The roll-out of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its promise of ubiquitous data capture, sensors, monitors and controls continues to be subject to ambitious rhetoric but very few real-world examples of the technology improving people’s lives. Everyone seems to be jumping into the IoT space but we have yet to see much in the way of tangible product introductions. At the recent NECA conference and trade show, for example, actual new electrical products making use of internet addressable communications technology were scarce.
Nonetheless, the electrical industry has been investing considerable research and development into systems that could provide the backbone for capturing and using the distributed intelligence of IoT devices, and there are some systems entering the market with embedded intelligence that enhances the function and usefulness of electrical systems.
In a chat with Electrical Marketing, Schneider Electric’s Mike Montanari, vice president of its Nashville-based Partner Projects Business, which includes Square D low-voltage distribution equipment, explained how the company’s new Smart Systems platform for capturing data from electrical distribution equipment such as circuit breakers and switchgear at the device level uses IoT principles to provide a simpler and more streamlined approach to system monitoring and control.
The Smart Systems technology integrates communications into distribution equipment in a plug-and-play Ethernet architecture to provide real-time and historical trending data that can help manage and monitor building energy use and electrical system status. Users access the data from embedded web pages. They can just go to a URL address from a computer or phone or set programmable alarms to alert them via email. The system takes advantage of the IoT to enable a convergence of building systems including HVAC, lighting and energy management systems into a centralized hub.
“It’s a transformative solution to help with asset management,” Montanari said. “Its uniqueness right now is, while you can do some of those things with meters and CTs (current transformers) that you can add to circuits, with Smart Systems you can get the information right out of the device or the circuit breaker. It’s a very efficient and effective way, a more streamlined and affordable way to get that information than we had in the past. That helps customers get real-time and historical trending information to look at the energy use as well as status indicators of the electrical system.”
“Smart Systems represents the future of Schneider Electric, and Square D electrical distribution and solutions offerings,” said Aamir Paul, senior vice president, Retail and Partner Projects, Schneider Electric, in a release when the technology was launched in September. “Schneider Electric’s Square D low voltage electrical distribution equipment can now communicate data and information in real-time, allowing for smarter asset and energy management.”
Montanari said it remains to be seen just how the end user community will ultimately use IoT technologies and what they find useful as opposed to merely interesting.