Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure was built to make energy management easier; its open-source architecture and digital
twin mandate makes joining the Industrial IoT effortless.
Little is more infuriating than when technology is mired between its analog roots and its modern smart potential.
Last year I moved from a house built in the
1920s to one from 2005. I still can’t fgure
out completely what the heck is going on with
the thermostat, a confounding digital panel
with the interface of an old Casio watch
but controls the entire environment of my
house. The previous owners had it set on
a personalized schedule of heating and
cooling that may have worked for them but
made our lives unbearable. It took months
to reprogram this device meant to make our
lives more comfortable, which was smart
enough to dictate when to turn on the air
conditioning and for how long, but not at all
intuitive in plugging in settings, so we just
adjusted the temperature manually, hoping
it would work. This house, by the way, has
a 20-foot ceiling in the living room, and its
located in rural Northeast Ohio, a place
of scorching summers and brutally cold
winters that can last from October to May.
It’s the kind of building that makes abso-
lute sense to optimize energy consumption,
but a cheap little device is getting in the
way. A smart thermostat I could control and
monitor from my smartphone could easily
solve my problem—and save me hundreds
of bucks a year—but I for some reason never
get around to it.
I bet a lot of manufacturers can relate, as
a survey I conducted this summer found that
more than half (56%) of respondents are holding off on implementing an Internet of Things
project until they fnd the right use case or
have no future plans. If I have a serious need
for the Io T, then every single manufacturer
has one, too.
Schneider Electric feels the same way and
believes this digital transformation should
be wide open. The energy management and
automation leader imbue each of its devices
with access to its EcoStruxure Io T system. This
open-source set of repeatable architectures
connects customers to devices and processes
in an entirely transparent and customizable
way for whatever facility or building is using it.
A notable early adopter was Deloitte, which
employed EcoStruxure at its paradigm of sus-tainability in Amsterdam, called the Edge. The
building uses solar panels to generate 102%
of the building’s energy needs.
For whatever user, from a factory to data
center, the tool provides a personalized solution, so you don’t have a hand-me down energy
plan like I had.
“Unlike other platforms, EcoStruxure wasn’t
meant to be an Uber to solve everything in a
very homogenized way, but to be very specifc
about the use cases around each of the major
industrial areas,” explained Andy Bennett,
former senior vice president of EcoStruxure
in North America.
He described the software platform as a
three-layer cake. The top uses data analytics,
A.I. and the cloud to drive optimization, while
the middle focuses on the edge, running mission critical applications and operations, while
the foundational layer comprises the connected
sensors and devices.
Schneider sells hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Io T assets annually, so the company has a lot to gain from making it easier for all
those non-Io T users to get smart much easier.
And the results have an immediate impact.
“When we come into a client’s setting, we
can generally fnd 30% reduction in energy
costs,” Bennet said. “Ecostruxure allows you
to look at how energy is being consumed and
intertwine that with your processes.”
This could mean examining how much is
expended moving material on a conveyor belt or
assembling product and adjusting as needed.
EcoStruxure drives optimization and effciency
by fnding where your process has waste or
partial discharge, Bennett says.
Collecting all this actionable data is facilitated by a new spin on the digital twin. The Io T
equipment Schneider manufacturers comes
with a “data dictionary” for anyone to use,
with standard code not specifc to Schneider.
In a closed loop environment, each vendor
may defne its devices differently, making it
diffcult to transfer information. A transformer’s metadata may get converted to binary data
on a unique vendor’s software, converting it to
a foreign language on a user’s system may not
Schneider found that when implementing
industrial controls in a facility for example, a
lot of time can be spent manually inputting
impedance values or materials to ft into the
overall simulation and to create an asset library.
“Half of a project’s cost was 30 people
with stacks and stacks and stacks of paper,” Bennett explained. “That’s got to end,
otherwise it’s a massive impediment for IIo T
Bennet advocates for all IoT devices to
follow this path.
“When you get ownership of that device,
receiving that digital twin should just become
standard practice,” he said.
Making these digital twins easier to obtain
enables the immediate harnessing of their
true potential. If it’s all open, a user can see
not just what their motor is doing, but the
aggregate of all that type of connected motor
used by other manufacturers.
With this knowledge, it can even alert to
potential power outages, ideally with enough
time to prevent stoppages that can cost in
Bennett knows the Io T isn’t going to make
sense for every application, and can be a bit
ridiculous, but not relying on when it can help
you it is just plain silly.
“Think of how absurd it would be if you
didn’t have a $50,000 breaker connected
so you know what’s going on with its energy
effciency and if it’s on or off,” he says.
Which reminds me. I should probably pick
up that thermostat.
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