Gerry Lands, President, EnFlex Corp.
An enterprise-wide facilities monitoring and control system should be based on a logical, hierarchical structure with an intelligent, interactive gateway at its heart.
At its lowest level are digital and analog inputs and outputs connected to a dedicated controller, which is in turn connected to a network host computer. Information from host computers is aggregated into a larger entity, the facility-representing, for the sake of this model, one building. Several facilities can be grouped into a site or into site groups. At the top of this network structure is the command center (or help desk), which contains the master enterprise database and software that supports information delivery throughout the enterprise. Together, this structure provides the kind of real-time information companies need to efficiently operate facilities, maintain support systems, procure energy and deliver value-added services.
The database should be compatible with the existing data structure, be accessible by the facility information gateways, and be compatible with the data visualization, reporting, and network software used by the enterprise. Information technology management should, in conjunction with network users and facility management personnel, carefully map out the specifications for a consolidated, SQL-compliant facility information database.
To make information useful, there are a number of software packages featuring data graphing, filtration and viewing capabilities-which enable users to spot anomalies and easily recognize subtle data trends. The following options available are:
- Energy views (electrical, gas, steam, etc.): The user can examine real-time demand, energy, and demand-control information and dispatch commands related to these functions.
- Alarm views (HVAC, refrigeration, Indoor Air Quality, etc.): The user can view and respond to real-time alarms by individual site or site group.
- System operation and efficiency views: View screens will allow the user to monitor the status or performance of a facility system in real time, as well as concurrently display performance and historical reports.
- Weather and climate views: Weather significantly affects energy demand and usage, so monitoring of this data is critical to the effective management of energy resources.
- Historical views: Historical data concurrently compared to real time data is a necessity for providing a frame of reference on which to base facility and energy management decisions. The user should be able to access energy usage, demand, profile, and costs for all energy streams as well as facility system performance.
Other network considerations include ongoing routine maintenance-not only network servers, routers and user workstations, but also the individual facility gateways and installed facility systems. The enterprise must be able to remotely manage, troubleshoot and upgrade all software components. The facility information gateway is the single point of connection representing the site to the enterprise. It should gather energy and demand information from all energy streams, gather data from environmental and other installed sensors and be able to exert supervisory control and monitoring for lighting, HVAC, generators and other facility systems.
Real-time information from sites or groups of sites helps energy managers, maintenance and service managers, network operations personnel, and general management to better control facilities. Moreover, as energy deregulation accelerates, the system allows unprecedented demand-side control, making it particularly attractive to utilities, energy services companies, energy marketers and control contractors.