Fresh news on smart grid and green technologies
The Zigbee Alliance is consolidating its specifications spanning six application areas into Zigbee 3.0 at a time when competing standards based on Internet Protocol (IP) are expected to see rapid growth. The move aims to simplify the user’s job of finding compliant Zigbee products by requiring component vendors to pass a more rigorous certification process.
The Alliance expects to start certification testing for Zigbee 3.0 in the fall of 2015. Compliant products will need to support the standard’s application profiles in home and building automation, LED lighting, healthcare, retail, and smart energy.
Zigbee 3.0 does not include two Zigbee specs — Smart Energy 2, a profile based on IP; and RF4CE, a version of Zigbee geared for remote controls. It does cover all specs based on Zigbee Pro, the group’s overarching standard for how networks are formed and devices attach to them across different application areas.
“Underneath the covers we are accommodating these multiple applications in a single standard, so Zigbee thermostats, for example, can be used in either home or office buildings,” says Ryan Maley, director of strategic marketing for the Zigbee Alliance.
The upgrade is a natural consequence of advances in hardware, Maley says. “When Zigbee got started, everything was based on 8-bit MCUs and separate radios, but now devices are running on 32-bit cores in SoCs with many more capabilities.”
The Alliance has already sponsored about three plugfests to test out the feature-complete but still-evolving specification.
The move comes at a time when Zigbee is under threat. Market researchers expect a surge of competing IEEE 802.15.4 products using the emerging IP-based 6LoWPAN protocols will take a significant share of Zigbee’s market over the next few years.
Silver Spring Networks has been striving to define itself not just as a smart meter vendor — an increasingly tough business to be in — but as a provider of software and services to put the smart grid’s increasing number of devices to use. Last week, it won a contract to provide consumer engagement and efficiency software to Michigan utility Consumers Energy, an early example of how it might be making that transition.
First of all, Consumers Energy picked Silver Spring’s software suite over multiple competitors, including incumbent Opower, a big name in customer engagement and energy efficiency, which had worked with the utility in the pilot version of what the utility is now taking to all of its 2.7 million customers.
Second, it’s the first big contract that’s not built on Silver Spring’s own smart meter network. Instead, Silver Spring will deploy its software over Consumers’ cellular-enabled smart meters from Itron. That in itself isn’t so unusual — many smart meter deployments use different pieces of software from different vendors, both for core network and data management functions and for the consumer engagement portals and platforms they make available to their customers.
But Silver Spring is taking that integration role a step further by promising to put its SilverLink Sensor Network to use across the Itron cellular network. SilverLink is the technology platform Silver Spring launched earlier this year with the promise of fast and agile data management across networked smart grid devices, as well as to the cloud, and this is the company’s first foray into devices that aren’t using its own hardware.
EnergyHub is a Gowanus-based company of about 25 that was acquired by Alarm.com in May 2013.
Quick recap: EnergyHub was early into the business of making programmable and internet-connected home thermostats, but when the big hardware makers came in, the company pivoted. It was ahead on software and quickly the larger manufacturers turned to EnergyHub to white-label consumer-facing software for their equipment.
The next phase for EnergyHub was demand response at the utility level. The company had software that would reach out to consumers’ devices and make small adjustments to thermostat settings in exchange for credits on energy bills. (Customers had to agree to join the program, but the benefits were strong.)
When we last spoke, the company was expanding its territory in Texas and California.
Seth Frader-Thompson, one of its founders and the company’s CEO, spoke to us about, among other things, the challenges of being a white label software business, the Polar Vortex and the internet of things.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Tell me what you’re seeing right now as a company using software at the enterprise level to help people control energy consumption.
The most interesting thing that’s capturing a lot of people’s imagination now, is that every internet of things device probably was put there because the customer bought it for some specific reason. But the customer is not really extracting the full value of that.
Usually there’s someone out there somewhere who’s willing to do something. I think if you fast forward five years you’re going to see a million unforeseen benefits of all these internet-connected devices. But the best one right now is if you go buy a connected thermostat, in many markets the utility will actually pay you for the ability to control your thermostat. The utility doesn’t have to roll up to your house and install something, they can just pay you for access to it.
