The Next Big Things
The Internet is a massive place, linking billions of devices which share data that should exceed the zettabyte mark by 2016. Even as data transfer grows, the number of devices connected to the Internet will soon experience a geometric rise as well. This transition has been termed the “Internet of Things” (Io T);
and it reflects the ability of an increasing number of small or portable electronic
devices, many of them with specialized purposes, which will hold unique Internet
protocol (IP) addresses so as to communicate with other devices.
As computing continues its slow transition away from centralized assets,
such as server farms and PCs with hard drives, less complex devices will
flourish. Measurement and verification (M&V) tools, such as dataloggers, are
in a position to directly benefit from this transition. The focused workflow of
dataloggers lends itself to integration in standardized frameworks.
Barriers in the energy market
The demand-response energy market is one of the major users of interconnect-ed M&V tools, which can closely track energy-use characteristics and trends,
helping to identify and respond to changing energy needs. An integrated
approach for tracking, monitoring and verifying energy consumption and implementing cost and carbon footprint reduction has been a long-sought goal for
business-to-business (B2B) and energy service companies (ESCOs).
It’s no surprise Portland, Ore.-based startup 38 Zeroes has focused on this
sector for development of its datalogging tools.
According to Scott Niesen, VP of communications at 38 Zeros, the high
cost of M&V prohibits energy services from entering new markets. Conventional, site-deployed hardware is often costly and temporary, involving
multiple configuration and collections steps and presenting compatibility and
data integrity issues.
Niesen says the “low-hanging fruit” of long-term energy-savings strategies
has already been plucked: Demand-side management programs that utilize
lighting upgrades or variable-frequency drive conversions offered immediate
profitability. But these efforts lack fine scale for large, energy-intensive facilities, and simply haven’t been economical for smaller companies.
According to 38 Zeros’ estimates, typical M&V hardware costs can reach
$1,500 to $4,000 per data collection point. Skilled electricians require up to
five hours to connect hardware for a submeter installation. Many of these
hardware pieces are made by different manufacturers. Another hurdle is the
complexity of security, which is why datalogging solutions are often temporary and involve the use of trucks to transport data.
Niesen says the traditional mindset is to sample the data over a two- to
four-week period to establish a benchmark and then to sample the data at
three-, six-, nine- and 12-month intervals. The use of temporary dataloggers
to establish energy-use benchmarks and implementation data requires the
initial installation and additional expensive on-site visits to retrieve the data.
Each stage forces a 90-day waiting period before it’s possible to know whether
the steps implemented to cut energy use are working or not. And every 90
days a truck needs to roll to collect the data. With multiple sites under management, the cost of data collection gets expensive fast.
An additional hindrance can arise if industry-specific dashboards don’t
readily absorb collected data. Custom software development is
often required in these cases.
An integrated solution
In May 2014, 38 Zeros launched the CloudLogger, an integrated cellular-based hardware and software solution. The CloudLogger pairs data acquisition hardware with datalogging
software and a cellular transmitter. The deployment
sounds simple, but it’s the first fully integrated hardware
and software solution on the market, and can replace
multiple pieces of hardware.
It operates on a MODBUS communications protocol, as
well as Ethernet, and has three pulse inputs. The software
employs 38 Zeros’ proprietary two-way closed-loop packet
delivery and acknowledgement system, which ensures
logged data arrives to the cloud without gaps and spikes.
This software, called PacketCheck, continually checks data
accuracy to guarantee data set availability, which can
always be accessed remotely thanks to cloud hosting.
As part of development, 38 Zeros validated the CloudLogger data format compatibility, including CSV, HTTP, XML and JSON. The
device can also be paired with major building data management solutions.
One of the keys to 38 Zeros’ technology is closed-loop packet delivery and acknowledgement software. Instead of the conventional one-way communication
flow that simply collects data, 38 Zeros has developed a two-way communication method that improves the quality of data collected and expands the func-tionality of M&V equipment. With this approach, data is constantly collected on
a schedule that can range from once a minute to once a day. Closed-loop packet
delivery checks and rechecks data for accuracy, eliminating spikes and gaps and
guaranteeing delivery to the cloud. Whatever data gets logged, gets delivered.
With this capability, intelligent controls can be sent down from the cloud.
This innovation, says Niesen, presents new opportunities for service providers
to deliver multiple new strategic energy services over a single, inexpensive
data pipeline. Data which has been historically held hostage in proprietary
environments is now liberated and can be put to use for numerous strategic
energy products and services.
Dataloggers point the way
38 Zeros is particularly bullish on the future of Io T. The company’s name
refers to the number of zeros in the theoretical limit for connected devices
under the new IP version 6 (ipv6) addressing standard. That number is 340
undecillion, or 1 trillion cubed.
The CloudLogger is a small step on the road toward that number, but 38
Zeros claims that hardware costs from deployment of this solution can be
reduced by up to 80%. This could substantially increase the capabilities of
ESCOs, which depend on permanent datalogging fixtures to help customers
manage energy and avoid backsliding.
Datalogging equipment is at the leading edge of the move toward the Internet of Things.
Image of CloudLogger
datalogger. Image: 38