Yaniv Vardi, Managing Director of Centrica’s acclaimed Panoramic Power arm, tells FM Magazine his company is helping businesses harness the IoT by generating actionable energy insights.
Despite pioneering device-level energy management solutions for smart buildings in the United States, Panoramic Power is a relative newcomer to European markets. Is Centrica's acquisition of the platform going to change that?
Founded in 2009, Panoramic Power is a global pioneer in energy management solutions and was named one of the Top 100 Internet of Things (IoT) start-ups by Forbes.
Using our innovative and affordable solution, organisations across a wide range of vertical sectors gain actionable insights into their energy usage and are able to reduce energy costs and generate revenues while optimising improving operational efficiencies, processes and resources. We deliver a return on investment (ROI) by offering a comprehensive set of energy management and operational services that also support corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives.
We became part of Centrica’s Distributed Energy & Power business in 2015, following an existing exclusive partnership in the US. The business has been established to help large energy users to take control of their energy so understanding exactly what energy they are using and where the opportunities are to improve operational performance is a natural place for many to start.
What are other advantages are there in belonging to a global energy group?
A key part of our success to date is the fact that the Panoramic Power solution is not territory or vertical sector specific, which means it is entirely flexible and suits organisations of all shapes and sizes. We have already deployed more than 40,000 sensors at 1,000 sites across 35 countries and working as part of Centrica will help us expand our global footprint even further.
In addition to leading Panoramic Power, I’ve also taken on responsibility for expanding our distributed energy proposition outside of the UK and North America, using our energy insights to help customers make more informed decisions about what technologies to invest in, such as combined heat and power (CHP) or battery storage. I see our role as ‘joining the dots’, showing customers how to optimise their use of renewable energy assets and batteries, for example, and maximise revenue and streamline their operations.
How does the Panoramic Power platform work?
Our solution consists of completely non-invasive, wireless and self-powered circuit level technology, coupled with cloud based analytics. It has been carefully designed to be as simple to install, operate and maintain as possible, with no disturbance to daily operations. Quite simply, we are yet to come across an organisation that cannot benefit from using it.
By clamping on the outgoing electrical wire from the circuit breaker, our patented sensors harvest the magnetic field as a power source for monitoring the flow of electricity and can send information wirelessly in real-time. Hundreds of sensors can be installed in just a few hours and by transmitting data wirelessly through the bridge, they deliver energy information every 10 seconds to PowerRadar, Panoramic Power’s cloud based analytics platform.
PowerRadar provides users with a powerful interface to monitor, measure, report, and understand electrical energy consumption. This information can be reported in three ways – firstly, via a mobile application that can be loaded on to a tablet or smartphone. Secondly, automatically generated reports can be requested at regular intervals and, last but not least, facilities managers can log-in to an Internet based application via a PC, which allows them to access highly specific data.
This insight into real time energy usage enables users to optimise their operations, processes and maintenance resources, and identify what devices are using most energy. The level of granular detail available means that proactively controlling and actively managing energy rates by shifting loads, or by reducing loads in real time, is possible.
Energy intensive devices can be easily identified and improvements made, while benchmarks of consumption and historical data can be accessed, so users can see what they used, for example, on the same day last year and identify any anomalies at a glance. Automatically generated alarms and notifications can be configured, so that users are alerted when energy consumption falls outside or exceeds predefined parameters.
This historical data can be used to report on environmental impact and sustainability measures and objectives. Similarly, it can report accurate data to help comply with energy related regulations, green initiatives and industry standards.
There are significant operational benefits to be gained from using Panoramic Power’s technology, such as preventative and condition based maintenance. For example, if a chiller is short-cycling, a facilities manager can be alerted and initiate measures to prevent damage and downtime. It can also highlight inefficiencies in the plant – thereby maintaining performance and productivity.
Doesn't the reliance on cloud computing mean it is more suitable for bigger companies and organisations?
On the contrary – I believe that the cloud offers significant benefits for organisations of all sizes. For instance, small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) without a complex IT infrastructure don't have to invest in additional hardware.
Different vertical sectors will focus on their particular needs when it comes to using Panoramic Power. Retail and commercial buildings tend to prioritise energy management, reporting and reduction, while manufacturing and heavy industry are susceptible to out of control maintenance costs and system failures, and consider preventative maintenance as critical. Meanwhile, multi-site food organisations with large numbers of highly dispersed, small facilities can benefit from identifying which of their sites are the most energy efficient.
Why the ‘I can get your machines talking’ tagline?
Adding intelligence to passive devices is at the heart of Centrica’s offer.. Machines are smarter than we think – they're just not very good communicators –with Panoramic Power we’re using the IoT to give them a voice and, in turn, make them more effective. Put simply, empowering machines to effectively capture information for analysis and action uncovers hidden value through facility and asset optimisation.
Does Panoramic Power support Building Information Modelling (BIM)?
BIM generates and manages information about a building during its entire lifecycle, through the digital representation of physical and functional characteristics. It enables swift and accurate comparison of different design options, enabling development of more efficient, cost effective and sustainable solutions. BIM models contain product information that assists with commissioning, operation and maintenance activities, which are proven to deliver significant operational expenditure (OpEx) saving.
Panoramic Power recognises the potential of BIM and we have a longstanding partnership with Autodesk, which allows our technology to be integrated with its models to improve building maintenance and operation.
How easily does the platform integrate with common building management systems (BMS) or computer aided facilities management (CAFM) systems?
As well as being a standalone system, Panoramic Power is designed to complement rather that compete with BMS and CAFM, and can be fully integrated with these technologies. We use a publicly available application programming interface (API) that provides developers with programmatic access to a proprietary software application. Open API makes it possible for application programs to interact, communicate with each other and share data.
However, it should be remembered that while some BMS and CAFM solutions are complex and focus on controlling and scheduling plant, Panoramic Power is different. Our key objective is to provide the kind of energy insight and visibility that enables efficiencies to be achieved.
One criticism of IoT based platforms is the focus on machinery to the exclusion of people and processes. Does this apply to Panoramic Power?
According to Intel, the IoT is predicted to grow from two billion objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020, when there will be around 26 smart objects for every human being on Earth. IBM claims that every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – according to the US definition that’s one followed by 18 zeros – and to put that huge number into perspective, it equates to filling up 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads.
The IoT is clearly transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us in ways that would have previously seemed to be the stuff of science fiction. That said, this technology and any data collected can only be considered useful if it directly benefits people and processes by providing actionable and meaningful insight.
Data on its own is no good – it's what you do with it that counts – and at Centrica, that means helping people and processes to be more efficient and effective by providing greater visibility of their energy use and joining the dots between machines.