Capillary information: where ordinary systems fear to tread

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Acti9 modular circuit breaker by Schneider Electric “Capillary data acquisition.” Quite a mouthful, I admit. But the concept of “capillarity” is nothing new in botany or biology. And applied to information management, it’s apt. Why? Because “capillarity” is the ability of liquid to flow into tiniest places. Substitute “liquid” for “data”, and you can just picture data flowing to places conventional systems can’t reach.

So, what does happen in a capillary energy management system?

It go-gets data from individual loads. Take your conventional meter. It measures a building’s overall consumption. But when data acquisition is capillary you can narrow down the focus and home in on a room then an individual load for really high-precision micro-info.

Okay, capillary data acquisition is a clear concept. But what is it physically?

On the market today there are smart 24V communication modules. They retrieve information from the final distribution boards – the ones at the point of use. They’re plug n play devices with a single cable. Just clip them into place and information flows from the final distribution boards – or thinnest capillaries – to the main switchboard. Fast.

Sounds good for simple, high-precision devices ideal for energy efficiency?

They sure are. In fact, not only is demand rising, so is the cost of electricity. There is no choice but to steward usage to cut costs. At the same time the quality of energy is poor. All too often, there outages and failures. In the so-called “mature” countries where everything is computer-driven electricity is the lifeblood. In developing countries, too, though for different reasons. There infrastructures are inadequate for their 24/7 production needs. Everywhere availability is vital.

So how does capillary data acquisition cut costs and ensure availability?

Through monitoring, control, and metering. Capillary monitoring keeps constant watch on your final distribution boards. It immediately tells you, for example, which circuit breaker is about to trip so you can intervene fast and ensure continuity of operation. The stakes are high in human costs in a hospital or a packed football stadium. In business terms, too. For example, in the office block where I work we have a capillary system. It showed us which light in which room was guzzling electricity It turned out that were was a contact that wasn’t opening. Without our capillary capacity, we wouldn’t have known. With capillary control, you act on capillary information. You can, for example, turn down the heating and switch off the lights in the evenings in the offices where no-one is at work. Metering means money. If you own a building, say, and you rent it out to different companies, you want to bill each one individually for their specific usage. With capillary energy management you can do just that. Have a capillary energy management system? Has it improved your energy efficiency? Feel to share with us.

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