Domotics

Power to intelligence

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App for remote controls, smart meters and appliances that work in net optimizing consumes and costs. Electrical companies and operators are committed to trace (and to construct) new prospects of production and use of household appliances.

Marika Comotti

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The project “6° Senso Live” of Whirlpool, technology that provides users with the possibility of interacting with their products and of receiving inputs to obtain better performances.

Smart household appliances, able to interact with a system of control, distribution and computation of the energy consumption to share in managing energy efficiently are not science fiction. In the society of more and more performing technological gadgets for the remote control of appliances, of domotic systems and of the potentialities offered by the evolution of the energy distribution and management systems based on smart grids, final consumers will increasingly make the difference: the user empowerment will be central to bind together energy saving and technological innovation applied to the household appliance world.

Smart grid and mobile connection
The “smart grid” is the first step to build the “smart home”, integrated and connected system in which the household appliance plays an essential role. A smart electrical grid can integrate the action of all connected players, producers or consumers, to distribute energy in efficient and sustainable, as well as advantageous and safe way from the economic point of view. The main innovation areas of smart grids consist in the customer’s active participation, in the intelligent measuring of electrical consumptions, in the effective integration of renewable energies, in the storing of electricity and in the development of the electrical mobility, with a strong attitude to the reduction of the greenhouse effect and to the achievement of the targets of the European “20-20-20” package. According to Enel, the bearing pivot of the “smart grid”, together with the remote management infrastructure, is the smart meter that represents the direct interface with users: it grants transparency, efficiency, simplicity and facility of relationship between body and customers, increasingly aware of their consumptions and of the modalities of energy saving and optimal management of the electrical energy. From the smart grid to the smart home, the step is short. Still mentioning the example of Enel, the body’s main goal for the “smart home” is “to put in net” household appliances one another and to connect them with the other electronic and technological devices equipping the domestic ambit, in order to optimize consumptions and functions.

Illustration by Grid Irene.
Illustration by Grid Irene.

The “smart grid” is completed by the cellular connectivity that exploits the app potentialities for tablets and smartphones. With the successful diffusion of wireless technologies inside houses and the growing availability of Ble devices, in 2016 in Italy we will reach more than 3 million domestic items connected, while with the rise of devices it will be more and more necessary to grant the inter-operation among solutions by different suppliers, through platforms unifying users’ experience, both in the development and configuration phase and in the management of smart objects.
This is the direction pursued by ABB, Bosch, Cisco and LG, which have declared their intention of establishing a consortium targeted to the creation of a software platform for the “smart home”, based on an open architecture for the data exchange.

All in net
Indesit Company, headquarters at Fabriano (Ancona), is one of the main European industrial realities for the production and marketing of big and small household appliances. According to Stefano Frattesi, Director of the Technology Center of Indesit Company, “already today the household appliance is smart, relying on processors and a consequent computation capability that processes very complex logics and functions. The immediate evolution is the capability of cooperating with a whole eco-system composed by various devices such as other smart household appliances, energy meters or connected devices of the house or of the smart grids. But – he adds – most of all it always respects the consumers’ needs and it can interact with them and with the ecosystem in its whole in harmonic manner”. In smart grids, “our household appliances contribute in reducing the consumption peaks by starting the most intense activities when the energy comes from green sources or has a lower cost. We are studying with the major utilities new transparent operation logics for consumers”. The cycle will be no more monolithic but “it will be interrupted at any time, according to logics linked with the higher energy cost or the availability of renewable energy, thanks to the intelligence equipping out smart machines. We will have for instance the possibility of seeing a scenario in which an external logic can temporarily stop the A product and start an operation phase of the B product, in flexible and automatic way”.

The Technology Center of Indesit Company.
The Technology Center of Indesit Company.
Stefano Frattesi, director of the Technology Center of Indesit Company.
Stefano Frattesi, director of the Technology Center of Indesit Company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indesit Company is working on two projects. The first is Homelab, the Italian consortium for the home automation in which, besides Indesit Company, take part also Ariston Thermo Group, Elica group, B-Ticino, Loccioni, MR&D Institute, Spes, Teuco-Guzzini and Polytechnics University of Marche. Target, the definition of an open communication standard to permit the interoperation among the various products and services of the house: our products, thanks to the creation of a communication language developed by Homelab, already cooperate in integrated way with the other products of the companies that participate in the consortium, with the goal of improving the quality of our consumers’ life and of the functionality of the domestic environment. The second is the participation in the association Energy@home, founded with Enel, Telecom Italia and Electrolux, which currently groups 19 companies. “Through software installed in state-of-the-art household appliances and a mutual exchange of information among them, we are designing logics of energy coordination of products that are part of the domestic eco-system, making final consumers aware of the consumption of household appliances. In 2009 it started also the project Dynamic Demand Control, through which have been experimented innovative operation logics that cumulate green energy in our product when there is much of it at disposal in the grid, to be used then when unavailable. The result has been certified through the installation of one thousand smart refrigerators in the United Kingdom, which contribute in the balancing between energy demand and offer in the distribution net, achieving the notable result of halving their emissions of CO2. At present in Italy, Holland and Great Britain we have launched with the utilities Enel, Enexis, British Gas and E.on the washing machine “Smart Aqualtis”, with innovative experimentation tests of smart grids in which our products suggest the functioning to our users when the energy has a lower cost or is produced by renewable sources”. Besides, “we are collaborating with international research bodies and universities for the experimentation of smart ovens in Italy, Romania and Holland, which aim at improving the life quality of old people, both for their user friendliness and the capability of being sensors for health according to the use modality of the same. “Smart” is not only the product but the global approach. Exploiting new communication channels with the final customer through which to offer services and information to clients. This will allow us to understand better consumers and to strengthen our constant presence at their side to optimize consumptions, to improve the use of household appliances and their life quality”.

