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Going Green with Technology

With the heat of summer making its impact felt, it is a good time to look at technology and energy efficiency. As people suffer from frequent power cuts and deal with water supply shortages in the sweltering heat, the conversation often turns to when India will become more energy efficient and ‘green’. Looking at the global scene, the companies in the green tech space seem to come predominately out of the US, and that too, California. In India there aren’t too many players putting the two (technology and green energy) together. While there are some companies involved in energy efficiency and related work, there are very few adding that element of technology to create green tech solutions.

But while green technology-led platforms are few and far between at the moment, with greater awareness from consumers and the government as well, there is a growing shift and startups as well as big players are starting to hop on the bandwagon. There are some large companies like Wipro, TCS and Cisco, and a few smaller players too, working with green technology solutions. At present, smart grids, energy conserving and monitoring devices and meters are being adopted in apartment and office buildings and tech parks, and in certain sectors like telecom, albeit in a piecemeal fashion. The government is working seriously on improving the electricity crisis by planning for the implementation of smart grids and e-meters, and projects are underway in different states. The potential is huge, and even though there are very few players in the space at the moment, companies, large and small, are beginning to tune in to the immense potential in the field of green tech, with BI and analytics sure to lead the way.

The Power in Tracking Information

Infozech is a company out of New Delhi doing work in energy management, having seized the opportunity while working in the telecom space. Infozech offers Cloud based solutions that address ground level challenges for the telecom sector in managing and tracking high fuel consumption and energy mismanagement. Infozech CEO, Ankur Lal, believes that the focus for those in the energy environment is both from a cost prospective and from an environment management perspective. Energy Tracking Services such as those provided by Infozech address both key factors, providing BI and Analytics to help companies reduce the amount of diesel/fuel they are using and losing on a daily basis. Though one of the few companies in the space in India at present, Lal is extremely optimistic for the future: I think there is a large canvas of opportunity which is waiting to be unfolded and I think this will be as large as the shifts in telecom industry in the last 20 years.

SmartrHomes Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup, began with a vision to automate residential, commercial and industrial complexes, homes and other consumers of water, energy and gas. SmartrWater is the first product on the platform, and an energy metering product as well as a smart LPG metering and gas leak detection system with proactive safety measurements will be launched shortly. The devices not only consume very little energy, they also harvest their energy from their ambient environment. The response so far has been phenomenal and most people we meet are eco warriors, says Vivek Shukla, Co-founder & CEO of SmartrHomes Technologies. They immediately see the value of the system and potential savings it can bring by being aware of their consumption of natural resources. But at the same time, there are people who have the opinion that they have the money to pay for what they are consuming and won’t reduce their respective consumption, adds Shukla, who has had enquiries from international companies wanting to license the technology, speaking to its scalability. While there are other players offering standard metering solutions, Shukla points out that none of them have an integrated platform for measurement, monitoring and control, automation and billing.

Smart Grids, Smart Homes

One of the big names in IT, Cisco is working with the Indian government on making the power grids smarter in terms of distribution as well as transmission, and automatic metering infrastructure for smart meters, which will allow consumers to have some control over their power usage and conservation. Says Vinay Dua, Business Development Manager for Smart Grids at Cisco, of the planned smart meters: today the situation is either one of having power, or no power. With smart meters, a ‘brown out’ situation is possible, where there is limited power and a customer press a button on the meter and accept the 50% or whatever power they are getting, which will run limited devices. Such a system has use for both commercial and home properties. At a macro, statewide level, Dua points out that power utility companies know the health of the grid and can monitor the usage and get data in real time about the load and track the utilization pattern, and using such analytics can decide whether to buy more power upfront from the feeding station or not.

Currently, Cisco is working on smart grid pilots in 14 states, with a few more in the works, and expects to be a part of the plan on a national level, involved in every state. Smart meters installed in every house and commercial establishment will collect real time information and then send it to the central control station, where decisions will be taken based on the data received. The meters are being installed in conjunction with system integrator partners, with Cisco focusing on its strength, which is providing the communication capabilities to get the tech talking and working. Dua thinks there is great growth potential in the space for companies to become involved, not just limited to smart meter production. Data analytics is the space where startups can mushroom, as there will be great demand for making sense of all the data being collected. The field is wide open for players to create business specific apps that can be embedded onto the network, feels Dua, citing that at present, there is a wide gap between what information the machines give out, and what management wants to see.
Discussions are underway, says Dua, with both state utilities and the power grid corporation, on smart grid infrastructure. Lal too believes that smart grids are of great import. By putting power back into the grid he sees immense applications for the technology, like small power producers being able to optimize power tariffs. Smartrhomes too, works on a giving back model. Our devices are built to harvest energy for their functioning and so lead on the green path. We look at solving real life problems through our devices, says Shukla proudly.

Analytics will allow one to control the demand response system, for example, says Lal. He says the technology to take this next step has come to pass, it’s now just a question of putting it to use, and cites the emergence of companies which are starting to work on hardware like the sensors for tracking and information gathering. Infozech is already utilizing remote statistics and collecting data harnessing mobile tech and the Cloud in its Energy Tracking service. The Internet of Things is also a definite factor in the growth of green tech. Lal, Shukla and Dua all point to widespread adoption and as yet untested applications potential, with the IoT. The time is right, and the technology is making its presence felt – the day when every home has a smart device that analyzes and optimizes utility usage is certainly no longer a utopian concept, and it only remains to be seen how many more players emerge to join the green tech evolution.

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