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Sustainability: Powering smart buildings with IoT

Tan Zhai Yun
Tan Zhai Yun • 4 min read
Sustainability: Powering smart buildings with IoT
Firms can better understand their real-time interval energy consumption and demand by leveraging IoT for smart buildings. Photo: Unsplash
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Energy-efficient technologies are seen as low-hanging fruit for businesses to achieve digital transformation and be more sustainable. This is enabled by advances in technology and innovative solutions offered by service providers.

For instance, UOB Malaysia launched a financing programme called U-Energy last December to connect businesses and homeowners with energy service companies that provide renewable energy, energy-efficient or power management systems, among others. Building owners can opt for an “energy-as-a-service” model and pay no upfront costs while homeowners can take up a 0% interest instalment plan.

Many technology companies have begun offering energy management solutions powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies.

“The use of data-driven technology can help companies better understand their real-time interval energy consumption and demand. For example, industrial companies are embedding intelligence into equipment to enjoy greater visibility over how the equipment is used, have a deeper understanding of the supply chain and optimise control over monitoring and diagnostics,” says Astri Ramayanti Dharmawan, country general manager of Schneider Electric Malaysia and Brunei, one of the energy service providers for U-Energy.

She gives an example of Schneider Electric’s East Asia and Japan headquarters in Singapore, which is housed in a 27-year-old building. The green structure uses solar panels both on- and off-site and is poised to become a carbon-neutral building.

“That is made possible with the use of smart building technologies, installation of on-site energy storage and strategic energy purchasing. We’ve also integrated real-time data from the meteorological weather forecast to help improve the building’s energy sufficiency and system performance,” says Astri.

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According to its website, the retrofitted building reduced its carbon footprint by 45% following a decrease in energy consumption.

Meanwhile, the company’s Batam Smart Factory in Indonesia uses Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, such as smart sensors, alarm prediction management, site benchmarking and augmented reality (AR), to empower its workforce.

According to reports, its workers use AR and smart glasses that connect them to experts remotely for equipment troubleshooting and repairs. The IIoT monitors machine performance and automatically alerts the workers if something is wrong.

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“As a result, the factory has reported a 44% reduction in machine downtime over one year and a 40% improvement in on-time delivery,” says Astri.

The types of technologies used in energy management include IoT, cloud analytics and real-time monitoring of processes. IoT and monitoring software allows businesses to manage their energy use and adopt renewable energy, she explains. They also help companies report on their sustainability measures.

“These technologies make it possible to track the performance of materials and equipment and enable accurate reporting,” she adds.

This ability is important, as many businesses are challenged to measure their carbon emissions and track the performance of their mitigation actions. Many businesses are also hoping to source renewable energy and implement energy efficiency to reach their net-zero goals.

Going for 100% renewable energy, however, can be challenging if businesses rely on the grid. While Malaysia aims to transition away from coal as an energy source, the country will rely on natural gas a lot over the next decade, according to an analysis by IHS Markit last July.

“The transition to natural gas may not be a viable solution to completely replace coal but should only be a temporary replacement, as it would mean an increase in dependence on fossil fuel of around 60% in Peninsular Malaysia,” says Astri.

“The extraction of fossil fuel to create natural gas is also inefficient, leading to 60% of it being wasted. Half is lost in the production of electricity and the other half from the use of the fuel in inefficient combustion engines or heating systems.”

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This is where technology can make a difference, Astri believes. “We want to be Malaysia’s digital partner for sustainability and efficiency. This is achieved by driving digital transformation with energy technologies for company management, homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries.”

Through U-Energy, Schneider offers its EcoStruxure Building technologies, which use IoT to power smart buildings. Meanwhile, its Wiser Home and Wiser Energy solution for homeowners enables users to track and manage their daily energy consumption. Other energy service providers for U-Energy include ENGIE, Plus Xnergy, Sonepar and IAQ Solutions.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia

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