Optimised energy management with IoT: Turning old into new

Christian Pereira's picture
Christian Pereira, Managing Director, Q-loud GmbH
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The requirements for higher energy efficiency are growing across all sectors. Legal stipulations and rising energy prices, yet also the opportunity to participate in the Internet of Things are motivating business leaders to set up modern and sustainable energy management systems. Yet most businesses will have to wait before they see the utilities sector become active - especially when it comes to gas suppliers. At the same time, replacing all of one’s own meters based on self-initiative is seldom a (smart) option. Here, retrofitting is a prime example of a workable option.

Consumption data: A valuable good

Energy management has meant more than just cutting energy consumption in the interest of environmental conservation for quite some time now. A legal framework has been developed accordingly - such as ISO 50001 on the introduction of an energy management system. While there is no statutory certification obligation, Germany does require certification (or a registered environmental management system) as a requisite for partial exemption from the apportionment required under the German Renewable Energy Act. And that continues to be alluring with respect to the potential savings for businesses that consume a great deal of energy. And there is yet another aspect pushing more and more managers to think over their energy management. The ongoing measurement and assessment of consumption in order to meet transparency requirements also automatically provide valuable data on utilization levels and/or the risk of failures in connected machinery. Thus, downtime and the associated unforeseen repairs and/or maintenance measures can be avoided and planned in advance (condition monitoring).

Retrofitting: A truly smart solution

The foundation for energy management consists of identifying, measuring, and analyzing energy streams in real time – i.e. continuous energy monitoring. Yet most companies are still a long way away from that scenario. The reality is that a lot of the analog devices out there are anything but IoT-compatible. Smart meter is the “magic word” in this context, at least when it comes to electricity. Intelligent meters are designed to log consumption digitally and in real time, transferring data via radio transmission or powerline technology. The EU is stipulating that 80 percent of all electricity meters be replaced by “smart meters” by 2020 - a controversial requirement for various reasons and among various players in Germany. In addition to being met with widespread skepticism, many projects are also still in the pilot phase. That is why the industry’s largest players are likely the only ones who can count on seeing swift “help” from energy suppliers.

Meanwhile, those who are keeping tabs on this development can already foresee that a similar move for gas metering is going to require even significantly more time. Here, too, swift action would be necessary for the conscientious handling of this resource. Yet all of this is anything but easy. Conventional gas meters would need to be read out manually on a regular basis or replaced with automated meters.

In this context, it comes as no surprise that retrofitting - i.e. enhancing equipment already in place with new features - is a highly popular modernization strategy. When it comes to upgrading conventional energy meters, so-called EnergyCams are used, like the one from Q-loud GmbH. These cameras adhere to analogue electricity or gas meters. They then log the energy data being displayed via photo and upload those photos via the cloud on an ongoing basis.

The data on energy consumption can then, to name one example, be integrated into a central web portal that processes the data in a meaningful manner and visualizes it according to individual requirements. The transparency this creates means businesses are in a position to monitor all energy consumption, to establish errors and deviations throughout the course of the year, and to recognize and leverage savings and efficiency potential quickly. Last but not least, this provides businesses with the reliable data foundation necessary for comparing and contrasting energy invoices with their own measured data.

Energy management 4.0 made easy

There are multiple reasons for wanting to establish transparency in energy consumption. To be sure, the top of that priority list consists of savings. For many people, it is equally important to create a reliable data foundation for comparing and contrasting energy invoices as well as for running further analyses, like condition monitoring. Yet over both the short-term and the long-term, most companies won’t be able to count on the smart meters stipulated in law as a potential solution. Concurrently, replacing all meters with new devices can only come into consideration for very few. With the aid of a retrofit strategy, the majority of industrial companies can start benefiting from the advantages of digital data logging and processing now.

Image courtesy of Q-loud