Many of our clients are embracing the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is dramatically changing the way computing is woven into everyday business operations. With the IoT, a range of devices connects to the internet, creating the ability to implement an end-to-end solution that allows businesses to use data analytics to extract and act upon valuable information. In fact, data is the primary value of the IoT, and machine-driven data is expected to grow by a factor of 15x between 2014 and 2020, according to information technology research firm International Data Corporation. Gartner forecasts that 25 billion connected things will be in use in 2020.
Manufacturers in a variety of industries are integrating IoT technologies, and among them, 82 percent have experienced increased efficiency, 49 percent have experienced fewer product defects, and 45 percent have experienced increased customer satisfaction as a result, according to a recent survey by the American Society for Quality.
In particular, the IoT is enabling companies in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry to act on data to take a fresh look at their current operations and create efficiencies. The American Council for Energy Efficiency estimates that if all U.S. households and businesses were to take advantage of these technologies, energy use could be reduced by 12 to 22 percent, which equates to tens of hundreds of billions of dollars in savings.
One of our clients, recognizing this potential, turned to us for help creating a data-driven solution. The company incorporates high-performance pressure independent control valves into HVAC systems to allow for a more intelligent method of controlling the climate in individual rooms, buildings and office parks. The client was driven to help organizations better manage costs related to commercial heating and air conditioning control systems.
Statistical analysis of data collected via climate-control systems and existing building automation systems affords the opportunity to more precisely control the climate of a building or group of buildings. This level of control allows senior management to determine where energy is being used – and, correspondingly, where money is being spent. It allows building operators to better manage the climate in individual rooms, buildings or campuses. Precise control also reduces the resources needed for troubleshooting and addressing problems with the HVAC system due to central control of the systems and the ability to better pinpoint issues with the system.
To address these challenges, the new company needed to create a proof of concept for its vision, define the minimum viable product, then develop the first production product, so its executives decided to tap into ProKarma’s expertise to reach these milestones.
Because the client needed a way to communicate value, collect data and control a distributed hardware network remotely, ProKarma helped create a streamlined data pipeline that allowed it to collect the information required, display the correct information to the clients who owned the data and give engineers access to devices from a central location. Access to the precision-control system was via a Web app, and ProKarma designed the embedded system’s software for control and optimization of sensors and control valves – the software layer, or interface, with which the client’s customers and technicians interacted.
The end solution, which utilized relational databases, sensors and Linux boxes that reported to the database using a web API, included an extensive feature set that allowed multiple consumers to benefit. C-level executives could view information about the building at the campus or building level to determine where money was being spent on energy use. Because the solution worked with existing building-operation systems, building operators could log in to the app to better control building climates, choosing when to override the existing automated controls and responding to occupant comfort. A field engineer suite allowed technicians to monitor, analyze and update the control system, and enabled remote management and firmware updates for the system hardware – reducing the time and resources needed to send engineers out to examine individual connections for problems. ProKarma also created an app that allowed technicians to scan a Quick Response (QR) code to quickly identify a piece of equipment and the associated information.
By working with the client from ideation to production over the seven-month engagement, ProKarma was able to develop a state-of-the-art holistic architecture that allowed the client to expand rapidly, empowering new customers and partners with the tools and data they needed to optimize their controls, saving money and reducing energy use.