Smart meters are a great first step in helping businesses monitor energy consumption. However, conventional dashboard solutions don’t help much in identifying opportunities for improvement. Their tools only display data from measurement devices such as utility meters (electric, gas and water) and building management systems. Businesses using these meters and dashboards must find ways of interpreting and using this information to achieve greater efficiency, resource conservation, and cost savings.
An Irish company, Wattics, offers a solution to this problem. Using intelligent self-learning algorithms, its Sentinel energy analytics solution identifies energy waste and cost-optimization opportunities (Figure 1). The solution provides automated detection of inefficiencies, interpretations of energy use, identification of load management opportunities, and nonintrusive forecasts for planning. Using this interpreted data and the system’s suggestions for improving efficiency, businesses can better manage and reduce energy use without having to hire an outside energy expert.
Figure 1. Wattics Sentinel’s advanced algorithms interpret meter data and identify energy cost-optimization opportunities. (Image courtesy Wattics.)
As good as Wattics’ solution is, they faced one challenge in offering it to customers: they needed a reliable platform for one of the key components – an energy-monitoring gateway. In making their choice, one system stood out: the Kontron Box-PC. Based on a range of Intel® Atom™ and Intel® Core™ processors, the Kontron Box-PC provides all the necessary performance, plus a high Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), global and long-term availability, and competitive pricing.
Quiet: Software at Work
To understand the role of the gateway, we need to look at the functions of the Sentinel energy analytics solution. It uses an innovative software engine that once connected starts to learn energy usage patterns immediately from meter readings. The software keeps watch across all monitored meters from the main energy distribution board to the equipment level. It constantly builds and improves its knowledge about building appliances and grid areas, identifying correlations and characterizing good and bad energy use. Crucial energy issues are displayed via clear text messages which provide detailed and easy understandable information and recommendations which can be displayed on a range of different devices such as smartphones, tablets, or notebooks and desktop PCs.
The Importance of the Gateway
The Kontron Box-PC contributes the edge processing power, IoT connectivity, and secure communications required for this solution (Figure 2). During setup, the Kontron Box-PC runs the Wattics user interface to configure metering deployment. Configuration includes discovering meters, associating circuits to meters, configuring meter and current transformer settings, and setting up the Internet connection.
Figure 2. The Kontron Box-PC works at the edge, providing the required processing power, IoT connectivity, and secure communications.
To retrieve the meter readings, the Kontron Box-PC offers both serial and LAN connections. For communications over the Internet with the cloud and back end, the unit connects to a customer’s existing wired LAN or wireless 3G router.
As for the meter data, the Kontron Box-PC performs initial processing and other duties before sending it to the cloud. These tasks include:
- Analyzing variations on power measurements
- Providing local backup for easy recovery in case of an Internet failure
- Compressing data to reduce storage demands in the cloud
Designed to be “Wartungsfrei”
Since the energy-monitoring gateway is instrumental to both the overall availability of the energy analytics solution and the cost efficiency of the installation, it must be highly reliable. The Kontron Box-PC makes the perfect choice because it is designed to be “wartungsfrei” – the German word for maintenance-free. It minimizes total cost of ownership (TCO) while ensuring utmost availability. In addition, the KBox family’s modular design helps avoid obsolescence, providing a solution that system integrators can offer businesses for years to come.
The Kontron Box-PC’s wartungsfrei features include:
- No rotating components such as fans or hard disk drives that could wear out or be vulnerable to shock and vibration
- High-quality, long-life power supply designed to handle brief (several milliseconds) power failures
- Wear-free double-layer capacitors (gold caps) for ensuring continuous power supply to BIOS, EFI memory, and internal clock instead of button batteries that require regular replacement
- Rugged, dust-protected casing.
All these features contribute to a MTBF for the Kontron Box-PC of 158,000 hours at an ambient temperature of 30°C.
A Choice of Kontron Box-PCs
Kontron makes an entire line of Box-PCs named “KBox” for short. One of the newest is the KBox A-103 (Figure 3). Based on the Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product family, the KBox A-103 supports up to 8G DDR3 memory and offers a choice of on-board flash, mSATA or a solid state drive (SSD) for storage. I/O includes serial communication, fieldbus, and network communication by GbE LAN, WIFI,GSM.
Figure 3. The KBox A-103 is one of the latest members of the Kontron Box-PC family.
The KBox A-103 supports 10 to 30 V DCC input and can be operated in an extended operating temperature range from -20 to 60 ° Celsius. The unit provides user-friendly front access for its two mini-PCIe modules, SIM card holder, and DisplayPort and VGA connections.
The unit offers a choice of Intel Atom processors for scalable performance, including the quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor E3845. The Intel Atom processor E3800 product family range from 3 to 10 W thermal design power (TDP). Their energy efficiency makes them reliable and wartungsfrei solutions for space-critical and low power consumption environments. They offer industrial temperature ranges from -40 to 100 ° Celsius, Error Correcting Code (ECC), and built-in security capabilities. Hardware-assisted security features like Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) and Secure Boot help secure endpoints and allow only chosen software to run on the device. Integrated Intel® Gen 7 graphics enable fast, efficient processing of HD graphics and video for applications requiring visual display.
The Smart Building Just Got Smarter
Products like Wattics Sentinel using Kontron Box-PCs make IoT solutions for Smart Buildings not only smarter, but more reliable, powerful, and useful. To find more IoT gateway solutions, be sure to regularly check the listings in our constantly updated Solutions Directory.
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Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance
Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine