Tuesday, June 18, 2024

WattMan: Enabling Energy-Saving and Predictive Maintenance for Businesses

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Data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) have successfully stepped into the realm of energy efficiency. Using these technologies, businesses with geographically distributed framework can follow a centralised predictive and preventive maintenance model for their energy-driven assets and save a great deal on expenses. Gurgaon-based startup Zenatix Solutions has developed such a solution. Called WattMan, this end-to-end IoT-based building management system (BMS) can help businesses cut their electricity consumption by up to 30 per cent and substantially mitigate their maintenance struggles.

WattMan lets businesses like retail chains, banks and cold storages identify an upcoming infrastructural malfunction and take preventive measures accordingly. For example, Mother Dairy is using WattMan to check whether the storage cooling system at its outlets is drawing excess electricity than what it should. They get the cooling system serviced while arranging for a backup before the actual breakdown happens, essentially preventing unnecessary hassles, spoilage of products and interrupted business hours.

How the idea was conceived

Zenatix was founded by IIT Delhi batchmates Amarjeet Singh, Vishal Bansal and Rahul Bhalla. The idea of working in the energy efficiency domain came from Amarjeet after his stint at the Indraprasth Institute of Information Technology, Delhi, as a faculty member of an energy efficiency research project. He was joined by Rahul, who had worked in the legal outsourcing industry, and Vishal, who was associated with ING Global since his graduation from IIM Ahmedabad.

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However, the road was not smooth as they had to take detours in their development to get the expected results in the form of WattMan. “We started off trying to become an energy analytics company. However, to provide the analytics we needed to collect the data. For that, the devices needed to be connected. So we had to become an IoT company first. We had to build a robust hardware that would allow us to collect a large volume of data at any application scale,” said Amarjeet. It took about one-and-a-half year for the Zenatix team to complete WattMan.

WattMan kit with energy meter
WattMan kit with energy meter

The intelligence behind WattMan

WattMan BMS, driven by technologies like IoT and artificial intelligence (AI), provides intelligent controls together with predictive and preventive maintenance. With WattMan, enterprises can ensure that all electrical appliances are switched on/off automatically according to an intelligent schedule, eventually resulting in no wastage of electricity. Additionally, businesses can prepare before any appliance breaks down.

The complete WattMan architecture consists of four main layers: sensing layer, edge layer, an IoT stack over the cloud and an AI suite.

The lowest layer of the stack consists of sensors and control points. To serve different business requirements, only this sensing layer has to be customised, keeping the rest of the architecture intact. Edge devices were designed with great effort and care to comply with the local environmental conditions.

Amarjeet says, “Connecting the infrastructure locally in the store as well as to the Internet is the difficult part. Given the local challenges in India, the control action had to happen locally. This is where edge computing assumes significant importance. Suppose you want to turn on the air-conditioner at 9 o’clock, but the power or the network is down at that time and resumes at 9:30. The system should have the intelligence that there is a missed schedule at 9:00 and now it is 9:30. So the AC should turn on now. All this computation has to happen on the edge. So the edge should be very smart.”

Zenatix started off with an open source stack for WattMan and enhanced it to suit the applications as per their requirements. This gives WattMan the scalability for customisation and allows the team to deploy the stack on any cloud server—be it a platform-as-a-service like Amazon Web Services or any personalised server. The AI suite uses machine learning algorithms to provide insights using data procured from the systems and raises alerts in case any appliance needs maintenance.

While WattMan provides predictive feedback on possible appliance malfunctions, the Zenatix team also ensures that Wattman’s own hardware is working properly and can be managed from a remote location. The hardware is built to accommodate a VPN connection, which gives the administrator access to every end point throughout all the customer sites from a central office. WattMan consistently updates the team on its health by providing data on numerous functional parameters.

“We collect a lot of information on the health of our hardware over the endpoints, like Wi-Fi connectivity status, number of reboots and memory status to name a few. Over time, this helps us to troubleshoot without losing any time and avoid hardware failure,” says Amarjeet.

WattMan Lite
WattMan Lite

Market presence

WattMan has been deployed at more than 800 sites across the country, setting up roughly 20,000 end points. It targets a large range of customers including cold storages, retail chains, bank branches, ATMs and quick service restaurants.

Other than Mother Dairy, Dominos is also using WattMan solution. Zenatix claims that WattMan addresses three major problems faced by Dominos: energy wastage, poor store visibility and high maintenance costs. WattMan is performing energy management and predictive maintenance in 200 outlets of Mother Dairy. Zenatix claims WattMan yields 10-30 per cent cost savings for its customers, including energy savings and reduction in maintenance costs.

The challenges

The Zenatix team recollects the biggest challenge was to customise the hardware to environmental conditions of India and other emerging economies.

“Specifically, the environment in such economies is unfavourable with voltage fluctuations, intermittent network connectivity, power failure, higher noise in the environment and so on. These challenges are non-standard in developed economies like the US or Europe. Therefore importing the hardware from these regions and expecting it to work in our environment was not an option,” Amarjeet shared.

The complete WattMan architecture
Fig. 1: The complete WattMan architecture

The scope of services

Zenatix plans to take WattMan beyond the boundary of energy efficiency.
Amarjeet elucidates, “Today, we are providing energy management solutions to our customers like Dominos. Tomorrow, we might enable them to integrate and control their menus centrally and digitally with the help of WattMan. In fact, we have received similar requests from customers and we are yet to plan our roadmap. Wattman is also benefiting ATMs by improving their uptime with the processor-driven edge system and intelligent design. The key is to design the system such that we can scale up the application as per requirement on the existing hardware. So we have over-invested in the hardware.”

With plans to increase the application domain and scalability of WattMan, Zenatix aims to push its business offshore as well. After attending the Microsoft Accelerator programme in 2017, it has partnered with them to leverage their relationships in retail and banking.

How WattMan manages retail stores
Fig. 2: How WattMan manages retail stores

Amarjeet mentions, “To this effect, we were recently selected by IoT Acceleration Consortium (ITAC) as one of the ten startups from India to exhibit at CEATEC to meet Japanese companies and government officials and work out synergies.”



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