What happens when everything gets smart? As computer power becomes smaller, cheaper and more available you see unexpected objects acquiring intelligence. A world where everything can communicate is sometimes called Ubiquitous Computing. It is a term associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and refers to the potential for connected devices and their benefits to become commonplace. How can this be tied to compressed air?
Basically, all industries rely on compressed air for running production. Compressed air is the most expensive source of energy used and we know from research about 50% of the energy to compressed air systems is wasted on a global basis. In the EU, as far back as 2001, it was estimated that 8 nuclear plants could be closed down if compressed air systems were running fully optimized. And yet still no compressed air systems are monitored in a way that allows for energy optimization.
Reading the Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for Energy Efficiency from the European Commission, which is working as a guide to the industry, I believe it reflects this status quo. The only actions that can be easily implemented to energy optimize the compressed air system are those where there is a supplier that can deliver a standardized service, such as a new compressor, or install a master compressor controller. Anything else requires consultancy, where the buyer can only hope the consultant has enough experience as there are no standards to rely on, or that there is in-house expertise on compressed air. At best, actions such as compressed air leakage repairs can be effected on a regular basis but no one knows the outcome of the work because there is no measurement taking place.
So how do you begin to energy optimize your compressed air system? You definitely need objective facts from measurements, and you need to have continuous monitoring to see trends and enable preventive maintenance.
As we are now in an age where ubiquitous computing is becoming reality, most everyday devices are computerized so there are plenty of opportunities to utilize standardized solutions for delivering data to cloud systems. In the cloud we find the computer power for advanced analysis, effectively making the factory smarter.
But why not send the data to the SCADA system instead, keeping the data on the factory floor? Because it has no value. You need to be an expert when it comes to your production processes, but not in compressed air. Imagine a factory where all key pneumatic components using air, such as valves and cylinders, are connected to the cloud, giving immediate insight to centralized software services and panels of experts into how the compressed air system is operating. This is the smart future we’re speeding towards so get started today and be ready
Anders, CEO of Enersize