“ENERGY@HOME” FOR THE SMART HOME
Interview with Sergio Brambilla, Infrastructure and Net Division, Net Technologies of Enel Distribution.

At what point is Italy in the creation of smart grids?
Italy is in a forefront position. Enel Distribution, which manages most part of the national electrical grid, has been implementing for several years important “smart grid” innovations: the electronic meter, cutting-edge systems of tele-control and automation of the electrical grid, innovative systems of work force management and asset management have been reality already for various years and they have made the service quality and the cost per client drastically improve in the last ten years and the Italian distribution net be already very advanced. In the last 5 years several outstanding research and development projects have been started, oriented to the study of new technologies and solutions for the electrical grid and for final customers for the integration of renewable sources, which constitutes the main driver of “smart grids” (just to mention some managed by Enel: Address, Grid4Eu, Greenemotion, Energy@home, SmartGrids Isernia project). These projects are exploring new ambits like the active demand, the electrical mobility and new technologies for the management and control of the distributed generation. In the ambit of the Smart Grids Isernia project, in particular, they are implementing a real prototype of smart grid, installing new technologies on the running grid and involving thousands of final customers in the experimentation of new technologies for the energy efficiency like the smart info.

Enel illustrations for smart grids and “smart city”.

The Energy@home concerns household appliances from close up: how was it born and at what implementation stage is it today?
Energy@home is a project started in 2009 by Enel, Electrolux, Indesit Company and Telecom Italia for the study and the development of a communication protocol, aimed at assessing the technical feasibility of services based on the interaction of household appliances with the infrastructures of the energy distributor and of the telecommunication operator. The project provided for, in two phases, the publication of the communication protocol and the verification through a trial by a group of customers.
The project was successful, the communication protocol was published and afterwards integrated into the new release of the international protocol ZigBee Home Automation (July 2013). The trial was started at the end of 2012 and currently it is still in course.
At the end of the first phase of the project they decided to prosecute the collaboration of the four companies by widening the range of activities and involving further partners and industrial sectors. To this end, in July 2012 the four companies of the original project founded the association Energy@home, no profit reality that intends to realize and to promote in systemic and collaborative way techniques, instruments and methodologies of efficient use of the energy in residential ambit. Nowadays it counts 19 members that own competences of the electrical system (Enel Distribution and Edison Energy), of the household appliance industry (Electrolux, Indesit Company and Whirlpool), of telecommunications (Telecom Italia and Vodafone), of Ict (Altran Italia and Intecs) of micro-electronics (Freescale Italia, ST Microelectronics and Renesas), of inverter and storage system technology (Power One), besides research institutes (Istituto Superiore Mario Boella) and medium-small Italian enterprises (Fly-By, Flexgrid, Eurotherm, MAC, Gemino).
 
What are the results achieved and the next targets?
The targets of the association Energy@home consist in consolidating the communication and the sharing of experience of various industrial sectors in order to develop more and more efficient technologies through the collaboration of appliances and infrastructures equipping the domestic ambit, participating in the development of a communication standard and collaborating with regulatory bodies and international associations for the development of an integrated domestic system.
In the medium term Energy@home aims at boosting the creation of the market of flexibility services (the so called “active demand response”) in the domestic sector.
Concerning the collaboration with the companies producing household appliances, in the ambit of “Energy@home” it succeeded in influencing the evolution of the product itself in view of the integration with smart grids. The Energy@home project is currently integrated with smart grids considering the house in its whole as a user of information, that’s to say optimal acquisition and management of measures and information supplied by the electrical system (distributor, retailer) and of meteorological information to pick or to input electrical energy in more fruitful way. Already in this simple functionality, have been identified some small improvements to our smart info apparatus (gateway between electronic meter and the other devices installed in the house), which represents one of the fundamental knots of the smart grid for the involvement of domestic customers.
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Marco Casale, marketing manager West & South Europe Region of Whirlpool EMEA.

