It seems strange thinking back just 10 years to 1995, when this report on the
current status of Energy Management Systems and controls would have been
manually keyed in, edited, spell checked, printed, walked to a fax machine and a
hard copy mailed separately. In just a short period of time, the whole procedure
has been replaced with voice input, artificial intelligence for automatic
document editing (to the users personality) and seamless worldwide electronic
mailing and filing. Just as the changes in handling the lowly memo have
occurred, the world of Energy Management Systems merely resembles the crude
systems implemented in 1995.
In 1991, an
historian of some minor fame published
one of the first
10 year projections on Energy Management Systems. Although some of the predictions for 2001
were actually available in the 90's, it took a few more years to perfect the technology,
price it competitively and gain customer acceptance.
By 1995, the following new technologies could be found as a first or second
generation design in isolated systems:
- Adaptive Controls
- Fuzzy Logic Controllers
- Radio Frequency Data Transmition
- Computers in Light Bulbs and Light Fixtures
- "Gateways" Between Automation Systems of Numerous Vendors
- Integration Between CAD and Facilities Management Systems
- Voice Recognition
- Partial Motion Video
- Stereo Sound
Unfortunately, these new technologies had not been commonly integrated into
all of the Energy Management Systems in 1995 because they were often crude and
expensive to integrate. And although the prices of computers continued to drop
and their features continued to expand as predicted, the $1 or even $10 computer
was still another 5 to 10 years away. One of the main roadblocks that prevented
lowering the cost of a full function computer to this level was not the CPU
itself. The cost of the box to hold it, power supplies and transceivers
overshadowed the cost of the CPU.
Only in the year 2005, did the NC ("Network Computer") replace the PC.
Finally perfected and manufactured in large quantities, prices came down to the
one to two dollar level. With this much technology on a chip, it became silly
not having a computer integrated into every device. These new NC's were able to
integrate memory, computations, built-in environmental sensors, communications
and power output devices directly on a chip in a package no bigger than the
early transistors. The NC was now small enough with exceptional computational
ability that it would easily fit into the tiniest device. With flexible
communications capability and artificial intelligence, the NC would
automatically network correctly with its brethren and form a working Energy
Management System with only minor prompting from the operator.
Here is an example of the ease of integrating changes to an Energy Management
System that is now available but only dreamed of in the 90's. Although this
scenario was originally projected for 2001, only recently has the ease described
below been achieved.
- An operator wants to add a sensor to previously un-monitored room.
- The operator goes to the storeroom and picks up the $10 sensor.
- When the operator peels off the self-adhesive backing and sticks it on the
wall, several things simultaneously occur:
- Power is supplied to the unit by a built-in solar cell with battery
- The sensor starts broadcasting that it is now alive. This broadcast may
be infrared, radio wave, or microwave.
- The computer recognizes the sensor, assigns a point number internally to
the computer and within the sensor.
- The system will know the location by triangulation of the signal and its
internal map of the building.
- The system will then start a self-optimization routine to discover the
appropriate control strategies to utilize this new sensor.
- By the time the operator returns, the data for this sensor will be fully
integrated with the man/machine interface. Information will be presented to
the operator in the format that the operator prefers without ever once
issuing a request.
The following additional technologies are in the early stages of
implementation in 2005 and should be fully integrated into Energy Management
Systems: 1) Full modeling and predictive software routines, 2) full video and
audio on a chip, now you can see and hear what's going on from the operator's
console, 3) realtime purchase of electricity, gas and other fuels, and 4)
holistic systems with self-monitoring and repair features.
My desire in writing the continuing saga of the future of Energy Management
is to stimulate the industry's imagination into designing and supplying even
better systems than in the past. Technology has evolved from the 70's when I
worked on my first programmable logic controller to the 80's and the
simultaneous emergence of the PC based system through the 90's multi-media,
graphical environment. Computational power has increased, prices decreased while
software has become more sophisticated and yet more friendly too. I firmly
believe that the systems of the future will improve even more significantly than
the past 20 years. By the year 2005, when this story's setting supposedly
occurred, Energy Management Systems will be more intelligent, easier to use,
less expensive to install and energy costs will be reduced even more.
© 1995 George R. Owens.