Cees Links is a Wi-Fi pioneer, founder and CEO of Greenpeak Technologies and currently General Manager of Qorvo’s Wireless Connectivity business unit.

10 December 2019

One distinct benefit of the IoT is that it’s generally applicable to every area of the economy. This particularly holds true for energy efficiency improvements. Connecting devices, gathering data and personalizing the technology is the same basic premise, regardless of whether we’re looking at a large commercial office tower, a medium-sized apartment building or a single-family home. The IoT’s scalability results in energy efficiency benefits for all.

The IoT promises ‘intelligent buildings’, offering the ability to view overall building operations and receive the data needed to improve efficiency, lower costs and improve the overall experience for everyone involved. For commercial building managers, it brings a fundamental shift. Before the IoT, they churned along armed with a set of tools like spreadsheets, monthly utility bills and operations procedures. This approach focused more on tracking the operations inside the walls than on optimizing them. With the data gathering and processing brought by the IoT, building management can go beyond operations tracking and make better, informed decisions that create efficiencies and save money.

Homeowners, too, tend to focus on getting bills paid and making sure these are ‘in line’ with expectations. The IoT offers a new perspective on improving those bills. Rising energy costs in the form of ever-higher utility bills are a common concern for homeowners. Using more energy than is really needed is problematic for our wallets, as well as for the environment.

Of course, there’s more to I(o)T than energy efficiency: there’s added comfort and convenience too, though these things often go hand in hand. A truly smart power system in a home would monitor and manage how and when power is consumed. It could be used to control the amount of time your kids spend on their electronic devices and to deactivate power-consuming appliances or systems when not in use. After the family goes to bed, it can turn off the AC or heating in the unused areas and just keep it on in the areas where people are sleeping. And since many people prefer cooler temperatures for sleeping, the system could be smart enough to slowly reduce the temperature at night.

Alice & Eve

There are also some less obvious energy efficiency advantages that the IoT can offer to businesses and consumers. What about unexpected expenses like accidents and equipment failures?

Let’s look at water heaters, for example. When a water heater starts to go bad, that’s typically because of a slow leak. This type of equipment failure can be tricky to identify. If not immediately detected, the costs of the leak can quickly add up. In many cases, the water heater continues to run, inefficiently warming up the water that’s traveling to the dishwasher or shower, along with the water that’s leaking out. This runs up the utility bill without the homeowner receiving the benefit of enjoying all the hot water. The simplest fix is to install a sensor that just sends an alarm when it detects a water heater leak. But by taking it a step further and connecting that leak detector sensor to a network that includes actuators, the smart home can alert the homeowner and control the power and water.

Of course, water heaters can also fail due to a tank rupture that spills gallons of hot water, floods the house and creates costly damage. The same type of damage can result from a frozen water pipe that breaks. A smart home with a water flow sensor can be programmed to notice when water is moving in the pipes when no one is home. It can send a notice to the homeowner and turn off the water at the main valve, saving valuable resources and avoiding high water bills and expensive flood damage.