According to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), buildings in the USA consume 65% of the electricity and 36% of the whole country energy annually.1 Moreover, they produce 30% of carbon dioxide partially responsible for climate change.
Large part of this energy ends up wasted, and it applies to both commercial buildings and households. According to U.S. Green Buildings Council, office buildings use 20% more energy on average than necessary.2 As a result, instead of being a cost saving center, energy consumption substantially adds to the expenses every business has to bear.
Households, in turn, also deal with inflated bills due to excessive power use. In the U.S., 20% of household’s after-tax income goes to energy bills. This rate can grow over 50% in the poorest areas.3 Nevertheless, on average, an American wastes 283 kw hours of energy monthly, equal to an electric oven running at 350° F for 6 days.4 Much of this wasted energy lays upon “vampire” devices left plugged in but not used – computers, printers, chargers – and appliances on standby that continue using about 85% of the energy when they are still on.5
In these circumstances, initiatives focused on more prudent, controlled energy use are beneficial at many levels and bring visible impact in terms of financial profit, social responsibility and environmental results. Therefore, more and more business leaders, households, as well as field professionals address to energy consumption telemetry and remote control solutions to build data-driven strategies and enable sustainable reduction and efficiency of power use.
energy waste rate for commercial office buildings (U.S. Green Buildings Council)
The average American wastes 283 kw hours of energy monthly,
equal to an electric oven running at 350° F for 6 days.
reduction in electricity spending that Skanska's office in the Empire State Building has reached thanks to power consumption telemetry system
Power consumption monitoring and control
Gone are the times of fragmented power saving initiatives like shifting to LED or introducing automatic lighting based on motion sensors. Executives no longer need to make inconsiderate decisions because energy data is unavailable or accessible in a hard-to-read and understand format.
Instead, today’s power management solutions enable comprehensive monitoring and proactive management of energy use, ensure sustainable energy data drive and provide decision makers with a set of technology and infrastructure media for efficient system control.
One of such solutions promises iconic Empire State Building reduction of energy use by 38 percent and $4.4 million return in annual energy savings. The building’s tenant, Skanska USA, already benefits from a 57 percent reduction in its electricity spending compared to its previous residence, which translates to a total savings of approximately $680,000 for energy costs over the office lease life.”6
Modern power management system integrates a complex of connected sensor-based devices for telemetry, real-time data collection, analytics, visualization and representation tools, a series of control touch points for various end users and system security and reliability solutions.
Building such a powerful, functional and at the same time elegant system requires a set of unique architectural, technological, design, engineering, integrational and operational solutions. Moreover, creating an efficient power consumption telemetry has to sustain and go through the challenges associated with complex IoT systems – connectivity, security and consistency.
Introducing energy consumption management system along with a series of other smart building initiatives promises iconic Empire State Building 38% energy use reduction and $4.4 million return in annual energy savings.
To be solved
As it was noted, power consumption management is a complex system. To work properly, it should integrate multiple hardware and software solutions as well as operations into a unified and balanced ecosystem. Therefore, it’s important to figure out how to connect all the elements and enable smooth interaction and interoperability between different system touchpoint.
Hardware – sensors, devices, connected appliances should be able to interact with system backend and securely transmit real-time data for analysis, insights should be transformed into a visual easy-to-read media and connect to frontend touchpoints, while authorized end users should be able to interact with and control system elements using frontend tools.
2. Data security
Security of the whole system is another challenge of any connected environment, for it handles massive data that may above all include sensitive user information such as payment details.
This is a twofold challenge. On one hand, strong security is necessary to protect a complex system with multiple entry points from outside breaches and malicious activity.
On the other hand, the system should have secure and reliable uninterrupted data transfer and workflows to ensure integrity and efficiency of system processes and credibility of system data.
Efficiency of energy consumption monitoring and management greatly depends on continuously flowing real-time data collected from devices, appliances, sensors and trackers. Hence, it’s crucial to develop consistent, predictable data flows across different elements.
System should pump relevant volume of raw data from meters, stream data in real-time for processing and analytics and provide authorized end users with dynamically updating insights.
To build an efficient power consumption monitoring and management system, one needs to solve the challenges of connectivity, security and consistency.
Strategy for efficient power consumption management
At Digiteum, we successfully solved these challenges. Together with our US-based client, we created a custom solution for energy consumption monitoring and control focused on households, utility companies, electric suppliers and researchers.
The client company engineered state-of-the-art hardware - sensor-enabled boards and ARM device for this IoT infrastructure. We, on our side, designed and built a set of software tools to enable system functionality, developed services and operations for data work and applications to connect users with the system.
