By Filippo Ferraris – Co-Founder and CPO of Enerbrain
Filippo Ferraris starts from “IoT”, Internet of Things, claiming that products such as smartwatches are not exploited as much as they can considering their rapid replacement with other increasingly innovative gadgets, a perspective that is far away from the concept of sustainability. The IoT was born with the aim of changing the planet and solving people’s problems in their daily lives. In 1991 the first IoT product was born in the laboratory of Cambridge University by Quentin Stafford and Paul Jardetzki: it was the Trojan Room Coffee Camera, thanks to which it was possible to remotely control whether the coffee maker in the Trojan Room, which required very long time to make the coffee, was full or not, and thus avoiding a useless journey from the workplace to the room.
For this reasons IoT tools are born, with the aim of solving a problem. For example, a smartwatch can be used as a tool to control arrhythmia and get to know your health status in real time, by performing supporting functions for individuals. To date, the number of connected devices is 40 billion and it is no expected to stop. From computers to household appliances, from traffic lights to electrical outlets, in 2020 this value will reach 50 billion given the continuous development in IoT.
Even if we don’t realize it – says Ferraris – we produce an incredible amount of data that is stored and used by third parties to make IoT products. An example is Netatmo smart thermostats which collect data on temperature that are then publicly shared, selling them to companies that make weather forecasts.
These devices are leading the city to be increasingly “smart” because of its ability to obtain data from what surround them.
When it comes to IoT, it is necessary to understand that storing information within servers consumes energy: 5 billion terabytes of data are collected every 5 minutes. From the incorporation phase to their actual use, the process is not simple and can experience several problems. The basic steps are:
- the exposure layer, consisting of devices such as totems, computers, smartphones and tablets that, connected to Internet, retrieve data;
- “data saving”, saving data in cloud servers;
- the backend and data “crunching”, a cleaning up of data thanks to the backend servers;
- the transmission of data, via local gate to IoT products;
- data gathering and implementation, that is further recovery of information and implementation of IoT processes.
Enerbrain aims to be economically sustainable through the use of technologies in existing buildings. This objective mitigates the problem of the large energy consumption of buildings on the planet, that is 40%. The basic idea is that the building can learn from us thanks to the data we provide to it and that it can thus regulate its consumption in real time or predict our needs. It is about feeling, thinking and acting in a circular way by making better use of existing resources. This occurs through the installation of environmental sensors, which perceive the data, that are processed by an algorithm that adjusts itself according to our needs and activate IoT technologies, implementing the best strategy to satisfy them. An example is the Carignano Theater in Turin where energy savings accounts for 23%.
Another project, also in Turin, is the installation of IoT devices in 89 public buildings. Despite the high number of sites where the system will be installed, the connection of each single IoT element takes place in few hours, so the installation in all the buildings will be completed in 3-4 weeks.
The implementation of this system in 89 municipal buildings has a similar impact, in terms of CO2 reduction, of planting 100 thousand trees, bearing in mind that the city of Turin currently has 110 thousand trees, therefore it means doubling the effect from these products.
The vision of Ferraris not only deals with the present but also faces the future by taking up the concept of “demand response“, that is to predict real-time changes, especially climatic ones, in order to shift energy consumption in times of greatest need or when the energy has a lower cost. The effect would be a saving of millions of Euros for the administration and for the utility since it will not be necessary to buy energy from abroad for example.
Another topic is the “blockchain”, which for example can be used to certify the green origin of energy, not only from production plants but also from micro-transactions that would allow to use the energy produced by our neighbors if they are not using it at that time. The advantage is twofold towards consumers and the environment.
In the near future, all the elements mentioned could be combined; both electricity production and consumption prediction algorithms can be combined with:
• demand response technologies, which allow the reduction of consumption of thousands of buildings to cover a peak in demand;
• blockchain technologies that allow to acquire energy from the neighbor when he is producing a quantity that exceeds his need;
• actuators and sensors that allow to perceive the status and needs of a specific building by adapting consumption.