- Monitoring technologies: These monitor the living environment for critical aspects of everyday green living.
- Actuation technologies: These help to actuate, i.e. turn on/off devices in an automated manner.
- Control technologies: Controllers enable processing, storing and communicating of data and they typically take in the monitored data, and use it to manage the actuation of devices.
These three elements of technology together are termed as ‘Automation’. Surmount Energy has been on the forefront of home and community automation in India with its BuildTrack suite of automation products. They are intended to promote green living to its fullest sense, by enhancing the level of safety, security, convenience and energy savings possible for each individual home as well as the overall housing community. The automation products focus on Monitoring, Actuation and Control, which altogether make it easier to achieve ‘Green for Life’.
Monitoring refers to the ability to sense the surroundings and provide important information pertaining to it so that either residents or automated devices can take action in response to the monitored data. Monitoring can encompass a wide variety of aspects, such as, sensing of:
- Quality of air (e.g. excess levels of CO2 etc) in a space
- Presence of smoke, fire or gas leak or other chemical effluents in a space
- Level of daylight available in a space
- Temperature level in a space
- Presence of a person or motion
- Opening of a door
- Request for help based on button trigger
- Water level in a tank
- Level of consumption of resources (e.g. energy, water, gas)
During the design of green buildings, benchmarks are set for the consumption of water, electricity and other parameters. These benchmarks set during the design process need to be compared against the actual data during operation, so that the residents can be aware of the impact of their actions. Much of the monitoring is done through sensors or meters.
The BuildTrack suite of sensors that achieves this can easily be deployed in a wired or wireless mode, individually or in a network to ensure that the desired parameters within a home or community can be cost effectively monitored and recorded. While monitoring is an important step, it is insufficient without appropriate actions to follow it.
Actuation refers to the actions of operating electrical devices. Actuation typically follows from any monitoring event as it is typical to respond to monitored data with some action. Sometimes actuation can be done directly in response to a monitored event (e.g. an alarm being actuated, when intrusion is being sensed by a motion sensor) and at other times it may be initiated through controllers. Some examples of typical actuations needed in individual homes or in communities are listed here and these may be initiated automatically in response to the monitored event.
- Motors closing curtains/shades when there is excessive glare in a room
- Fan or air-conditioning turning on when the ambient temperature exceeds certain levels
- Lights turning on when daylight recedes to certain levels
- Alarm or a communication (SMS/internet) initiated on door intrusion or window glass break
- Alarm or communication initiated with fire authorities on detection of smoke or fire
- Water pumps turning on/off when water level reaches certain levels
- STP turning on/off in response to certain indicators
- Generators turning on/off the in response to power situation
Actuators can sometimes be directly linked to the sensors to take action like in the case of motion sensor linked directly to a light where the light is turned on based on any motion being sensed. BuildTrack™ suite of Actuators is created to support every situation where a device needs to be automatically controlled, no matter how small or large. However, sometimes the nature of requirements can be more complex and requires more intelligence to decide what needs to be actuated and when, based on the monitored data. Additionally, in many green buildings or communities, monitored data need to be recorded, e.g. electrical or water meter readings.
This intelligence is provided via controllers which usually are go-between the sensors and the actuators. Data from the monitoring sensors are fed to the controllers which in turn send commands to the actuators to undertake action. The controller(s) can either operate locally based on intelligence embedded within them, or they can depend on intelligence and processing in a remote ‘cloud’ over the internet. The latter also allows storage of monitored data in database applications which would also have logic and algorithms that serve as the intelligence. Such capability helps ensure that benchmarks set for green parameters (e.g. air, water, energy) during the design of the building are being met during the actual operation of the building.
The comparison of the design data to actual performance data serves as an ongoing guide to the residents and operators. BuildTrack automation controllers offer a range of flexible options, wired and wireless, local or connected to the cloud. They interact seamlessly with web based and mobile software to provide command and control options that make it feasible for residents and community managers to more easily achieve their green living objectives.
Together these automation technologies have the potential to enable green living by efficiently enhancing the safety, security, convenience and resource conservation aspects of an operating building and community. They allow us to go beyond just green design, and to enable ‘Green for Life’.