Ecocentric sharpens green edge

14/03/2017 - 14:03

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Improving accuracy in measuring electricity consumption could provide benefits from the office block to the mine site.

Tim Bray says monitoring electricity usage could play a similar role to heat sensors and other equipment designed to detect maintenance needs in the mining industry. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Improving accuracy in measuring electricity consumption could provide benefits from the office block to the mine site.

Information sharing following a tie-up between energy efficiency company Ecocentric and the CSIRO could significantly sharpen the Fremantle business’s marketability, both at home and overseas.

Russell Wilson and Paul Lyons founded Ecocentric to help businesses and households achieve greater energy efficiency.

Ecocentric chief executive Tim Bray told Business News the software technology, Numen, which analyses electricity usage, would reduce costs for businesses and contribute positive environmental benefits.

“Fundamentally, Numen is a system that takes incredibly high-fidelity data and turns it into bespoke, easy to understand, non-technical advice,” Mr Bray told Business News.

The recent agreement with the CSIRO gives Ecocentric exclusive rights to algorithms created by the science agency for the accurate measurement of power flows, which Ecocentric can use to sharpen up its energy efficiency measurements.

“The key thing is a technology called cognitive metering, or electrical fingerprinting,” Mr Bray said.

“Every electrical device has a signature, the way in which it uses electricity is different to something else, even different brands of air-conditioner have different signatures.

“What the CSIRO has done is understood the signature and cracked the code, if you like.

“In deploying their algorithms in our system, we’re able to identify the signature of individual devices, a bit like the way Shazam (a mobile phone application) identifies a song.

“Once you’ve identified it, you can start to provide the end user with all sorts of information about how the device is performing.”

That could have a range of uses, Mr Bray said, ranging from reducing power wastage in commercial buildings to improving maintenance efficiency in industrial or resources applications.

“(The software) is able to recognise the dynamic performance of a machine; the signature that we see through Numen will actually alert end-users to changes in the behaviour of a device,” he said.

That would be much like heat sensors and other mechanisms used to predict when maintenance on equipment like a pump is needed.

Ecocentric has been in discussions with a number of large companies to use the technology, both locally and overseas, with energy retailers one sector likely to adopt the system

“We spent quite a bit of time talking to overseas companies, particularly based out of the UK,” Mr Bray said.

“Fundamentally our business strategy is one of where we’re going to market through channels, (and) one of those channels is an energy retailer.

“Energy retailers are looking to redefine the relationship they have with their customers to somewhat paradoxically help them use less energy, but in doing so reduce their customer churn and build a better brand relationship with them.”

Mr Bray said most meters on the market were basically billing machines, rather than units designed to reduce consumption.

Ecocentric had invested in its own hardware and developed a cloud-based platform for the technology, he said.

“We’ve raised money through a network of private investors,” Mr Bray said.

“We did have a small grant in the first instance from the Australian government accelerating commercialisation program. That really was about proof-of-concept.”

He said Ecocentric had been collaborating with the CSIRO, in particular the energy team based out of Newcastle, for a number of years.

The exclusivity agreement is for 10 years, with a further 10-year option, and Mr Bray said he hoped the partnership between the two organisations would lead to ongoing fine-tuning of the technology.

CSIRO has committed one of their senior research scientists who is (well known) in this field to continue to work on it,” he said.

Mr Bray was bullish on the future of energy efficiency.

Within the next 20 years, he said it was very real possibility that buildings would become energy neutral in terms of consumption.

“They’ll have a combination of highly efficient equipment, they’ll understand what they use and how their own business cycle influences peaks and troughs, and they’ll combine that with technologies like local generation and battery storage to effectively mean that they’re a net zero consumer of energy,” Mr Bray said.


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