Today, this IoT system combines smart telemetry with advanced data analytics and equips different categories of end users with powerful insights. These insights help users build proactive and predictive strategy for energy supply, consumption and conservation.
3 steps before building the system
First, we elaborated the architecture that would combine all structural elements into a unified ecosystem and at the same time address the problems of a complex IoT infrastructure - connectivity, security and consistency.
Secondly, we came up with a stack of technologies and tools that best meet system requirements and enable its operational excellence.
Thirdly, we developed a set of workflows, operations and experiences for different categories of users across various system elements and entry points.
The system for power consumption telemetry and control consists of a number of structural parts and functionalities.
Client's sensor boards for household's electricity panel and an ARM device that runs on custom linuxOS create raw data on power consumption. A set of big data solutions based on Apache Hadoop and a series of database tools allow to collect, process, aggregate and store this enormous amount of data.
Structured data then goes to the responsive user portal and provides various categories of users with easy-to-read insights on energy use. Moreover, user portal allows to control household circuits, create smart profiles like Eco or Away, dynamically calculate cost in real time and determine the trends of energy use.
In the meantime, backend on Golang handles user accounts and hardware operations and enables communication with user portal via REST API. In general, REST API and grpc protocol enable reliable connection between all system parts.
How we make the system work
To build and successfully deploy IoT system of such complexity, we use a wide range of technological tools and services, including Amazon Web Services, Hadoop, CloudBreak and Prometheus. Here’s how we combine the power of technology, architecture and integrations to solve the major problems of complex IoT ecosystem:
Thanks to micro service architecture, we enable efficient differentiation of services that securely connect with each other as system modules – docker containers. These containers are managed by Amazon Elastic Container Services (Amazon ECS) and connected via REST API and grpc protocol that enable security, stability and traffic economy. AWS Load Balancing, on its side, coordinates traffic and makes sure data safely circulates between end users, backend and hardware.
Complete data security
On one hand, container-based architecture facilitates connectivity between system parts. At the same time, this architecture allows to isolate these parts from each other and thus enable secure operation for all of them. Containers are independent and immune from outside breaches – malfunctions and faults in one part don’t affect the operations in other parts and the whole system. Additionally, we ensure system security using http/2 and https connections and reliability of data transfer with JWT authorization for API.
We chose Hadoop as the best option for big data ecosystem management. Using several Hadoop clusters, we guarantee secure data gathering, processing and storing. Ambari service helps manage several Hadoop clusters, while CloudBreak enables handling all these environments in the cloud. In general, these tools allow uninterrupted data streaming and management, while time series database solutions ensure efficient data storage and Amazon S3 maintains data consistency with smart data backup.
Solving these challenges was not the only focus in designing an efficient power use telemetry. Building a customer-centric user portal, we made sure the users access valuable data on energy consumption in a convenient way, easily extract meaningful insights and receive timely alerts. This is why we used OpenTSDB as the best database for gathering metrics, data analyzer able to detect devices and gather their activity data and a set of tools to identify and send alerts.
To build and successfully deploy IoT system of such complexity, we use a range of tools and services, including Amazon Web Services, Hadoop, CloudBreak and Prometheus.
Benefits for households, electricity suppliers, utility companies and researchers
Broad capacity and functionality of energy consumption monitoring and control provide each user category with numerous benefits and capabilities in terms of business, financial and environmental outcomes.
The system drives substantial savings on energy. It allows to control household’s electric facilities, automate control and configuration of energy consumption, calculate power consumption cost in real time and predict further spending, improve household’s security and detect potentially dangerous anomalies in the operation of electric appliances.
Electricity suppliers and utility companies
The system enables a brand new level of energy supply management. It allows to perform smart energy consumption monitoring, analytics, visualization and reporting, identify devices remotely, create and adjust utility plans, detect abnormalities and enable remote utility control according to demand response pricing programs.
Power consumption and conservation researchers
The system reveals powerful data. It allows to leverage big data analytics on energy consumption and identify trends and usage patterns, create and propose data-driven strategy on energy-saving consumption and forward looking conservation activities.
Powerful telemetry and big data
Energy consumption monitoring and control has proven to be an efficient solution that brings serious impact to the bottom line at different levels.
Thanks to telemetry and advanced data analytics, households, business leaders across energy sector, as well as research groups obtain previously unavailable insights that allow to better understand energy use, identify the trends and patterns, take actions and build data-driven cost-saving strategy for energy efficiency and conservation.
As a result, adoption of telemetry and remote control for energy consumption brings each user category viable return on investment, enables them to enhance social responsibility initiative and contribute to environmental goals.
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They are technically excellent, have an agile process in place and are always looking for "win/win" opportunities. The team is incredibly honest, hard working and has been a source of new ideas and improvements.