If embedded systems developers and companies are looking for a marketto replace the now rapidly disappearing consumer electronics market,they do not have to look very much further than the control networksnow being deployed into homes and businesses and buildings.
According to Robert A. Dolin, Chief Technology Officer, EchelonCorp., with the cost of energy rising around the globe, energyconservation has become a necessity in cities, buildings and homes.
“Embedded networking technology offers energy saving benefits formany types of applications, including monitored street lighting systemsand building automation systems,” he said. “The technology gives usersthe ability to monitor and control entire systems such as lighting andHVAC down to specific appliances.”
Dolin goes into details in the design of such systems in a class heis presenting at the Embedded Systems Conference, Silicon Valley, March30 “April 2, 2009 in San Jose, Ca., titled
In the recent U.S. presidential campaign, he said, the thencandidate and now president, Barak Obama put forth ideas to addressenergy independence, economic growth and climate change in a speechcalled: “A New Energy for America.”
“The media reports on his energy plan focused on gasoline prices,fuel efficiency of automobiles, and stimulating manufacturers andconsumers to build and buy more fuel efficient vehicles,” said Dolin.”However, if one reads the energy plan, one finds many moreinitiatives.”
In particular, he said, there is a “Commitment to Efficiency toReduce Energy Use and Lower Costs.” In that section of the plan thereare several ideas put forward: electricity demand reduction, morestringent building and appliance standards, building efficiency goals,overhauling the federal efficiency standards, incentivizing energyutilities to encourage conservation rather than consumption, andinvesting in a smart electricity grid.
“Certainly this section of the Obama energy plan is very relevantfor embedded systems and embedded controls,” said Dolin. “As engineers,we know that better controls and timely actionable information leadsdirectly to efficiency.
“That has always been the business motivation for automation infactories. However, in today's world, a great deal of energy isconsumed outside of factories. It is consumed in office buildings, inhomes, outdoor and indoor lighting, and in small retail businesses. “
These are not traditional areas for industrial automation, Dolinadmitted, and saving energy in these environments requires newapproaches. “Nevertheless, great progress in saving energy outside ofthe factory is possible today,” he said, and going into detail in hisclass on several case studies that both show what is possible today,and give an indication of the magnitude of energy that is currentlywasted on a national level.
“Deploying these energy saving applications on a national levelwould significantly reduce energy consumption and its attendantpollution and CO2 emissions.”
It is easy to confine oneself to thinking of energy conservation asturning off lights, heaters and air conditioners, said Dolin, and thesetechniques do play a role in energy conservation.
“However, these techniques are not the only ones to have an overallimpact,” he said. “For example, it may not be practical to turn off thelights in a store during business hours, or to turn off the ventilationsystem in a sealed building when it is occupied. Other techniques suchas dimming lights, time shifting when energy is used, “continuouscommissioning” and improving the power distribution network'sefficiency can have a profound effect on total energy consumption.
In his class, Dolin goes describes in detail four case studiesfocusing on the Smart Grid, Continuous Commissioning, Demand Response,Intelligent Indoor and Outdoor Lighting Systems.
“There is a common theme in these case studies,” he said. “Allrequire embedded control networking to deliver their promise of energysavings and operational efficiency. Control networking has reached apoint where its costs are low enough to be fully absorbed and deliver acompelling payback from the benefits that are returned by having localcontrol — even at a single light.
“This technology is now available at a time when energy costs haverisen and the need to address the problem of global climate change hasbecome an imperative.”
Barack Obama's energy plan includes many ambitious ideas, some ofwhich are long-term goals and will take time to achieve, he cautioned.
But as these case studies show, said Dolin, “we do not have to waitfor the innovation of new products in order to realize at least one ofObama's goals: 'Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source “Energy Efficiency.'
“That technology exists today. Those products exist today. Multiplecompanies exist today whose purpose is to deploy those products inbuildings, in homes, at utilities and on our public streets. “
Unlike many of the programs being discussed in the news, he said,these applications make good business sense without a subsidy; and witha small subsidy, the adoption rate can accelerate dramatically.
Other classes on Green Technologyand Energy Conservation at the ESC Silicon Valley in San Jose,Ca., include:
If you want to learn more about this important topic, attendthe Panelon Energy Harvesting. Hosted by Patrick Mannion, EditorialDirector of TechOnline, it will include panelists such as TI's DaveFreeman,Perpetuum's Keith Albate, Eugene You of EnOcean, Steve Grady of Cymbetand University of Illinois Energy Harvesting Researcher PatrickChapman.