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Driving change

Frank Taaning Grundholm, VP, Global HVAC Sales – Drives, Robotics and Motion Division, ABB, speaks to Surendar Balakrishnan on the ACH 580, which he says, has enabled the company to increase the link to the IoT environment. Excerpts…

| | Apr 16, 2019 | 1:29 pm
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What is your newest offering?

Frank Taaning Grundholm

The ACH 550 is an old platform, and it has been serving the market very well for 15 years now. A lot of things have changed within electronics, and we want to provide new technology to the market. So, we asked ourselves the question, ‘How can we provide something newer to the market that adds value and serves the market in an even better way?’ The answer to that is the ACH 580. With the ACH 580, we have increased the link to the IoT environment, and the whole human interface is a lot better. All drives, whether heavy or light industry, need to have a ‘compatible’ strategy. The earlier interfaces were not aligned. Now, we can take from a heavy industry drive to light to micro drive. So, now, there is that recognisability and ease of interfacing. The whole concept is more modular, and so we can develop portions that can be optimised. Now, the whole range uses the same options – so, it is a lot easier to use them. The industry is moving more and more towards wireless communication, and we looked to see how best we could contribute to that. A lot of operators don’t want company apps on their personal smartphones. So, we had to ensure the equipment installed had some sort of wireless connectivity. As a manufacturer, I am trying to be a little bit unbiased. They need wireless, and they should not care what it is. Two years from now, it could be all IoT. So, we need to write specs that are based on the need of customers at the end of the day, and it is up to manufacturers to provide the right technological solutions, so we need some sort of wireless.

What is happening on the electrical side of things?

On electrical lines, in 1995, the optimum way had a cost. It increased cost by three times. Now, the cost point has come down significantly. We are talking of no DC chokes. It is better technology. In ACH 480, we have taken DC chokes out of the drive. The size of the drives is so small compared to the power of the chiller, it does not matter. What you need to specify is what is the noise level that can be accepted in a building, and so how can I mix and match the technology to provide the right solution. Maybe I will take a separate filter. For the mid-range, I might use DC chokes. That way, we have an optimum solution. The way buildings are being specified is by the technologies that are available. If you look at AHUs, a lot of specs needs only DC fans. IoT can be a good solution in some applications, but if someone else has a different solution, that is efficient, you might have to consider that. The assumption is that a system is efficient. If you take an efficient fan and efficient motor but the control is not doing its job properly, then the efficiency is affected. When we are looking at efficiency, the trend is to specify as full-load efficiency, but no system runs at full load. So, a lot of solutions, when they go down on load, drop down on efficiency. The owner will end up using more energy than what he thought he would.

How are you addressing cybersecurity concerns?

There are always concerns when you go wireless. If you are standing next to a building you can tap in. We have devices that can communicate, but you need to pair the devices first. Yes, it is true, you can hack the signal, but we have the ability to limit the range of the signal. Wifi are spread wider than Bluetooth, so, the chance of doing something with a Bluetooth is much smaller, and you might need to be in the building. We regularly engage hacking companies to hack our systems, and based on their reports, we modify. We have a security team that takes care of us.

Are customers comfortable with even the little risk that you allude to?

There is risk in everything. We rely on professionals to provide us security, and we are constantly updating the apps. If you are still concerned, you can remove the display, and there is no power, and so, there is safety in that. We offer remote support through the app. We can remotely see what the drive is doing. We try to put additional safety measures. ABB is a very motivated company when it comes to digital solutions in the electronics industry. I am very comfortable with the safety we have. We can address the concerns our customers have and manage that. In a sensitive industrial environment, like the manufacturing of semiconductors, I would be very cautious about using wireless. But if you are looking at our industry, we are talking of services, and central infrastructure of air control systems are not going to go wireless.

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