IoT-Based Smart Energy Systems Power Sustainability

officeOrganizations that are part of large building complexes – whether commercial, industrial, governmental, or educational in nature – are continually looking for ways to increase energy and environmental sustainability. And for many, the Internet of Things is the answer.

Most of the organizations within these complexes already have energy management systems that monitor the energy used for building operations – such as lighting, heating, and cooling systems. But that is only part of the energy equation.

Every other system supporting these buildings, plus the end-use appliances in them – whether they are robotic arms on the factory floor, security systems on a campus, or a printer in an office – also use energy.

And according to John Tuccillo, senior vice president of Global Industry and Government Affairs at Schneider Electric, exactly how this energy is used is different for each complex.

“An office space uses energy differently than a production line or a test lab,” Tuccillo says. “And now, with IoT-enabled energy management systems managing a series of energy efficient devices, energy usage in every end-use appliance within an organization can be tracked and monitored. This allows organizations to manage energy more holistically for the entire complex.”

A key component of this energy management is the ability to use only the amount of energy needed for each of the individual devices to satisfy their intended purpose.

“By managing the energy usage of devices, cloud-based energy management solutions can understand how each is using energy in relation to its environment,” Tuccillo says. “And from there, energy can be controlled so that only the exact amount of energy needed for that device and its intended purpose is used.”

For instance, in an office building, Internet Protocol-enabled devices connected to a series of sensors can determine how much natural light is available in a room. Based on that, only the amount of lumens needed to fully light the room will be used. “The same is true for air temperature controls,” Tuccillo adds. “IP-enabled devices integrated within energy management systems can even take into account heat from people and other ‘heat producers’ in the room, and then heat the space accordingly.”

Data centers, which are big energy assets in every organization, are another example of where IoT technology can help conserve energy. Tuccillo is the chairman emeritus of the Green Grid Association, a non-profit open industry consortium that works to improve IT and data center resource efficiency around the world.

“The value of a data center is in the management of data,” Tuccillo says, “and companies ideally want to use only the amount of energy needed for that purpose rather than overhead energy. And much like the ones mentioned above, the devices within a data center have intended purposes, with different applications running on different machines doing a variety of tasks – all which are using energy.”

To help organizations better manage energy usage, Green Grid has developed the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric specifically for measuring and improving energy efficiency in data centers. PUE measures the relationship between the energy consumed by a total facility versus the energy consumed by IT equipment.

According to Tuccillo, the PUE metric is helping organizations realize significant savings. “Back in 2007 or so, it could be argued that a majority were operating at a PUE greater than 2.0. This indicated that two times the amount of the energy needed by the IT equipment was being used,” Tuccillo says. “Now, for companies that use this metric, it’s more like 1.2 or less, with the .2 value indicating that it’s only two-tenths over the energy required.”

Tuccillo also notes that monitoring and controlling energy with IoT-based intelligent energy systems like those discussed here can help organizations meet local, regional, and national energy programs emerging globally. “Governments, at every level, are evaluating methods to improve energy efficiency, reduce consumption where feasible and contribute to improving their environmental profile,” Tuccillo notes.

“These are just a few ways that the IoT is helping organizations around the world to manage their energy better,” Tuccillo says. “We’re just seeing the early opportunities now – there is much more to come.”

Image by Campaign Monitor on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)