Cloud-based power monitoring solution

Kevin Jordan
Market Development Manager
ABB EP Protection and Connection

Many process and production plants, as well as power-critical facilities like data centers, have at least a basic system to warn them of power problems. A new cloud-based power monitoring solution can provide much more information and deliver measurable benefits. Panel builders or system integrators can build in this solution and build stronger customer relationships and new revenue streams in the process.

A new way to monitor and manage power
Most facility managers have only a general idea about the availability and reliability of their power. Basically, they know whether it’s on or off. What they don’t know is that having additional information about their power could help them operate more efficiently and reliably. They also don’t know that this valuable information is readily, and affordably, available to them.

Ways to do it
There are many tools available that basically serve as power sentinels. These devices, mainly metering devices and power-quality meters, sound an alarm or send an alert if there’s an outage. These solutions are very valuable during off hours or at unattended facilities when an outage might go unnoticed but could still cause serious problems. These tools are fairly limited in their functionality, basically firing a signal flare when there’s a problem; there’s no intelligence or automation available.

There are also more sophisticated, dedicated energy- management systems, as well as add-ons to your SCADA systems. These approaches provide a far more robust solution but they do it at the price of significant cost and complexity, including wiring, engineering, and maintenance. They also are almost exclusively local systems, accessible only on site.

Cloud-based power monitoring solution
A very different solution is cloud-based power and asset monitoring. One implementation of this approach is the ABB Ability(TM) Electrical Distribution Control System (EDCS). it builds on the capabilities of smart breakers and other devices to gather and transmit data not only about device status, but also other operational parameters.

One Emax 2 breaker equipped with an Ekip Com hub establishes the cloud connection for the whole switchboard or panel. This dedicated cartridge-type communication module is simply inserted into the terminal box and connected to the internet. As an alternative, an Ekip UP Unit can be mounted externally on a Din rail or through the panel door. The unit then collects and transmits data from other, networked devices, whether provided by ABB or other suppliers. Set up is remarkably easy. Panel builders or end users can establish their cloud connection in about 10 minutes.

In addition to information about power status and quality, ABB breakers can also monitor temperature, pressure, flow, and other environmental parameters. All of this data is available via a cloud architecture developed in cooperation with Microsoft that guarantees high data reliability and security.

Because the data is cloud-based, facility and energy managers can access it from anywhere. They can see data for individual devices, groups of devices, or entire facilities. Alarms and alerts can be directed to designated users and authorized individuals can access reports and analytics.

  • Beyond simply sounding the alarm during an outage, this data provides two, major benefits:
    improved power efficiency: Managers can track
    power-usage trends over time and compare usage of comparable devices for troubleshooting or optimization efforts. They can also collect data regarding actual power usage that can be valuable in negotiations or disputes with utilities.
  • improved process reliability: Alarms and alerts enable faster responses to issues. Algorithms aid in identifying worrisome trends, enabling predictive maintenance and preventing unplanned downtime. Experience has shown that EDCS can enable users to reduce their operational costs as much as 30%.

While this solution is typically, and most effectively, implemented in new panels, it can be added to existing panels as well.

Money and energy savings as a service
Power monitoring from the cloud is only half the innovation offered by this solution. it also enables panel builders to offer these capabilities as a new service to their customers. This creates new revenue and binds panel buyers more tightly to the panel builders. Software as a service, or cloud-based software like Microsoft Office 365 are becoming more common and more popular every day. EDCS offers the same kinds of benefits to industrial power users, including minimal installation time and maintenance, scalability, and automatic upgrades.

Cloud-based power and asset monitoring requires neither engineering nor special support for commissioning, so users can forget about the cost and time-consuming setup of an energy monitoring and management system involving additional components. it’s integrated with their low-voltage distribution system.

Offering this service provides a new way for panel builders to differentiate themselves by supporting customers interested in increased efficiency and reliability, and pursuing capabilities of the factory of the future. The cost of the service is relatively low, based on the length of subscription and number of devices.

A service to consider
Every process and production plant, as well as power-critical facilities like data centers, should have some sort of power monitoring system in place. Systems that provide only basic outage notification and automated power backup provide facility managers with limited improvements in their power reliability. They could realize greater reliability as well as other benefits with a more-capable approach like the ABB AbilityTM Electrical Distribution Control System.

Panel builders can include this capability in their products, elevating their perceived value and expertise in the eyes of their customers, creating closer customer connections, and establishing new revenue streams.

This approach is already well established, particularly in power-intensive industries eager for the proven benefits of cloud-based monitoring. Contrary to the old saying that ignorance is bliss, they find more truth in the saying that knowledge is power. That is especially true when they gain knowledge about their electrical power.