EV charging and mobile connectivity come together in smart buildings - Embedded.com

EV charging and mobile connectivity come together in smart buildings

The widespread adoption of electric vehicles is currently driving the smart deployment of both EV charge points and mobile connectivity.

Commercial mixed-use buildings could play a critical role in the renewable-energy ecosystem, with energy generation now possible at the property level via solar panels, and facility managers should take advantage of the opportunity to consider their energy-management strategies and how to profit from the energy their buildings are generating. The answer could lie in the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) and the energy-storage infrastructure that supports them.

EVs are, at their most basic, giant batteries on wheels that need to be recharged when stationary. The U.K. government has recently pledged to support the rollout of 300,000 public charge points as a minimum by 2030, and principal plug-in points apart from residential dwellings could include the workplace, supermarkets, shopping centers, and train-station parking lots.

Seamless mobile connectivity is central to person-not-present transactions

While introducing EV charging stations and power-storage facilities to any commercial property offers an easy means for facility managers to leverage their “mini grid” infrastructure to generate a supplementary revenue stream, a couple of baseline factors need to be addressed first. These are:

  • The non-standardization of payment options
  • The lack of a reliable mobile phone signal for payment authentication and validation

There are currently 30+ charging networks across the U.K., and very few of their associated charging stations accept card payments unless they are network-specific. Instead, EV charge-point payment processes are reliant on the public downloading an app or creating an account so that payment can be made in advance, and both these options require internet access. Not only do these payment methods pose connectivity challenges, particularly in underground locations due to lack of 4G coverage in the first place, until the different networks standardize payment processes, consumers could be obliged to acquire up to 30 different apps or cards, depending on where they are traveling to.

Apart from needing an internet connection for operability purposes, these different payment methods must also incorporate one-time authorization-code capabilities to meet the latest PSTN rules pertaining to cardholder-not-present transactions. Said codes are dynamically created and delivered via SMS or MMS for user-verification purposes, and this requires cellular connectivity.

No mobile coverage could result in expensive white elephants

Unless this is taken into account at the implementation phase, facility managers run the risk of investing in expensive white elephants because the parking lots where the EV charge points will be installed are likely to be below street level with no mobile coverage. Having a strong 4G signal above ground can be very hit and miss in busy urban environments because of line-of-sight issues and physical obstructions such as tall buildings and trees, which impact mobile-signal strength. The situation immediately deteriorates below ground because building materials like glass, steel, and reinforced concrete are the ultimate mobile-signal blockers.

Enterprise buildings will have the bandwidth and resources to commission a third party to manage the rollout of an EV charge-point infrastructure and associated connectivity and coverage requirements. In smaller properties, the facility managers will be responsible for ensuring mobile coverage, and the vast majority have limited expertise in this field.
“Without a reliable mobile network signal, EV charging business models and solutions can be problematic; a reliable mobile network signal is an integral part of capturing and transporting data for billing purposes,” said Kelly Tedesco, managing director of NG Bailey’s IT Services division. “Most recently, the U.K. government introduced new legislation that makes the inclusion of EV charge points mandatory in all new building projects, as well as those undergoing major renovation — all part of its ‘electric vehicle revolution.’ This means no commercial property owner can afford to be complacent about the future of EVs and the solutions they may require.”

The outdoor mobile network must be accessible below street level

Facility managers will need an easy and cost-effective means of taking the outdoor network into their underground parking lots using supplementary equipment such as mobile-signal boosters — not just to support EV charge-point payments but to provide straightforward voice and data services that we all take for granted. Achieving reliable in-building mobile coverage is no longer an arduous task now that Ofcom has relaxed its mobile-repeater rules. The only caveat is that any installed repeaters must satisfy Ofcom’s mobile-repeater license-exemption specification pertaining to noise and interference, and not many do. An example of one such solution is Cel-Fi by Nextivity.

The drive to replace petrol/diesel vehicles with hybrid/electric alternatives is gaining momentum fast, and so too is the rollout of the associated power and storage infrastructure. The U.K. government has pledged to install up to 145,000 extra charge points per annum across England in the run up to 2030, when the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will come to an end. Under the initiative, not only are new homes and non-residential buildings required to provide charge-point facilities, but any property undergoing large-scale renovations that leave them with 10+ parking spaces will also be required to install EV charge points.

Now is the time for facility managers to take action and re-evaluate their underpinning communication infrastructure to ensure it’s up to the task at hand, because mobile coverage isn’t just the enabler to online payments — it’s integral to wider smart-building technologies. Those that fail to do so could find themselves short of tenants.

>> This article was originally published on our sister site, Power Electronics News.

Colin Abrey is vice president of channel sales for the EMEA region at Nextivity. He has spent more than 30 years in wireless and international telecoms industries and held senior positions with several leading companies operating in this space, including Anixter, Zinwave, Cambridge Broadband Networks, and Global Network Solutions (a division of L-3 Communications). He has deployed many large-scale in-building projects, including airports, convention centers, hospitals, malls, commercial buildings, sports stadiums, and hotels.

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