers are accumulated, and characteristics of the master inverter are displayed.  (The operating modes of the other inverters are viewable as a dropdown list.)  With multiple charge controllers, the production numbers are accumulated, and characteristics of the most active charge controller are displayed.  (The operating modes of the other charge controllers are viewable as a dropdown list.)

With WattPlot the state of each device appears at the top of a single screen.  Each device can have its own pen-plot window, with a single multi-document interface.  Logging and plot options can be set for individual devices.  The software allows the user to define device groups to intelligently combine data from inverters or charge controllers in series or parallel.  For inverters, it tracks the specific phase wiring of each component.  Data from combined devices can appear as a single device, although specific values are still attributed to specific components in the background.

Historical Tracking

WattPlot was designed to create incredibly efficient historical logs of per-second performance data.  Daily and monthly log files can be dragged and dropped on to WattPlot (or 'run' them from your Windows Explorer) to immediately show a full plot of the device history for any given day or month.  Despite storing every second of activity, these files are small enough to email to remote support staff, allowing for easy and intuitive diagnostics.  The monthly summary plots allow any combination of menu-selected bar and line graphs, with special bar graph displays for battery voltage and total power production.  Double-click on the day to drill-down into the full pen-plot for that day.

Remote Operation

WattPlot supports three kinds of remote MATE access.  Firstly, it supports direct TCP/IP port connections to a MATE anywhere in the world (which is connected to a Serial-to-IP converter).  Secondly, you can TCP into any other WattPlot program (including the Remote program) allowing simultaneous Piggy-Back monitoring using WattPlot's built-in TCP Server.  Access to data and/or MATE commands is protected by passwords.  Thirdly, it can be run in two parts with common access to a network folder to support fully remote real-time operation.  (Part 1 is a very efficient remote monitor that captures raw data off the MATE, verifies its integrity, and then writes it to a user-specified location, which might be a network drive or an internet site.  Part 2 will read the raw data from the remote location in real-time and process it as if it were connected to the MATE locally.)  The third strategy also supports simultaneous remote and local monitoring, and all three strategies support the remote sending of MATE commands.

Detail and Automation

All system devices can be automatically detected by the built-in WattPlot Device Wizard.  Wattage scales, grid-tie information, nominal voltages, etc. are all automatically derived from the model numbers.  Default scales can be adjusted to user preferences.  All performance data is accurate to the second.  For researchers with heavy data demands, WattPlot can turn on the capture of raw MATE data to flat text files with a single click.

Auto-Response, with Email

WattPlot PRO can automatically react to a wide variety of user-defined triggers, including battery voltages, errors, time-of-day, etc.  These can trigger emails, Windows programs, or Mate commands being sent by WattPlot.  The dialog box for setting up these triggers is extremely user friendly, telling you in plain English exactly what will happen, based on what trigger.

Features Unique to WattPlot PRO

MATE Settings

The program tracks every relevant system setting on the MATE in order to provide enhanced output and assistance.  These settings are accessed in an easy-access screen, allowing immediate look-ups.  The MATE settings screen also provides significant help and guidance, explaining what each setting does.  Settings may also be exported to a text file for printing, emailing, etc.  (Since the MATE cannot provide this information automatically, WattPlot loads the same defaults as your firmware, and then you can edit the settings that you changed.)  For dealers, multiple settings can be tracked for different client systems.

WattPlot's Mate Settings window

Multiple Client System Tracking

WattPlot can organize the logs and settings of multiple systems, allowing dealers and installers to effectively monitor multiple client sites - without even being connected to client Mates.  Client data (either coming directly from the client MATE or emailed daily from the client's WattPlot program) will be automatically directed to a separate folder unique to that client.  Read an example of how this works.

Send Information for Support

With WattPlot PRO, anyone can email a copy of MATE settings, system configuration, second-by-second activity logs, or power performance summaries, directly from within the program, to any email address.  The recipient need only have the free WattPlot Viewer program in order to be able to get a complete picture of the system and provide diagnostic support.  For example, OutBack support staff regularly use WattPlot to view customer logs.

Dealer Branding

Dealers purchasing deeply discounted license packages can request to have their company name and logo appear prominently on WattPlot screens.  From then on, any copy of any WattPlot product can be branded by that dealer.

DC Voltage Settings Scale

WattPlot PRO can show you how your Mate's DC voltage settings compare in relative terms on a unique graphic scale.  The scale adjusts for temperature compensated values, so you can see how temperature affects the relative behavior of the system.

Maintenance Log

WattPlot PRO offers a single maintenance log which records critical system events such as bulk and equalization charges, equipment replacement, battery specific gravity readings and water levels, and whatever other notations the user wishes to add.  The log will even display a full history of readings for specific battery cells, allowing you to spot tired or defective batteries in your bank.  WattPlot already records every piece of data coming out of the MATE.  The Maintenance log is an intelligent way to store addtional data that the MATE does not provide.

For more information, see our WattPlot page or contact us.

Example of Managing Client Site Data

Installation:  Phil, of Phil’s Solar Emporium, wants to track the settings, performance data, and significant logs for all of his clients.  When he completes an installation, he uses WattPlot PRO to create a new WattPlot System Folder for the client on his office computer.  He also installs WattPlot PRO at each new site, and after configuring the client’s system, he carefully matches the settings on the client’s MATE to the MATE Settings maintained by their WattPlot PRO.

Setup:  Phil also creates some Automatic Actions on the client’s computer, setting up their WattPlot PRO to email him copies of their power summaries every month, and their performance logs for the 5th and 20th of each month (just as a random sampling).  (Of course, he also instructs their system to automatically email him immediately with details of any inverter errors or warnings!)  He then uses WattPlot PRO's Send Information function to easily email a copy of the client's full configuration to the System Folder that he created for that client back on his office system.

Automatically thereafter:  Whenever the client’s WattPlot PRO automatically sends an email from that system with a data file attached, Phil saves the attachment in the appropriate System Folder for that client.  He can then use the WattPlot Viewer program to assume the client's configuration and browse through their data to see how system is performing.  When a client calls with a question or problem, Phil has immediate access to their MATE settings, WattPlot configuration, and recent performance data.

Copyright © 2006-17 Andrew Welch, Intallact