Today’s multiple challenges require implementation of economically-driven and environmentally-friendly innovations across the world. The new programming period (2014-2020) and EU targets for low carbon economy encourage the countries from South-East Europe to improve the resource efficiency in cities, as well as to stimulate the large-scale utilization of renewables.
Responding to the necessity for climate change mitigation and to the increasing market demand of new technologies, the 11th South-East European (SEE) Exhibitions and Conference ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Energy Efficiency & Renewables’ are a timely event in the Region. It will be organized by Via Expo from 11 to 13 March 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The event provides good opportunities for foreign and local stakeholders to develop their activity through knowledge transfer and wider promotion of their products. It will provoke the strong interest of businesses operating in different sectors, municipalities, branch associations and scientific centers.
Leading companies will use the exhibition platform to showcase their latest technologies and equipment. An Austrian Pavilion will be realized for the 6th year in a row.
The exhibition scope includes energy efficient solutions for HVAC, lighting, low-energy buildings, renewables, energy storage, smart grids, resource recovery, waste-to-energy, information and communications technologies, building management systems (BMS), building automation systems (BAS), telephony & CATV, urban planning, e-mobility and transport, emergency and security, etc.
The parallel Conference aims to investigate politics, financing instruments and strategies that will expose opportunities in the relevant sectors in South-East Europe. Via Expo announces an impressive line-up of speakers from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Estonia, Norway, Spain and the UK. A representative of the International Battery and Energy Storage Alliance will present the latest renewable energy storage technologies and how they could be implemented in today’s cities. Thomas Guerras from Transatel Mobile will speak about the mobile embedded connectivity.
Euroheat & Power will organize the session ‘The Future of District Heating in Europe.’ Speakers from Samson, Dalkia, Fortum and Ramboll will summarize the current trends and will explore the role of municipalities to improve the efficiency and renewable energy use. Real case studies on options for financing of the smart cities projects across EU, nearly zero energy districts (nZED), smart mobility solutions – are the other program highlights.
Organizer: Via Expo – www.viaexpo.com
Parallel Events: ‘Save the Planet’ (waste management) and ‘Save the Life’ (emergency, rescue- and safety control)
What is data center infrastructure management all about? Syska Hennessy Group – MENA’s Greg Jasmin, co-managing director, and Robert Saunders, FM & commissioning lead, explain DCIM
Data center owners and operators are always looking for new ways to enhance daily operational efficiencies, and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is the newest tool on the market. But, what is DCIM? What are its benefits?
While stand-alone infrastructure like a Building Automation System (BAS), Electrical Power Monitoring System (EPMS), IT network management and a building’s security system are all needed to monitor and control individual equipment at the local level, DCIM is the umbrella that can integrate all the local, independent systems into one dashboard providing a holistic view of the data center.
This ability to oversee the infrastructure and equipment integration aids in forecasting and trending, helping data center management to make informed decisions both on a daily basis and when capital investments arise.
DCIM can help answer questions like: How is the electrical system impacted if additional IT equipment is added or how much space is actually on the data center (DC) white floor? How much UPS and cooling capacity is left? What’s the network ratio? Where are my assets located in the DC?
While DCIM can provide data centers managers with a variety of useful tools, DCIM isn’t the magic bullet solution for each management challenge and may not be right for every data center. Instead, it’s important to fully understand both the prerequisites of a DCIM system and what it takes to sustain operations long term before determining if it’s appropriate for a specific facility.
DCIM solutions vary greatly in scope, price and systems architecture. Selecting the right DCIM solution is all about understanding how the DCIM solution will fit into the current operating culture.
With an increasing number of diverse products on the market right now, successful DCIM implementation requires a structured system selection and implementation process. Because there is no one size fits all data center, similarly an out-of-the-box DCIM package may not be the right solution either.
More typically, a DCIM solution will be selected by a qualified, third party DCIM consulting engineer that is knowledgeable in both critical facilities and information and communication technologies (ICT) integration.
