Going Green and Saving Money

A Case Study for the Singapore University of Technology and Design

Background

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) had a simple but ambitious goal: Significantly reduce the A/C energy costs of their East Coast Campus apartment block, which would not only save money, but also reduce their carbon-emissions footprint. After carefully considering the possibilities, a proposal was made to implement a cloud-based system that would increase the operating efficiency of the apartment block’s A/C units through centralized device management and comprehensive monitoring capabilities.

Panasonic’s Salt Lake City Laboratory (PSLCL) was selected to create the cloud-based platform that would enable SUTD to meet their energy goals and monitoring requirements.

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But centralized control and monitoring were only part of the planned solution—the other part was the ability to scale. SUTD’s goal was to manage sixty-eight rooms. PSLCL wanted to create a cloud-based platform that could not only meet SUTD’s minimum requirements, but could scale far beyond them. With that goal in mind, PSLCL set out to create a cloud-based platform that could handle 1,000 A/C units. Once that goal was met, the plan was to scale to 5,000 A/C units for a single site, and then have the capability to expand to 15 different sites, which would bring the total number of units to 75,000!

The Challenge

The proposed system, which would become the Aircon Energy Management System (EMS), came with a long list of requirements, which included the following:

  • Centralized device management
  • Comprehensive device monitoring
  • Detailed statistical reports
  • A “pay-per-use” option, which would allow students to pay for their own A/C usage
  • Online access for both management and students
  • Centralized system configuration and administration
  • Predictive maintenance solutions
  • Extensible platform capabilities

The Solution

To create a cloud-based platform that would meet the needs of the Aircon EMS—including future expansion and reliable scalability, PSLCL turned to the OpenDOF Project and the Cloud Solution Toolkit (CST). The OpenDOF Project would provide the means of communication between devices, which would enable direct control of each A/C unit as well as the ability to gather relevant data points for each device. The CST would be used to create a cloud-based connection framework that would allow a single point of administration—from anywhere.

Results

SUTD set out to reduce costs, and the Aircon EMS delivered—dramatically. Two months after the Aircon EMS was installed, energy consumption fell by 53%. Nevertheless, as impressive as that is, the value provided by the system is not limited to saving energy. Consider the following additional benefits:

  • Centralized device management.
    The Aircon EMS provides remote access and control of all the building’s A/C equipment, which includes the fan coils, compressors, and adapters. Administrators can log in to the system from anywhere using a generic browser. Once logged in, staff members can enable and disable any of the A/C units and associated devices. They can also set minimum and maximum temperature limits.
  • Comprehensive device monitoring.
    The Aircon EMS displays the location of each A/C unit and its related components along with the current operating status of the equipment and other real-time data, such as room temperature. The Aircon EMS monitoring system also includes the ability to track equipment failure in real time. If any device begins to perform outside of normal operating parameters or if a device fails completely, alerts are automatically sent to designated staff members or maintenance personnel.
  • Detailed statistical reports, including logs and analytics.
    The Aircon EMS produces a variety of logs and reports that can be used to track usage trends and create energy consumption models. In addition to real-time operating data, reports can be generated showing statistics on equipment usage, comprehensive data summaries over specific intervals of time (daily, weekly, monthly), A/C temperature settings and operation data, and data on equipment failures or other alarms. What’s more, these reports can be generated for specific areas—from all the A/C units in the building to those on a single floor to an individual piece of equipment. Reports showing student account information are also available.
  • A pay-per-use option.
    With the “pay-per-use” option, students pay for their own A/C usage. Each resident is set up with an account that uses “credits” to pay for A/C usage. Various methods can be used to add credits to student accounts, such as electronic transfers from the student’s credit/debit card. The Aircon EMS monitors A/C usage and credits are automatically deducted from the student’s account.
  • Online access to the Aircon EMS through Web-based portals.
    Students can use a browser or smart phone to access the system through the Student Portal. From there, they can manage their account, make payments (add credits), view account information, see usage statistics, and even compare their usage to the building average. Administrative staff use the Management Portal, which provides access to account management tools, reports, configuration settings, monitoring statistics, logs, and maintenance alerts and reports.
  • Centralized system configuration and administration.
    All of the Aircon EMS operation and configuration tools are available through the Management Portal. These tools are used to perform tasks such as account maintenance and logging, setting the min/max temperature range, as well as tracking and maintaining student accounts.
  • Predictive maintenance solutions based on usage data.
    The Aircon EMS monitors each device and provides real-time information though a dedicated maintenance screen. This allows maintenance personnel to be notified immediately of a problem. Logs are kept online, and work notifications are sent electronically. Predictive maintenance is made possible through a combination of usage logs and manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedules.
  • Extensible platform capabilities.
    Because the Aircon EMS platform is based on the OpenDOF Project and the CST, connected devices do not have to be limited to a particular type of A/C equipment—they don’t even have to be A/C devices at all. Any Internet of Things (IoT) device can be integrated into the system, regardless of the type of device or the manufacturer. A different type of A/C equipment or lighting equipment or any number of different devices can be added without changing the platform or “core” system. Integrating a new piece of hardware only requires the creation of a “bridge” that allows the new hardware to communicate with the system. No other changes are needed.
  • Energy consumption fell by 53%
  • Secure, Administrative Command and Control
  • Real-time data and device monitoring
  • Detailed Statistics
  • Pay-per-use option
  • Online access, via web and mobile devices, for account holders
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Extensible platform capabilities via OpenDOF and the CST

Cloud-Based Solutions: Endless Possibilities

The success of the Aircon EMS is undeniable, but the value of this cloud-based solution doesn’t stop with A/C equipment. The core of the Aircon EMS solution does not depend on the type of equipment or on the people who made it. Cloud-based solutions built on the foundation of the OpenDOF Project and the CST can accommodate nearly any device that can be part of an IoT landscape. It’s not just about making buildings more energy efficient. It’s about possibilities. There are countless businesses in a variety of industries that are finding it necessary to effectively monitor and control legacy devices while capturing massive amounts data to produce valuable analytics. Perhaps you should consider what a cloud-based platform could do for you. The possibilities are endless.