Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I have so far in this blog talked extensively about the mobile wireless space. Mobile wireless is very near my heart since my engineering specialization is in this field. Of late, there is one other industry that has caught my attention – Energy management and smart energy. So, I have put together a FAQ for the ‘smart’ reader that I will publish over several parts.
1. What is energy management?
Energy management is the concept that allows residential and business consumers to monitor and control the way their electrical appliances are used. The control mechanism may be in-house or remote-platform based.
2. Why would we need to control electrical appliances?
There are several reasons we want to be able to do this. Firstly, as responsible citizens of this world, we ought to give Mother Earth the respect she duly deserves. As we strive to go ‘green’, we should collectively work towards energy efficiency. Where else to begin this but at your home? Like someone said, ‘Charity begins at your home.’
Secondly, the energy companies are perennially running out of capacity and we are hit by power outages. Not only is the population growing, but the per-capita consumption of energy is also increasing by the day. The power companies are trying to device a more efficient, graceful strategy. If they can have nominal electrical usage per household, then such outages can be avoided or at least reduced. One scheme that the power companies are toying with is the idea of differential rates during peak hours. If the energy company communicates peak hour information to the user, this will encourage him/her to turn off electrical appliances that are unnecessarily running during those times.
Thirdly, there is the luxury angle. How many of us would like to have our house temperature right when we step in after an exhaustive work day? Or would you not like the A/C or the heater to fall back to a nominal temperature when you are not around?
3. How is the intelligence built into electrical appliances?
The smartness can come from several short-range communication mechanisms. A good emerging example is the use of Zigbee which is a short-range radio communication standard being promoted for home networking. Once your thermostat is equipped with a zigbee radio, it can be controlled by a central device which will also be zigbee-enabled. Suppose you have set a timer in this central device to turn off you’re A/C at 8AM when you step out of the house, zigbee signals are sent out to the A/C at the right time to enable this automation.