Hi guys. I know it’s been a while since I’ve written something. Got busy with projects, with the festive period following that, it became almost impossible to sit for a bit and write. I, finally, have got some time and here we are:
In the last blog, we spoke about what led us to starting Solutions. We ended that blog saying we will discuss the areas of focus in an audit. This included: lighting, HVAC, solar etc. However, due to recent feedbacks from projects that we were trying to work on, we will focus on those a bit after today’s topic: How automation/IOT (Internet of Things) is the future in the energy business but UAE isn’t particularly ready for it.
A small summary of the events that led us to changing the topic. We were working on a project where we suggested IOT systems for the facility. After being in discussions for a while, the client came back to us and said they don’t particularly want an On/Off software system, especially one that they consider expensive; which I thought was unfair. Not due to the fact that they thought it was expensive: That is an acceptable response. What I thought was unfair was the description of the system: “An on/off switch”. This is what led me to today’s topic: What is IOT and why is it so important in an energy system, be it monitoring or as a solution by itself and Why UAE is still coming to terms with it.
Majority of the explanations that you’ll find online are unnecessarily complex and diminishes your interest in the topic straight away. For example,
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”
– An unnecessarily technical explanation of IoT
I bet some of you didn’t even read the full explanation, or the ones that did, are thinking, “Alright, and?” As Calum McClelland, Director of Projects Leverage from Brown University, said, “Most people don’t want to nor need to dive into the nitty-gritty of IoT”. So in this blog, I will try to keep it as short and simple as possible, and maybe, a little bit of fun. Jumping straight into it: how are you accessing this blog right now? On some sort of device? IPhone? Laptop? Whatever it is, you’re only accessing this blog because it’s put on social media or I’ve shared the link with you. It is only possible because you’re connected to the internet. We can now do things with a snap of our fingers, very ‘Thanos-esque’, if I may. We can talk to relatives that are at the other end of the world. Recently, I’ve just found out you can use your phone as a scanning device. I’ve been told it’s been there for a while. You can read books on your phone or even watwatch movies on it now. Yes, this is due to some of the developments made in technology but it is only possible because it is connected to the internet; and that is where the definition of IoT comes in: it literally means “Taking all the things in the world and connecting them to the internet”. (Calum McCelland: IoT 101: Introduction to Internet of Things). He further points out that the “confusion arises not because the concept is so narrow and tightly defined, but rather it’s so broad and loosely defined. It could be tough to nail down the concept in your head when there are so many exampled and possibilities in IoT.”
One of the most important questions we should be asking is why do we need IoT. Why do we want to connect everything to the internet? This, in itself, is such a vast question and opens up ethical streams which I will try to avoid, and focus mainly on, why do we need IoT in energy.
In the Internet of Things, all the things when concerning IoT in energy, can be put in the following categories:-
1) Collection and sending of information
2) Acting on the information
3) A Combination of the first two points
1) Collection/Sending of information: This refers to sensors. A big part of the system. When I say sensors, I mean everything. This could be temperature, motion, moisture, light, air quality, water levels, and Lux levels. Whatever you can think of, is included in the sensors. The sensors, allow us to automatically collect information from the closed system, which in turn allows us to make more informed and precise decisions. For example, if you have an occupancy sensor, connected with a light sensor, in a corridor, over a period of set amount of time, the data collected will let you know what time the corridor is packed and at what time the corridor is empty. This will allow you to set your light timings accordingly, not only saving you time, but also energy and money. The beauty of IoT in this scenario, not only does it give you that information, but because it is connected to the internet, it continuously updates the data. If the traffic in the corridor shifts to a later hour, or vice versa, the company can make a decision accordingly.
2) Acting on the Information: - As pointed out in the previous example, the beauty of IoT is the action. Once it’s found out that at a particular time there are no people in the corridor, a dimmer can be used. This will dim the lights or switch them off completely, in the corridor, and in retrospect, save energy and by continuation, money.
3) A combination of the first two points: - Let’s quickly go back to the sensor example. The sensor tells you what time there are few or more people in the corridor, but you can take it further. You can, as mentioned earlier have a dimmer, which will dim lights when not occupied completely but because it’s connected to the internet, it will factor in public holidays or religious holidays, and not have the lights on at all that day. Going further, you can have sensors that will switch the lights on before someone comes in rather than switching it on manually or automatically switching at the end of the day. Last but not the least, you can have this sensor send data back to the client as a part of a weekly report. And this is only one sensor. Imagine, adding the other sensors in the system. Sensors that will work on the whole building envelope together, collecting data, and working to better the working conditions of the facility. Imagine this for HVACs. For water wastage. For irrigation in farms. The potential is so vast that it is impossible to put in words.
I think one of the best comparisons is when you join a Gym. You slave so hard at the gym, lifting weights, running, trying to lose weight or gain muscle, but there are no results. This is because you don’t monitor what you work out. You don’t monitor what you eat. If you don’t monitor, you cannot make an informed decision about the system, your body in this case. It is the same with the building or any other facility. IoT lets us monitor and while monitoring, act on the data that is collected and make a lot more informed decisions rather than shooting in the dark. Imagine sitting in a completely different country, and being able to control and monitor and act on a facility that is in a complete different time zone, on your IPAD or computer. Imagine, sitting there and getting weekly reports on one your ACs using more energy than it should or more than the other units in the facility. Imagine being able to shut it down till you can see what is wrong. The possibilities are endless. This is why it being labelled as on/off switch and losing the contract was infuriating.
UAE, being a pioneer in almost everything, should embrace this technology rather than be a year or two behind their counterparts. I promised to keep this simple and non-technical, so I’ll stop here and hopefully, you’ve gotten a glimpse of how much power IoT holds. I’ll be back with more IoT next time, or some other interesting topic. Do let me know if you have anything else you would like to discuss. Till next time.
Citations:- Picture is used from ZDnet.com in an article by Jason Hiner, in The future of enterprise IoT: 2 factors to watch.
Calum McCelland: IoT 101: Introduction to Internet of Things