What if every switchgear can become smart?

With the never-ending growth of electronics, most of the consumer devices used in everyday life are connected and software enabled.

Now that this digital transformation is coming to power, it needs to be as simple as possible.

Inside the digital transformation

As consumers, introducing smart technology into our everyday lives has been straightforward. Without realising, we are spending more and more time handling objects built around computing power and software tools. The products we buy are changing our homes, where devices are increasingly connected to large communication networks leveraging thousands of data points. It’s increasingly common now to own wireless speakers or sound systems that stream music from online services, writing off decades of investment in CD collections and iPod music libraries. Shop for a new oven and it’s not unusual to be offered Internet connectivity.

The average person nowadays has at least four connected appliances and the number is growing. By 2020, the Internet of Things will connect around 33 billion devices – but not all of these will be brand new products in the traditional sense.

There are many ways to upgrade basic TVs with inexpensive plug-in kits that stream video and can even provide voice-activated Internet personal assistants. Our heating systems can be connected to smartphone apps simply with WiFi-enabled thermostats. Even second-hand cars can get Bluetooth communication using dongles that plug into control units or GPS capability with external navigation devices.

Why are we doing it? Simple economics. It is more cost-effective to add a small advanced thermostat in our dining room than to install a new smart boiler. Plus, it also saves us valuable time.

As industrialists, introducing innovative technologies into our operations and working lives seems to be more complex, however. Attitudes towards the installed base have so far been quite conservative, passing up on many of the opportunities offered by digital solutions. In this respect industry is often more like a vinyl collector than a Spotify subscriber.

Energy goes digital

The energy revolution is changing attitudes, however. The demand for greater energy efficiency and grid resiliency is driving continuous growth in power grid architecture with more renewable generation and more energy storage systems. Electrical distribution is evolving in the age of digital microgrids.

Around 1.5 GW of low-voltage microgrids have already been installed worldwide and by 2020 this figure could reach more than 4 GW. Clearly there’s a real need for the different microgrid assets to communicate and to coordinate with each other.

And, like so much consumer-focused innovation for the Internet of Things, this does not necessarily mean changing the existing hardware. There is no need to replace everything. The digital transformation of power needs to be as simple as possible.

There is a lot of switchgear equipped with basic circuit breakers out there. Over the last decade more than 350 million circuit breakers without advanced connectivity or resource control features were installed globally. They still provide good mechanical performance, so substituting them completely is out of the question for many facilities.

Upgrade is the revolution

Ekip UP, part of the ABB Ability™ portfolio of connected and software enabled solutions, lowers the barriers for companies by making their plants’ power an integral part of their digital footprint in an easy and competitive way. The plug-and-play unit can make any switchgear smart, enabling monitoring, protection and control solutions in a single digital product.

Ekip UP updates existing switchgear from 40 kW to 4 MW, interfacing readily with any switching device. It upgrades energy efficiency, providing power management and optimizing resource allocation to deliver operational cost savings of up to 30%, compared to conventional energy management systems.

Ekip UP also uploads software-based solutions from ABB’s all-in-one electronics platform, which transforms any existing low-voltage network into a fully digital microgrid. Measuring power with its sensors, the digital unit understands what is happening in the plant by connecting their data to the cloud-based ABB Ability™ Electrical Distribution Control System. It takes less than ten minutes to set up. And, with zero impact on the switchgear design, uptime is not affected.

The speed of technological change in consumer electronics and media is always going to be much faster than in industry. With growing interest in microgrids, distributed renewables and energy storage systems, there is a real opportunity for utilities and factories to begin to digitalize their power. Ekip UP makes that process a lot easier for companies.


Comment this article(0)

Community guidelines