The internet of things (IoT) as we already know, is a giant network of connected things and people. This seemingly endless web of interconnected devices is said to be the pinnacle of technological advancement. From ordering an Uber to efficient elevator alignment to maximizing energy efficiency, there is literally no limit to the potential physical accomplishments of the IoT. The interesting fact is, we are still around the peripheries of the full accomplishment of the IoT.
Of all the fields in which the Internet of Things is set to disrupt norms, the field of electricity is perhaps the most impacted thus far. General Electric (GE)predicts that $1.3 trillion of value can be captured in the electricity value chain from 2016 to 2025 globally by IoT.
With Tesla’s driverless electric cars already set to take over our streets, electricity has no doubt been most impacted by IoT. This exponential growth in electrical experimentation is triggered by the eco-friendly nature of this source of energy.
Since the discovery of electricity in the 1800s, there has been a global utilization to this energy source. In the United States alone 3,853 billion kilowatt hours of electricity were used in 2016. Commercial buildings account for approximately one third of this total electricity consumption. Electrical energy powers almost everything in commercial buildings, from microwaves to the entire HVAC systems (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning). As much as commercial buildings rely on electricity for their daily operations, electrical energy comes with a serious caveat - Maintenance.
Electrical maintenance in commercial structures can be split in to two major areas - Maintenance of energy generating equipment and maintenance of energy consuming devices.
Energy generating equipment or devices refers to those components which are used to manage and generate the electrical energy needs of a commercial building. A typical example will be a transformer. Transformers collect electrical energy from the grid and supply to the entire commercial building. If a transformer were to get bad, the electricity supply in a commercial building will be interrupted, if only momentarily at best. Another example of an energy generating equipment typical to commercial properties is the generator. All electricity generating equipment used by commercial properties have life spans and limitations with respect to power input and output, as well as other environmental constraints. These limitations necessitate maintenance.
Energy consuming devices on the other hand are also commonly referred to as end devices. These are the equipment and devices responsible for electricity consumption in commercial buildings. They are found everywhere within commercial properties, and are responsible for the day to day operations of commercial structures. They include electric kettles, bulbs, conveyor belt, etc. They enhance occupants experience and contribute to the establishment with a competitive edge. Just like electrical energy generating equipment, the end user devices are also constraint, hence the need for electrical maintenance.
Electrical maintenance covers all aspects of testing, monitoring, fixing and replacing elements of an electrical system. Though the possibilities of using IoT for electrical maintenance are endless, these possibilities will be looked at in line with the four major areas of electrical maintenance - Testing, Monitoring, Fixing and replacing electrical systems.
HOW IoT CAN BE USED FOR ELECTRICAL MAINTENANCE IN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
1.Testing of electrical equipment
Testing of electrical appliances is important not only for the equipment being tested, but is also directly linked to the safety of all the occupants in a commercial building. Commercial building electrical appliances have to be tested on a regular basis to ensure that the equipments are functioning properly and are in line with regulatory standards.
Before the advent of IoT, all forms of electrical appliance testing in commercial buildings was done manually, based on a schedule. The testing in itself followed standard procedures, such as shaking, smelling and running of the equipment to check for possible faults. The main problem with this form of testing was its heavy reliance on the principle of “If checked parts are OK, then the whole is OK”. This principle was not very effective, because it did not take in to consideration all the components of the commercial building electrical appliance being tested, neither did it evaluate the impact of external environmental factors on the appliance.
With the implementation of IoT systems by commercial buildings, this phase of electrical maintenance can be accomplished more effectively. This is achieved by linking up all the commercial property’s electrical appliances to the building’s IoT platform, into which analytics could be incorporated. Based on the communication between the building’s electrical appliances and every other appliance in the commercial building, commercial building managers will be able to act more efficiently. Leveraging IoT, thresholds could be set within which the system will automatically signal for management to call in an electrician for testing. This increases efficiency, as management will not have to schedule for checks when they are not needed, while only getting results based on partial human analytics.
2. Monitoring of Electrical Equipment
The monitoring of commercial building electrical appliances implies a continuous and ongoing survey and collection of data with respect to the operations and functionality of the electrical appliances in a commercial building. The crucial nature of this task requires the provision of specific and accurate values on which management can forecast and plan. If these data are collected through human survey, there will always be a margin for error, which could cause management making all the wrong decisions.
By leveraging the IoT platform, the management of commercial buildings could have real time updates and accurate figures with regards to the performance of electrical appliances within a commercial property. With the monitoring of the commercial building’s electrical appliances being done automatically and on a continuous bases, management can be furnished at anytime with actual and concrete data on the performance of the different electrical appliance within the building.
This data could further be accumulated along stated parameters to provide reports and projections with respect to the overall electrical needs of the commercial building. With IoT incorporation in to electrical appliances, everyday electrical appliances transcend from stationary objects to smart devices which can influence the overall electrical maintenance pattern of commercial buildings. IoT provides an assurance of constant monitoring and precise data collection for effective decision making.
3. Fixing and replacing electrical appliances
This is the most commonly implemented phase of electrical maintenance. All electrical appliances, no matter how durable, are subject to breakdown. Breakdowns though inherent, if managed properly will not hinder the normal operations of a commercial building. Unfortunately, it is near impossible to properly manage electrical appliance breakdown relying on a 100% manual system. This is why IoT is the best possible method by which to handle electrical appliance breakdown and replacement in commercial buildings.
By using IoT, commercial building operators are able to know beforehand whether or not electrical appliances will breakdown, and when specific electrical appliances will need replacing. When electrical appliances in a commercial building are interconnected with other devices and linked up with an IoT platform with analytics, the sensors within the electrical appliances pick up valuable and time sensitive data which the human eye could miss. By correlating this data with that from other sensors within the commercial building, as well as liaising with external data sources such as those about the weather, commercial property managers can know with near certainty, the best time to call in an electrician to check on their appliance, or schedule for replacement. Everything can therefore be planned carefully to avoid a breakdown in daily operations.
In conclusion, IoT is being used by various industries, sectors and for increased efficiency and maintenance. Electricity, being the major source of power in almost all sectors is using IoT to manage and maintain appliances and devices that both generate or receive electricity. Some of the most common uses of IoT in electrical maintenance are testing, monitoring and fixing and replacement of electrical equipment.
As more and more industry sectors are adopting IoT for electrical maintenance, it is important that you take a look at your facilities and ensure that you are adopting this latest technology inorder to gain benefits as well as stay ahead of the curve.