Already in some homes, we are able to switch on our a/c, remotely, so that we come home to a cool house. Start the cooking and the washing from the office or the road, before we get home. Put the roast for dinner in the oven at 7.30am, start it remotely from the office at 4pm – an hour before we leave – and come home to dinner nearly being done. Or to a just completed wash cycle, with the clothes simply needing to be transferred to the dryer. Critical tasks in the homes of the future – some of which are already here — are being done remotely, over the internet.
The office lags behind.
The Smart Office
For a long time now, offices have had smart lighting–lighting that turns off when no one is in the room. They have generally not made the leap to smart air conditioning or heating, and that is a big cost problem for companies. Energy saving, to a large degree, still depends on human interaction.
Enter a European company called Schneider Electric, which wants to completely change Trinidad and Tobago’s green game. Schneider’s business is smart energy management, which is all about saving companies big bucks by managing their energy consumption, from any place at any time. From the wall socket, to big server stacks. They operate in more than 100 countries, have 137 000 employees, and last year generated 25.7b Euro in revenue.
The way Schneider does it is simple in concept, if not in practice. Algorithms determine where power is or isn’t being used optimally, and issue corrections where they need to. The cost savings to companies can be huge, in some instances as much as 30% of operating expenses.
Manuel Rodrigues, Sales Director for the Caribbean for Schneider’s IT Division, gives LITT example of a single office building. The company’s management could see in their bills that it was using too much energy, and suspected a fault in the cooling system.
So Schneider ran their algorithm, and “we were able to identify one Megawatt of savings per year in that one building, (yielding) US$440,000 per year in savings in operational expenses”, said Rodrigues
From that building alone the company paid for hiring the technology, and saved close to $4m. From just that building.
The Trinidad Connection
Schneider wants to replicate that success up and down the Caribbean, and has chosen T&T company Massy Technologies as its tech partner in the push. Massy has a Caribbean-wide footprint, and according to Schneider, is at ‘Elite’ status, the highest on its partnership scale.
In the age of artificial intelligence, automation, machine learning and robotics, fewer core job functions are being performed by human hands. The World Economic Forum estimates that 850 million jobs now performed by humans will be done by machines in the next 11 years. That is digital transformation. What Schneider and Massy are bringing to the Caribbean, according Ian John, CEO of Massy Technologies, is digital transformation of energy management.
“Trinidad and Tobago has been blessed with an abundance of oil and gas over the past so many decades, which has made us gobblers of energy in a way that is not sustainable”, says John.
Even though energy costs are cheap, T&T can no longer afford the luxury of using energy carelessly and inefficiently, because of the current tough economic times. The potential cost savings to business would be money they need badly for other parts of their operations. Companies have to have the ability, with internet access, to manage and regulate their energy needs remotely.
T&T has been slow to embrace the green revolution, and John says that the technology they’ll be using would help to push the country in a more sustainable direction. Smart offices, smart buildings, more schoolchildren learning related skills such as coding.
Rodrigues is excited by the potential scale… from smart switches that de-activate when we leave a room, to smart buildings and smart companies with energy remote-controlled from anywhere in the world, to energy smart countries.
Though T&T is only now waking up to the green challenge, the government in the last year invited bids for green initiatives. They can see, from the example set by countries like the United Arab Emirates, that some of the leading green tech countries are those with the biggest hydrocarbon reserves. Schneider and Massy want to lead the way.