Slashing Power Consumption with More Informative Energy Bills

Over the last few years, wholesale gas prices have increased by a factor of 14 and electricity prices by a factor of 8. Increasing demand, limited supplies, a shortage of storage space and the conflict in Ukraine mean energy prices are still skyrocketing and bills are causing real angst for households and businesses alike. Moreover, Centrica (owners of British Gas) has warned that energy price volatility in the U.K. is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, and there is serious concern that many commercial organizations will soon be reaching the end of their existing fixed-price contracts. Some have already seen their energy costs rise by more than 100%. With energy inflation set to continue, never has there been a more compelling need for business owners to better understand their energy usage to retain the bottom line.

Amidst the energy gloom, however, internet-of-things innovations and 5G rollouts are offering a glimmer of hope. By fortuitous timing, both are coming of age and could be the solace that businesses need going forward, especially when deployed alongside energy-management and/or HVAC systems. Apart from enabling businesses to automate historically manual processes, strategically placed IoT sensors can be configured to proactively monitor energy usage and performance, thus making sure HVAC systems are working as they should to minimize waste, which, in turn, reduces cost. Not only that, the data captured over time can be used to identify usage patterns and trends that can be dynamically counteracted, resulting in slicker operations and significant cuts to utility bills.

Some industries have been slow to embrace the IoT

But IoT is not a new technology. The concept has been around for 10+ years, running on existing comms networks with interconnected devices and applications prevalent in industry and consumables. Its true worth, however, is only just coming to fruition due to 5G networks going mainstream and innovations in AI and automation. That said, until recently, there has been reluctance by many organizations, public sector ones in particular, to harness the benefits of embedded sensors because of the perceived upheaval, disruption to service during their install and costs involved versus the perceived gains. Mobile connectivity has also traditionally taken second place over Wi-Fi.

Now that the New Building Safety Act has come into force, proprietors of any mixed-use property, regardless of sector, must nominate someone to be responsible for harnessing data for due diligence. With these new safety new rules to abide by, together with uncontrolled bill rises and drives toward digital transformation in all sectors, businesses adopting a “head in the sand” approach to the merits of IoT and connectivity do so at their own peril.

Seamless mobile coverage is the underpinning enabler to smart technologies

A common misconception of installing smart-building technologies is the need for Wi-Fi. Whilst it is indeed a key component of digital transformation, the underpinning enabler to embedded tech is cellular as it is the trigger mechanism for device-to-device communication. Businesses therefore need to address their in-building coverage situation if their investment is to deliver rapid ROI. Providing the levels of converge needed can be challenging, however, because a mobile signal is weakened by default as soon as it is taken indoors. Additionally, materials like reinforced concrete, galvanized steel, tinted glass iron girders and insulation foam hinder the transmission of mobile phone signals, particularly 5G ones due to their short ranges, yet this is network fueling the IoT phenomena.

The type of coverage system needed is depicted by organization type and size

Larger organizations have historically overcome their coverage challenges by implementing operator-connected DAS. But smaller businesses are also impacted by rising energy bills and need a compelling alternative. A viable solution is to replace power-hungry DAS with lower-power, more efficient repeater-based solutions. Before deciding on the best option, businesses must first assess the outdoor coverage situation, as this will determine the type/number of repeaters needed and their configuration requirements.

Factors to be considered include the proximity of mobile phone tower, the MNOs themselves, the number of devices needing to be simultaneously connected and the total number of network users. This information can be obtained by conducting a mobile site survey, but most of the readily available tools do not provide the hierarchical view needed, as they only take the network coverage situation into account. Mobile coverage at the device level must also be considered if the performance and operability of HVAC systems are to be optimized.

Wi-Fi connectivity and uninterrupted mobile coverage must be given equal standing

Even after a site survey, businesses can ill afford to commission a mobile coverage system with long lead times. They need a turnkey solution that can be up and running in a few days because they need to get a handle on energy consumption now. Building owners must also stop favoring W-Fi and fiber broadband over reliable mobile coverage, because if they don’t, their energy-management investments will be futile due to self-created mobile dead spots.

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