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‘With IoT, you don’t have to wait for anyone to tell you a story’

Hatem Saeed Al Amoudi, the CEO of Energy Solutions Group International (ESGI), in an interview with B Surendar, elaborates on optimising existing infrastructure and deploying IoT for improving the performance of buildings in the GCC region.

| | Jul 18, 2016 | 11:37 am
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Hatem Saeed Al Amoudi

Hatem Saeed Al Amoudi

You say you work with manufacturers and suppliers to develop and enhance products to offer specialised, customised solutions to clients. Could you please elaborate?

In the case of retrofit projects, you will find conventional vendors, where you have certain parameters that are locked. We invest in optimising existing infrastructure and offering bespoke design, because we see plenty of buildings that have out-of-the-box software and, basically, following a same-size-fits-all type of approach. That is not what buildings need, because each has a different demand. So we work with building owners and design for their needs. We share the experience of other clients and how that can be offered as an add-on.

In some cases, you might have to enhance the equipment and, in some cases, the equipment is too old, so it has to go. Now, there are those building owners, who shoot themselves in the foot, because they don’t want to see a big capex, even if the new equipment would consume less power, because technology has changed. The mindset is not to be proactive. Generally speaking, building owners seem to be more reactive than proactive.

A split unit is not smart, but we now have a solution that can be installed between the plug and the socket

If you have customised software for the hardware, you can talk to the building, which would alert the owners in case of difficulties. If a unit starts consuming more electricity, a conventional system might not be able to give that information. A good software can help in trending – that is, in identifying how the building behaves in summer, winter or during peak hours. The system will be able to trend and tag public holidays in the following year as the time when the owner can expect a large number of people coming in.

Internet of Things 3Some buildings are too old, so it would cost a lot of money to retrofit, but their owners could at least have the existing equipment to talk to each other. A split unit is not smart, but we now have a solution that can be installed between the plug and the socket. It picks up excess consumption and can send a warning out to the owner. It’s an option that is there, because IoT can change the dynamics now. You have a lot of aggregated information, and you can mine the data and push it to whatever department – FM or HR – you want to send them to; or, you can send the information to the CEO.

Where do you see the money coming from for retrofit projects?

In the past two years, the cost of electricity in the UAE has started to increase, and that is something that is happening. Government entities do not have an allocation of funds for building-retrofit projects, but I would like to see national banks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to engage in a dialogue with international banks to see how the overseas banks are funding such projects. If a bank adopts 10,000 buildings at USD 100,000 per building, then it makes sense for it from an economy-of-scale point of view.

Banks would love to have a new product to sell and would not mind hiring an energy engineer, who can bridge the gap between what the ESCO is trying to tell them and what they are understanding. Or they could bring an external consultant from Europe or the United States. It would be worth the effort, because the cost of electricity will keep increasing, which means any ROI is only going to shrink in two to three years from now.

Internet of Things_4You have been working on IoT for a while now. How is it proving to be useful in improving the performance of a building?

IoT brings more clarity to the equation, because typically a vendor will do what is necessary, but the building owner won’t have a full understanding of what went wrong, because the equipment is locked. Now, an IoT gateway will make it simple to understand, because it will make things accessible. If a problem happens, you don’t have to look elsewhere. So that’s the difference between having an IoT gateway and relying on conventional approaches. Simply put, you don’t have to wait for anyone to tell you a story, because you know the reality.

Aren’t clients wary of data security, though?

In a typical business belonging to a client, it is usually the IT department that is very protective. My approach would be to buy my own line and put it in that building without touching their firewall protocol. That way, I will take only the information I need.

(The writer is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East.)

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