Leakage current is energy that flows from a machine’s circuit to its frame or the ground. The current typically leaks from the insulation around conductors and/or the filters protecting a piece of equipment. It’s not a safety hazard if the machine is properly grounded, but it is wasting energy.
Leakage current doesn’t have to be a waste, though. Instead, design engineers and machine owners could analyze data from current to detect how a machine is performing, when to turn a device on or off, or a pending failure. Capturing the data can be as easy as plugging legacy devices into any one of an array of smart power cords, smart outlets and internet rebooters.
A smart power cord could supply energy to legacy commercial and industrial machines like ovens, espresso machines, motors and EKG equipment while analyzing voltage. Such cords include a microchip, a processor integrated with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and a cloud-based machine-monitoring application. By linking the smart AC power cord and to Wi-Fi, machine makers and operators could receive emails or texts about operating conditions. With the correct set of APIs, a machine builder could also securely link data from a smart cord to software systems of interest to machine operators.
A smart power cord also can turn non-networked machines like commercial kitchen appliances, industrial pumps and healthcare equipment into IoT devices that stream operational data to machine makers, owners and operators, so they can predict maintenance and track usage. For example, a beverage-machine maker or owner could connect to the internet with a smart power cord and learn how many drinks, and of what size, employees are making; owners could even see which sizes are filled the most or learn when the unit was last cleaned.
Equipment manufacturers and product marketing managers who want insights from the field about their products could sell machine owners a smart power cord and begin streaming data to perform predictive maintenance or even build a better product based on how the owner’s employees operated the machine.
Smartly Monitoring Energy Use
A machine owner could also plug their legacy device into a smart outlet, which typically includes a power board, logic board and chips for monitoring energy and memory. With data from a smart outlet, machine operators can benefit from monitoring power consumption and, whenever possible, cutting the power to a machine that needn’t run all the time.
In a facility where machines continuously draw power, plant managers may want to power up when they know there will be the greatest demand and power down during slower periods outside normal business hours. Managers can monitor and measure loads for specific outlets along with the outlet’s history. And if a device is behaving abnormally, that data would show up on the associated mobile application for the facility owner or manager to view.
If a machine included a motor, a smart outlet could also detect the power factor. If the power factor was less than optimal, the mobile application could indicate that by showing a user the motor was degrading. An example where a smart outlet would provide beneficial information in this way would be a pump. Knowing the pump was going to fail would prevent damage from, say, water flooding a below-grade space.
Smart devices can also detect and stave off failure of another kind: Broken internet connections. The typical wireless router has approximately one gigabyte of memory, so the proliferation of laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, and tablets connected to a small business Wi-Fi network will quickly tax routers. The operating system, processor and memory used by a router can get hung up when there’s a change in the temporary IP address the internet service provider assigns to smartphones or tablets linked to a business Wi-Fi network.
The laptop, router and connection to the internet get out of sync. But a smart device for automatically rebooting the router would provide the router with a clean slate to run efficiently each day. With a smart internet rebooter automatically detecting and immediately fixing the situation with a reboot, there would be little downtime for smart devices such as wireless security cameras and fire alarms.
While engineers are busy working on their latest machine designs, there is data in legacy machines they can unlock. The smart devices mentioned herein can be a key to how previous designs are working in the field now. Gathering that research could be as simple as replacing the power cord or outlet to which a machine is designed.
Adam Justice is CEO of Grid Connect, Inc. and co-host of The Smart Home Show podcast. Cristian Codreanu is vice president of Engineering for Grid Connect, Inc. He holds two patents for smart electrical devices and a Master of Science degree from the Academia Tehnica Militara in Bucharest, Romania.