Ask TechDesign PM: Clean Technology

Q:  How can IoT technologies reduce energy usage in supermarkets?

A:  In the post-Corona era, consumer behavior is likely to remain conservative with the ongoing implementation of social distancing. With the exponential increase in consumers’ reliance on e-commerce channels and food delivery services, it is mission-critical for brick-and-mortar food retail stores to not only reconsider their sales strategy, but also to reduce unnecessary overhead to stay profitable. This is where energy saving comes into play. According to statistical reports, a physical store can drastically cut its electricity bill by 20-30% with proper smart energy saving solutions in place. Below is an example of how this can be achieved through making fridges smarter.

For food retailers, fridge equipment on average accounts for an astonishing 50% of the entire store’s electricity consumption. When outdated equipment malfunctions or careless usage occurs such as improperly closed doors, electricity usage can increase significantly without being noticed. To prevent this, an IoT monitoring device can be installed inside the store to visualize the power consumption and inform the shopkeeper if an anomaly is detected. This can be done by using either an industrial-grade smart outlet for measuring the power consumption of individual equipment that plugs onto it, or a smart power meter to measure the total consumption of the store. For the latter case, technologies such as electricity disaggregation are often implemented to generate an average electricity usage baseline through machine learning. As all the data is uploaded to a cloud server in real time often via a gateway through Wi-Fi, any abnormal surge in power usage above the baseline can be configured to trigger a push notification message to mobile devices to recommend remedial action. In complementary with other devices such as security cameras or temperature/humidity sensors, this allows the shopkeeper to have a more comprehensive view on the current status of the store.

To get started, the recommended approach is to talk to an energy service company (ESCO) nearby if available. They perform end-to-end energy efficiency improvement services from on-site analysis, to tailor-made solution proposal, equipment installation, all the way to the final maintenance operation. As a more affordable financing option, often they offer energy savings performance contracts (ESPC) in which the payment is made from the energy cost savings.


Q:  How can AI technologies reduce energy usage in the office?

A:  Due to the COVID-19 epidemic situation, working from home is becoming the norm around the world. Some experts have even put forward the idea that the office may disappear. In any event, it seems the amount of time spent in the office is expected to decrease.

With a decline in office utilization, reducing a company’s expenditures on office energy becomes a big opportunity. According to one report, the top four areas of electricity consumption in the office are air-conditioning equipment (50.48%), lighting equipment (17.49%), office equipment (10.55%) and elevator equipment (6.53%).  So how can we target these areas to achieve energy savings?

To target all of these areas, offices can use AI technology.  By collecting big data on power consumption and analyzing power consumption patterns, AI technology can control office equipment to optimize power utilization.

For example, AI technology can use a camera to identify the location of employees, and control the brightness of the lights, the strength of the air conditioner, and even the curtains to increase or decrease sunlight.  It can also be used to plan the on/off schedules for elevators based on elevator parking and usage data.

Below are just a few of the products related to AI control on our platform:


Q: How can IoT technologies improve resource efficiency in factories?

A: Our traditional consumption model proceeds in a linear fashion – produce, use, discard – resulting in large amounts of garbage and pollution on the planet. The growing consciousness around using clean tech and creating a circular economy when executing production centers on the main principle of reducing unnecessary waste and carbon (CO2) emissions. For factory managers, this translates into thinking about how to extend machine lifetimes, reduce waste and maximize energy savings. Here are two solutions to consider:

1. Predictive maintenance: In the past, scheduled maintenance and regularly repaired machine parts consumed unnecessary resources and drove productivity losses, yet still were not able to prevent unexpected downtimes. Now we can take advantage of gateways to collect multi-sensor data for factory equipment (such as vibration, temperature and pressure), connect to the cloud (using ethernet, Wi-Fi, Sigfox, LoRa, or NB-IoT technologies) and analyze historical data to identify patterns and predict issues before they happen.

2. Smart energy management: Installation of smart grid systems that integrate renewable energy sources can generate most of the facility energy via solar power which is not only great for the world but is often cheaper. In addition, collaborating with energy management firms to install smart meters and smart plugs will allow you to monitor and remotely control the flow of electricity, sending immediate notifications via email/SMS when consumption is higher or lower than a predefined threshold and corrective action can be taken immediately.


Q: How can IoT technologies improve resource efficiency in the home?

A: While the global lockdown from COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the economy and on our daily lives, there seems to have been some benefits to our environment with less emission and pollution from our normal economic activities. With everyone spending more time at home, there are also some impactful changes we can make in our homes to protect the environment. By implementing smart technologies, we can take control of our usage patterns at home for better water, electricity and cost management.

Water management
According to research from Energy Saving Trust Investigates, showers are the biggest water usage in the household at 25% followed by lavatories at 22%. Smart shower solutions connected over Bluetooth to displays or mobile Apps can provide real time data on average temperature, water usage and shower time making us conscious of our usage patterns. In addition, using big data analysis on the water consumption and temperature preferences, they can optimize the water usage by generating a powerful shower setting in the most economical way without impacting user experience. These statistics will also allow government and utility companies to better manage the supply and drive a greener community.

Electricity Management
Electricity accounts for 27% to 35% of the average utility bill depending on your climate, region and home appliances. Thus, small investments on smart home solutions can save you significant money in the long run – for instance, smart home appliances, lightings and refrigerators connected to your home Wi-Fi network can allow you to switch them off remotely when rushing off to work. Smart laundry and dryer machines help you to monitor your cycles and receive App notifications for better time management while allowing you to remotely activate them during off-peak electricity pricing to lower your electricity bill.

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