As a member of Comcast’s Sustainability team, my role is to pursue renewable energy opportunities that green our energy load and drive energy efficiency to reduce our emissions impact on the planet, while also advocating for new technologies to help us achieve both things faster. It’s all part of our work across Comcast NBCUniversal to create a culture of sustainable innovation that inspires environmental responsibility.
I’m writing this blog — thanks for the invitation, MachineQ™ team — because part of what I work on is our LoRa® based, Internet of Things (IoT) deployment strategy within about 3,000 of our facilities nationwide. LoRa is a long-range (hence, LoRa), low power wireless technology that has been globally adopted to connect IoT devices in businesses and across municipalities. I define it as a platform involving sensors with batteries that last for several years, which can send small bits of data over very long distances (20+ miles, application dependent).
There’s a lot of potential synergy between our quest for sustainability and the Internet of Things that typically populate low power, long range networks. This synergy is particularly apparent for real-time power monitoring in our facilities — data centers, administrative buildings, and other network facilities.
Sustainability through energy efficiency in an enterprise like ours must focus on finding solutions to our business challenges — like monitoring our power usage — on a real-time basis. The work of it usually involves finding ways to install the wires we need to monitor power consumption, which invariably involves hiring electricians and running conduit into lots of hard-to-reach places – in other words: difficult, time-consuming and expensive.
Third-party platforms are available, of course. But they’re also expensive and involve the same intrusive measures.
That’s why LoRa, in general, and MachineQ specifically, is a potential dynamo: LoRa brings the low power, long range wireless network while MachineQ brings the low-cost provisioning, and simple management of, IoT sensors and their long-life batteries with 20+ mile-data transmission capability. Together, they stand to deliver the same or better energy monitoring as a wired solution, just without the wires.
This disruptive technology suddenly makes real-time energy monitoring available at a much lower cost to a much broader swath of people and businesses. In 2018, I had the opportunity to run several pilots of this technology in Comcast’s offices, data centers and lab environments to test the business case and technical feasibility, including the cloud integration with on-network corporate systems. Following these successful pilots, we will deploy this sensor technology to many more Comcast facilities in 2019, enabling us to account for our carbon more accurately as well as identify local operational efficiency opportunities that will help us save electricity.
So, that’s my take on the intersections between Internet of Things, LoRa networks and technologies that make real-time power monitoring more affordable. I declare it disruptive and definitely worth investigating.