With devices able to provide a profile of their energy usage and using networks to collect usage in a granular way, this technology has the potential to really help limit energy usage. Another longer term goal is to add the energy used to create a product to its bill of materials.
Thanks for covering this. There is definitely a lot of work being done in this space. Check out a related story I did on a company trying to save even more power by taking power management out of the microcontroller: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=257631
It's definitely related to these types of devices and could become an important factor to developing them.
We re-opened our newly-renovated Science and Technology building in the Fall of 2009 and started to bring hordes of guests through on campus tours. One such group was a class of visiting 6th graders that marveled at all of the lighting controls in the rooms, and in the bathrooms, all of the automatic lights, automatic flushes, automatic faucets, and automatic towel dispensers. And then one enterprising 6th grader asked the $10,000 question - "If this building was designed to save energy, why does it use power to turn everything on for you?" After a momentary pause, I replied, "The saving of energy does not come from automatically turning everything on. It comes from automatically turning everything off."
Thankfully he accepted that answer and we could continue the tour...
I agree, tekochip. It's amazing to walk the floor of a big production plant and see how much energy gets wasted by idle machinery. Sometimes, there's a cost-benefit analysis that needs to be made in such situations, but I can't imagine how the downside of this could possibly exceed the upside.
I agree that it is surprising that we aren't shaving energy consumption through use of smart controls. Until recently, it just wasn't a priority. And now, we need to see how many resources will be devoted to saving on energy usage in plants. Even at home, I look at the thermostat and know much more could be done to reduce costs. Still haven't researched and implemented a much better solution there ... and it's my money.
I never designed an Industrial device, but it's shameful how much power we used to throw away in the Appliance world. The DOE had all sorts of regulations on presenting the proper default wash temperature, but then we would throw away a Watt or more in the power supply so we wouldn't have to buy a transformer. That's a Watt sitting at idle. What's funny is that when the unit was running we had to save power everywhere else, operating the control like a spacecraft because we didn't have enough power for everything on the control, yet we were throwing gobs of power away in heat all for the glory of a low Bill Of Material. Some people sneered when the DOE starting putting regulations on idle power, but people in the industry knew that we had been very, very wasteful and would have continued the practice had we not been forced to change.
So now an engineer has to be a fortune teller (or prophet) to see into the future how long a device is 'idle'. And yet, my engineering pay seems to have stagnated over the last two years!
I do see this technology as needed in applications of motion control, pumps, and other relatively quick start-up equipment. But long response items like ovens or tanks do not like to be shutdown for periods of time. Although, I have used temperature setback features for known intervals (like scheduled maintenance or weekend shutdowns).
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