Centrica: Machines are ready to talk, but are we good listeners?
John Hartley, head of propositions at Centrica Distributed Energy and Power, explains how the IoT can give critical assets a ‘voice’ and urges organisations to listen to what they say.
Just as the IoT is transforming all corners of our working and personal lives, it is also transforming the way organizations use, measure and manage their energy requirements.
At Centrica, a key part of our offer to customers is Panoramic Power’s wireless sensor technology. Designed to be totally non-invasive, these tiny clip-on sensors turn virtually any energy-consuming device into a smart device, giving users real-time visibility of their energy use and insights to help them boost performance.
Panoramic Power is a global pioneer in energy management and has rolled out wireless sensors across 1,000 sites worldwide. Self-powered and wireless, they ‘snap and fit’ onto the outgoing electrical wire at the circuit breaker, tracking energy consumption and sending data to a cloud-based analytics system every 10 seconds.
Users are then able to monitor, measure, report, and understand electrical energy consumption. This information can be reported in three ways: first, via a mobile application that can be loaded on to a tablet or smartphone; second, through automatically generated reports that can be requested at regular intervals; and third, by logging on to an Internet-based application via a PC, which allows them to access highly specific data.
Listen and respond
This technology gives insights into real-time energy usage and allows users to optimize their operations, processes and maintenance resources, identifying which devices are using most energy. With Panoramic Power, Centrica helps organisations find the insights in energy ‘big data’ to performance-manage their energy consumption. The level of granular detail available also means that it’s possible to proactively control and actively manage energy rates by shifting loads, or by reducing loads in real time.
Energy-intensive devices can be easily identified and improvements made, while benchmarks of consumption and historical data can be accessed, so that users can see what they used on the same day last year, for example, and identify anomalies at a glance. Automatically generated alarms and notifications can also be configured, so that users are alerted when energy consumption falls outside or exceeds pre-defined parameters.
The historical data created by this technology can be used to report on environmental impact and sustainability measures and objectives. Similarly, it can report accurate data to help comply with energy related regulations, environmental initiatives and industry standards.
Good communication skills
Adding intelligence to passive devices brings further advantages. Many of the machines and devices used across the workplace are smarter than we think, but they’re not very good communicators. Adding connectivity gives them a ‘voice’.
The benefits of that include making preventative and condition-based maintenance for plant equipment simple. So, if a chiller unit is short-cycling, the operator can be alerted and initiate measures to prevent damage and costly downtime. The technology can also highlight inefficiencies in the plant, thereby maintaining performance and productivity.
Put simply, empowering machines to capture information for analysis and action uncovers hidden value by allowing users to optimize their facilities and assets more effectively.
Talking loud and clear
This technology is already being applied to a variety of industries from restaurants and retailers to manufacturers and universities, with some sectors reporting savings upwards of 50 percent on maintenance costs and prevented downtime.
The IoT is giving machines the ability to ‘talk’ and, in turn, it’s giving users in these sectors proactive control of their facilities, with a level of visibility that simply couldn’t have been achieved before. That visibility brings insights that will positively impact the whole organisation, inspiring better ways of working and informing fast, confident, business-building decisions.
Crucially, this new world of energy management is not reliant on single devices tapping responsively into the energy grid. Instead, it’s powered by the conversations between millions of IoT-enabled devices and the grid. This, in turn, allows suppliers and consumers to respond to energy demand in real time, increasing and decreasing generation, rates and usage as needed, instead of wastefully running at high capacity at all times.
At Centrica, our view is this: the IoT has given machines a voice. Those who want to control their energy should be listening closely.
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