Changing IT needs will drive more enterprises away from in-house data centers to off-site facilities in coming years, according to a new forecast from the analyst firm IDC. The future will also see a rise in super-size “mega datacenters,” leading to a decline in the overall number of data centers around the world even as total data center space keeps growing, the report stated.
According to the IDC forecast, released earlier this week, the total number of data centers will peak at 8.6 million in 2017 and then start to decline. However, total data center space will increase globally, rising from 1.58 billion square feet in 2013 to 1.94 billion square feet by 2018.
The shift in the data center environment is being driven by rapidly accelerating data volumes and the need for increasingly flexible computing resources, according to IDC. As organizations look for ways to harness big data and stay competitive in a fast-paced, global economy, more and more are turning to off-site, managed and cloud-based IT services to help keep up.
Rise of the ‘Mega Data Center’
“Over the next five years, a majority of organizations will stop managing their own infrastructure,” said Richard Villars, IDC’s Vice President for Datacenter and Cloud Research. “They will make greater use of on-premise and hosted managed services for their existing IT assets, and turn to dedicated and shared cloud offerings in service provider data centers for new services. This will result in the consolidation and retirement of some existing internal data centers, particularly at the low end.”
Providers of outsourced data center services, in the meantime, will see growing demand for managed, colocation and cloud-based services. This will contribute to the continuing growth of mega data centers.
According to IDC, mega data centers will account for 72.6 percent of all the new floor space being added by service providers by 2018. By that time, mega data centers will also be providing 44.6 percent of the world’s new high-end data center space, compared to 19.3 percent in 2013.
At Electronica 2014, Freescale Semiconductor announced a new beta program designed to jump start early adopters of the Thread IP-based mesh networking protocol. A founding member of the Thread Group, Freescale is offering software based on its Kinetis W series of wireless MCUs. The Kinetis W series combines integrated 2.4 GHz RF transceivers with ARM Cortex-M0+/M4 cores.
Announced this summer and opened to membership in October, the Thread Group builds on 6LoWPAN (IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks based on 802.15.4) to provide an open IP-based mesh network connectivity protocol designed to simplify intercommunications in home, consumer and emerging IoT applications. Along with IP-based mesh connectivity, key characteristics of Thread include security, reliability and low-power operation for Thread-enabled devices. Besides Freescale, founding members include ARM, Big Ass Fans, Nest Labs, Samsung Electronics, Silicon Laboratories and Yale Security.
Figure. Thread builds on 802.15.4 to support IP-based mesh network connectivity based on IPv6. (Courtesy of the Thread Group)
Freescale’s beta program offers developers access to its own implementation of the Thread draft specification and is designed to offer beta participants everything needed to evaluate Thread-enabled products. Beta companies will receive Freescale’s Kinetis KW2x Tower boards, USB dongles, samples and the Thread stack, which includes precompiled Thread libraries and demo application code.
Reducing energy use is hard work. Wattics software turns complex energy data into clear, actionable insights. Savings guaranteed.
Saving energy at home, or in commercial & industrial buildings is a daunting task, but necessary for the future of our planet. Some companies have found commercially viable solutions for the residential market through smart thermostats – e.g. Nest, and customised insights, such as Opower. With regard to industrial settings: building management systems, energy monitoring and the use of energy consultancy are generally the way to go.
While automation provides obvious benefits, it usually has a cost and is limited to a subset of appliances e.g. heating equipment. The same applies for energy consultants and monitoring equipment, where an individual or company will need to invest now in order to achieve future savings. As a result not everybody can afford to have their energy saved.
Individuals and organisations can actually reduce their energy use at no cost if they learn to operate equipment efficiently. The question is how to ensure that equipment is properly operated at all times, so that you can immediately rectify relevant issues where necessary? Nowadays, one needs to be an expert with an eye for patterns and outlines in order to decipher energy data. This process requires plenty of time and so can be difficult to get done. The lack of simplified, contextual and real-time information is the major obstacle to operating equipment efficiently and realising the savings.
