Optimising and monitoring the energy we generate and use is crucial in a climate-emergency world which is looking to leverage everything with minimal usage. This benefits both the environment around us and also our economies including consumers, manufacturers, vendors and all the intermediaries in the chain.
It is in this scenario that the opportunities afforded by technology in the shape of sensors and computer systems for data processing help us to produce and use only the amount of energy we need.
Here we review the factors that make this possible and how to implement it.
Step one: understanding how energy is used
A light which is always on in a place used by few people is an unnecessary outlay. A light that only comes on when someone needs it means optimising power resources.
Starting from this basic premise, sensorisation is crucial in properties so as to learn about energy usage in each part of a building or infrastructure.
Not all businesses and facilities use power in the same way or at the same times. Examples would be a data centre that has to be up and running 24/7 and an office building which only hosts workers during daylight hours. Likewise the amount of power used in April or October is not the same as in August or at Christmas for instance.
Sensorisation is not the only thing needed to gather detailed usage data from individual devices. It also calls for time to enlarge the sample and software tools to analyse the information and extract results afterwards, Big Data systems that can build extremely precise models of power usage in a building or organisation.
Step two: only spend what’s really necessary
In many cases parameters such as temperature should not be the same on all a building’s floors, for example. This more ‘granular’ control is made possible by a dedicated distribution system (in this case segregated air-conditioning which can operate at different temperatures depending on the area and controlled by a centralised automated system) and appropriate sensorisation.
This ensures that energy costs do not soar beyond what is really needed.
The sensors used for monitoring and supervising electrical and power circuits are essentially already energy-efficient as they only come on when needed and are in standby mode with minimum usage when not required.
Energy outlay on the sensors and actuators themselves is therefore minimal and optimised for the task at hand, which means that the savings and benefits they generate in the long run are greater than their purchase, implementation and operating costs.
Optimisation even when there is no power supply
All critical infrastructures have alternative systems to maintain the flow of electricity (or fuel or gas as the case may be). They are backups which come into service as soon an outage is identified in the regular main resource for power generation and use.
The numerous sensors and information systems involved in rolling out IoT in energy make it possible to learn sufficiently far in advance (a few seconds, more than we get today) when a power failure is about to take place and switch on the backup when it does. Likewise, we can find out with a sufficient time cushion when the fuel, electricity or gas (as the case may be) will come back on stream once the situation returns to normal after a failure.
The sensors deployed in the network thus make it smart, meaning that the information will flow to the customer’s control systems with the chance to anticipate events or detect them as soon as they occur and allow the backups to swing into action.
The distribution network could also autonomously be rearranged to minimise the area impacted by using multiple connections to intelligently redistribute supplies from other areas.
In the case of increasingly automated factories, the introduction of a fully regulated and monitored power supply circuit also makes it possible to improve another aspect: safety.
When a machine on the assembly line is short-circuited, for example, it can be quickly disconnected and its power cut off. As a result, in addition to not wasting energy unnecessarily we also avoid the risk of accidents which might affect other machinery or even the entire electricity supply chain.
It doesn’t matter which industry you work in as we all use expensive energy, from individuals to large companies, from SMEs to public organisations; at the IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona you’re bound to find solutions that will help you optimise your organisation’s energy usage. We look forward to seeing you there!