If machines could talk

Last month analysts at global IT research firm Gartner predicted a 30 per cent year-on-year increase in “connected things”. No surprise then that an increasing number of businesses are looking to harness the power of technological advancements in a growing world of connected devices.

This explosion in connectivity is a trend that energy and services company Centrica has already grasped firmly in their hands, using the internet of things to enhance their offer to business customers across a wide range of industries.

The company’s Distributed Energy & Power business uses their Panoramic Power wireless sensor technology to turn virtually any energy-consuming device into a smart device. Their approach is to give users real-time visibility of their energy use and insights to help them boost performance. Panoramic Power managing director Yaniv Vardi believes their offer is about more than just understanding how much energy businesses are using.

Mr Vardi says: “We’re making it possible for devices and machinery to tell our customers how they’re doing: whether they’re performing badly, about to break or putting way too much energy into simple tasks. We do this by gathering device-level energy data in real time and that’s where the value really comes.”

Panoramic Power is a global pioneer in energy management and has rolled out wireless sensors across 1,000 sites worldwide. It’s a technology that’s already being applied to a growing number of industries from restaurants and retailers to manufacturers and universities.

Self-powered and wireless, the tiny orange sensors “snap and fit” on to the outgoing electrical wire at the circuit breaker, tracking energy consumption and sending it to a cloud-based analytics system every 15 seconds.

From here data is sent to an easy-to-use app that can be accessed from both smart devices and computers, bringing actionable insights straight to the customer’s fingertips. At a fraction of the price of a traditional energy management system, the system can also report on and send real-time alerts on anomalies, helping users to avoid breakdowns.

Manufacturers have been reaping the rewards of this approach, calling on Panoramic to bring down maintenance costs and prevent downtime, often seeing savings upwards of 50 per cent.

One of Mr Vardi’s stand-out examples of this approach in action is among the world’s largest building materials suppliers and cement producers. The company approached the team as they were looking to track, manage and report on asset performance at the equipment level.

Self-powered and wireless, the tiny orange sensors ‘snap and fit’ on to the outgoing electrical wire at the circuit breaker, tracking energy consumption and sending it to a cloud-based analytics system every 15 seconds

“They were looking for something user friendly that their plant managers could use to track their critical machines at remote quarries and identify system performance issues in real time,” he says.

Sixty Panoramic Power sensors were installed on monitoring pumps, conveyers and crushers at three locations within one of the company’s manufacturing sites. Using data from individual devices, the team was able quickly to identify inefficiencies in system performance and make recommendations to improve maintenance schedules and operations.

Mr Vardi adds: “Their investment paid off in just one month and resulted in a massive saving of over £200k that year, just by identifying issues with one of their conveyor motors and some out-of-hours demand from some of their buildings and plant.”

The business has now deployed sensors across 70 global sites including a number of UK quarries.

“By monitoring their assets at a device level, we’re giving customers the tools that put them in real, proactive control of their facilities with a level of visibility that simply couldn’t have been achieved before. That visibility gives insights that will positively impact the whole organisation, inspiring better ways of working and informing fast, confident, business-building decisions,” Mr Vardi concludes.

For more information please visit www.centrica.com/takecontrol