Wattics takes a unique approach by translating complex energy data into meaningful and accessible information, to assist individuals and organisations in implementing energy savings, operational improvements and making business decisions.
Instead of bills and dashboards with kWh figures (which are meaningless without context), Wattics software diagnoses power use 24/7. This allows Wattics to alert you as soon as a machine or set of appliances begin to experience energy inefficiency. Depending on urgency and preferred settings, individuals and organisations can now receive clear, actionable energy saving insights when they are needed most.
At a time when the electricity grid is being modernised to support new business models such as demand response and dynamic pricing, smart software which makes sense of complex data is becoming a much needed tool for helping individuals and organisations save money.
Wattics launched its Sentinel contextual analytics software at the Web Summit on Nov. 4, and is actively seeking mutually beneficial relationships with ESCOs, Resellers, Utilities, Grid Operators and Technology Companies. Get in touch with us now at wattics.com, we are excited to provide our technology and expertise to help your business.
Connected, smart devices will become the bond between the energy industry and its customers. How can energy suppliers ensure a smooth rollout and happy customers?
We caught up with Angus Panton, Director of Power and Communications at software quality specialist SQS Group Ltd, to find out more about M2M communications in the utilities market and how the sheer scale and importance of successful rollouts means that quality must not be compromised.
TechRadar Pro: What are the major M2M initiatives that energy companies are focusing on?
Angus Panton: According to Vodafone’s latest M2M barometer report “smart utilities” will be a major market – 20% of utilities and energy firms have now adopted smart grid and smart metering systems, and 17% have also introduced smart home and office offerings — a category that includes home automation, intelligent heating, and connected security systems.
The emergence of remote and automatic central heating control from smart mobile devices is the first sighting of the type of set-and-forget technology that promises to abound in the energy sector in the next decade.
Computer-controlled thermostats – such as Hive, Nest and tado – enable consumers to manage their energy costs with the level of convenience that has fuelled the explosion in mobile commerce for energy suppliers.
Further, M2M growth in energy will get a powerful spur from the smart metering implementation. In the UK, replacing 53 million conventional domestic power and gas meters in about 30 million premises by 2020 will be Britain’s biggest home energy technology change for more than 40 years.
TRP: What are the major risks in a smart home or smart metering project?
AP: Like other areas in the new world of M2M, there are various technological and regulatory hurdles that carry risk for energy suppliers entering the market. Negative consumer sentiment is a big risk that will affect take up of smart meters.
Should the security of the system be breached or the installation fail to fulfil performance claims then consumers may lose trust and that can have a huge impact on energy providers’ revenue streams. Equally, if a smart energy device is not fit for purpose or even difficult to use, this will reflect upon the energy supplier’s reputation.
The need to hit rollout targets set by regulators and government will put additional pressure on energy suppliers in the smart metering rollout.
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As of now, the top three most widely used search engines, by a considerable margin, are Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing.
This we all know. But what few people realise is that if you are using these searches, it is growing more and more likely that you are also engaging in what is, in effect, a green pattern of Internet use.
The reason? Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are part of a growing number of tech and other major companies that are entering into long-term “power purchase” agreements (PPAs) with wind farms to ensure a steady stream of power, at a fixed cost, over a period as long as several decades.
Most recently, last month Yahoo signed such a deal for wind power in the Great Plains with OwnEnergy, a wind energy developer.
Google – which is already carbon neutral and now trying to power itself with “100 per cent renewable energy” – has the longest history here. It has three PPA deals in the US wind sector (in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas), and two more in Sweden.
Microsoft, meanwhile, currently has two PPA deals with wind installments located near its data centres in Texas and Illinois. The agreements provide 285 megawatts of power to help drive both Bing searches and also its other online platforms, according to Brian Janous, the company’s director of energy strategy.
What these deals have in common is that they involve purchasing clean energy in close proximity to the power hungry data centres that these companies operate – data centres that in turn drive searches, apps like Gmail and much more. “These are very energy intensive operations that these companies are planning on running for years, and they know they need electricity,” says Emily Williams of the American Wind Energy Association.