To know consumers
“The smart household appliance plays an active role in the energy management inside the house– explains Marco Casale, marketing manager West & South Europe Region of Whirlpool Emea -, it satisfies requisites of the electrical grid and conforms to he user’s setting by always granting the best performances, it can be managed from remote, it can interact through mobile devices and manage external signals that come for instance from an energy provider or a service supplier. It will be possible to set the use of the household appliance and to have the control of consumption peaks, thus contributing in the energy efficiency of the net beyond energy classes”. In 2011 Whirlpool presented the project “6° Senso Live” (6th Sense Live), technology that provides users with the possibility of interacting with their product and of receiving inputs, thus obtaining the best performances. The research of innovation goes on. “In the USA Whirlpool has promoted and developed pilot projects to test and to experiment this new generation of products. They have then marketed solutions able to connect with the domestic Wi-Fi net without adding cables or further appliances, then without the need of structural modifications to the house net”. With an application on smartphones or tablets we can interact and communicate with the household appliance and receive information in real time, such as to know how much time is left before the end of the washing or drying cycle or how much the set programme will consume. “These products will land on the market also in Italy, with new functions conceived to suit the requirements of the consumers in our Country”. The essential requisites for household appliances are: “Smart Start”, automatic start conditioned by external signals like the energy price, “Load Shedding”, that’s to say the possibility of reducing or delaying consumptions upon demand and finally the “Stop”, the dynamic stand-by modality that makes the product stop and restart depending on the electrical consumption peaks.
Since June 2013 Whirlpool has started the project “Smart Domo Grid”: “The families that take part in the test, in a district in Brescia province, receive on probation for one year up to 3 “smart” household appliances and a tablet with a dedicated app, which allows controlling and managing products. The application can be downloaded also on personal devices. The users have the possibility of using the app for the control and the management of household appliances and to check the communications concerning the most convenient time bands for the electrical energy use”. A sensitivity to be cultivated for the whole Italian market, in the opinion of Casale, with “an adequate system of economic incentives to the user promoting the purchase of smart appliances”, as well as “suitable directives and clear regulations are the key for the creation of a free market for energy and for the implementation of the Demand-Response, that’s to say an array of instruments to balance the demand and offer of electrical energy, contributing to the grid stability”.

ADEQUATE PLANT ENGINEERING IS NEEDED
To enjoy the advantages of a smart household appliance, it is necessary that also the building is smart, in particular that the plant engineering structure is intelligent in its turn. An aspect that collides with the present state of the Italian building heritage. “Concerning the internal plant engineering part of the building, it is absolutely necessary to conceive a total review of the plant or even a reconstruction when we old buildings are at stake– explains Marco Marzorati, legal representative and manager of the electromechanical sector of Esedra Energy, company of the Group “Irene Net” specialized in the design, installation and maintenance of integrated systems of plants powered by renewable energies -. The electrical plant must be implemented with domotic wiring and, if possible, with a standardized system, like for instance Konnex. Without this initial choice, it is not possible to gain access to all the technologies that the market already offers. We might think of exploiting the existing plant by using the wireless technology, but this implies a very expensive study of interaction and dialogue among the various users present in the plant”. The smart grid able to manage the loads according to the availability in real time of energy from renewable sources “is a bet” that operators are playing and in which they strongly believe”.
Users have – recently– started evaluating and developing the performances of the building system and of its single components in terms of comfort and functionality, as well as of energy saving, evaluating the efficiency of the single household appliance. But, warns Marzorati, “we should promote new and attentive awareness of the real capability of controlling and managing the building. This occurs by making accessible and enjoyable the technologies that, thanks to the development of electronics, have allowed appliances to optimize their operation by starting dialoguing with the user”. Consumers, anyway, prove to be more attentive and increasingly ask information about the real economic saving. “This might be realized in a well defined lapse of time, to amortize the initial spending and then with a real expected investment return. Another important question, addressed to the trustworthy person, is if the management of the building will actually be simple, besides smart”. What characteristics has an electrical plant “tailor-made” for smart household appliances?
“First of all the capability of receiving and interpreting the data that the single smart appliance can provide, adding it to the general ones of the plant through a domotic system. The implementation of a domotic system in a building of recent construction is absolutely simple and implies an increase of relatively low initial investment costs, +15-35 per cent in comparison with a medium-high end traditional plant, depending on the sophistication degree that we want to obtain”. In the existing situations, the limits derive from the objective actual state of the existing plant, “which, in absence of the simultaneity of building renovation interventions can be complex to be implemented, especially if you want a high performance result in terms of automation. Therefore, a redevelopment intervention concerning the plant engineering only must still come to terms with a phase of technological evolution that nowadays still needs important hardware”.

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