The essential role of IoT sensors in energy management
Richard Mount, Director of Sales at ASIC design and supply company Swindon Silicon Systems, explores the essential role of IoT sensors (Internet of Things) in energy management.
The industrial sector accounts for 38% of total global final energy use, according to a 2021 report from the International Energy Agency. As energy costs rise to record-breaking levels, manufacturers must act now to cut energy consumption and keep costs under control.
The price of energy has risen through the roof in recent months and price increases show no sign of stopping — energy bills are likely to increase further in October, according to Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley. While household energy bills are kept somewhat under control by the energy price cap, businesses are afforded no such luxury. With out of contract rates rising companies are looking at ways to reduce their energy usage in order to save costs.
Understanding energy usage
Before companies can take action to reduce their energy use, they need clear insights on how much energy is being used, where and for what. Manufacturers can deploy IoT sensors throughout a building and collect real-time data on energy consumption. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can analyse the data to develop historic trends and identify target areas within the building to improve energy use.
Real-time data may also be used to identify outlier trends in energy use by major systems, which is often an indicator of faulty or failing equipment. Manufacturers can act quickly to repair or replace the equipment, avoiding long periods of energy wastage.
Improved temperature control
According to The Carbon Trust, eleven per cent of all energy used by manufacturing is used for space heating. Temperature controls represent a significant opportunity for manufacturers to reduce energy consumption, by using IoT smart thermostats.
Occupancy sensors are capable of determining the exact number of people in a space and their exact location, so HVAC systems can be turned off when a section of a manufacturing facility is empty. Long term data can produce monthly energy reports, highlighting areas where temperature control is wasting energy.
Turn off the lights
Another significant consumer of energy in industry is lighting — as much as 37% of a warehouse or manufacturing facility’s electrical consumption is for lighting, according to Green Energy. However, a smart lighting system integrates sensors, light sources, connectivity and analytics to make significant energy savings.
Manufacturers can create an adaptive lighting system that changes according to conditions and staff patterns. Smart sensors can detect factors such as occupancy and daylight to ensure that lights are only switched on when necessary.
The signals generated by these IoT sensors are commonly analogue values, which must be conditioned and digitised so that energy consumption trends can be analysed. This can be achieved using numerous off-the-shelf integrated circuits (ICs). However, to achieve optimised sensor performance, an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) may be the better choice.
An ASIC is a custom device designed specifically for the customer’s application, allowing the ASIC design team to invest in performance where it will most benefit the particular application. Swindon will be able to optimise the entire signal path down to the finest detail, while removing unnecessary features to reduce cost.
Smart sensors in industry must endure challenging environmental conditions, such as vibration and ingress, so must be robust. When designing an ASIC, the developers integrate as much of the circuitry into a single package as possible. This reduces component count, resulting in higher reliability, reduced power consumption, and greater protection from environmental factors.
By having the system designed in a single silicon die, it provides a company with Intellectual Property (IP) protection, as an ASIC is extremely difficult to re-engineer or “re-use” in other designs. Swindon provides full ownership of the completed system design, so manufacturers can be confident that their IP will remain for their benefit alone.
Additionally, smart sensors in industry must remain in operation for many years. With standard IC components, obsolescence will inevitably become a problem. However, a custom silicon solution ensures ASIC supply for the lifetime of the sensor. ASICs are designed with non-obsolescence in mind, and the ASIC supplier will work closely with the manufacturer to produce a non-obsolescence plan.
Despite the unpredictability of energy prices in recent years, manufacturers can keep costs under control by reducing their energy use. IoT sensors can track energy consumption, occupancy and environmental conditions, allowing manufacturers to make savings wherever possible. By utilising ASIC technology within the smart sensor ensures optimised functionality with a safe supply for years to come.