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Energy Monitoring


Vutility gathers and provides real-time information on utility usage so that consumers, businesses, and governments can monitor and budget utility usage.

Effective energy management requires accurate monitoring and timely reporting of energy consumption. The goal is to acquire knowledge about usage patterns to minimize expensive energy spikes, shift consumption to low-demand periods, and prevent expensive machinery failures. There is a lot to gain from these endeavors: in addition to reducing the environmental footprint of commercial and residential buildings, monitoring electrical usage patterns can substantially reduce energy costs.

Until recently, however, monitoring electricity usage required expensive metering equipment. For example, installing a sub-meter required many hours of labor by a skilled electrician—an expensive, complicated, and invasive process that usually included shutting off power, running conduits, pulling wires, and punching holes through walls, floors, and ceilings. Vutility has turned this scenario on its head with an affordable energy-monitoring device called HotDrop that installs in seconds. Once in place, HotDrop uses LoRa technology to transmit real-time energy load information wirelessly via MachineQ™ gateways, solving one of the greatest pain points of energy monitoring.

“Anyone can install a HotDrop in just a few seconds, and configure it in less than two minutes,” says Steve Ellis, founder and CEO of Vutility. “You simply clip it onto an insulated wire and you’re done. The device pairs with your cellphone for configuration, and immediately starts reporting wirelessly via the LoRaWan™ protocol,” Ellis adds.

“Using the MachineQ network platform enables the HotDrop to transmit across tremendous distances, even through concrete walls and grounded steel electrical service panels.”

A New Approach to Smart Energy Management

The HotDrop IoT device can be attached to any wire carrying an electrical load. It harvests power for its own operation through a unique inductive approach that requires no batteries or wiring. All types of residences and businesses use Vutility’s unique energy monitoring devices, including energy service companies that advise clients on how to reduce their energy consumption. The IoT sensor is sturdy and resilient enough for tough industrial environments, where reliability and performance are essential. Using MachineQ’s LoRaWAN network enables Vutility’s HotDrop data to be reliably transported and visualized for the consumer in real-time, anywhere in the world.

According to Ellis, HotDrop sensors have been installed throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, and Japan. Vutility has seen especially good penetration among large commercial and retail firms, as well as within data centers, and at many types of factories. Some organizations use the IoT devices to measure energy throughout an entire building. Other companies use them to monitor the load to individual machines and infrastructure components. Being able to monitor energy usage, whether for HVAC systems or refrigeration units or computer storage arrays, enables customers to develop better energy reduction programs—as well as ensure the steady operation of important gear.

Wireless IoT Connectivity Through MachineQ

Once activated, Vutility’s HotDrop sensors automatically connect to a dedicated MachineQ IoT network and start relaying data to a MachineQ gateway, which is connected to the internet through Ethernet or cellular links. “As the sensor data hits our servers, we decrypt it and visualize it for the consumer,” Ellis says. “They can also download or interconnect the data into another software product. The transmissions are secure since only our servers have the decryption keys.”

These IoT network transmissions are not only secure but also affordable. MachineQ charges a flat monthly software fee for each gateway, and one gateway can support a virtually unlimited number of IoT devices. According to Ellis, this pricing model more cost-effective than the other IoT vendors that Vutility evaluated.

“One MachineQ gateway can handle thousands of HotDrop devices. We have placed MachineQ gateways in 100,000-square-foot buildings, and had no trouble gathering real-time data throughout the premises. With MachineQ we can deploy IoT devices right away. We can monitor as many devices as we want to, at an unbelievable rate, and there are no surprise costs to the customer.”

And while Wi-Fi-based IoT solutions require a costly power supply and constant internet connections, MachineQ’s LoRa networks offer a much better wireless range for sensors, no corporate network impact, and are very inexpensive and easy to operate—even for customers that require deep coverage in hard-to-reach places.

Using IoT Data for Fine-Grained Monitoring

HotDrop customers can download the Vutility Spark app to visualize real-time data streams, historical usage data, and energy forecasts. Optionally, they can use the Vutility commercial platform to monitor micro and macro usage trends as they pertain to energy usage within one or many different buildings. Vutility’s web and mobile apps provide real-time visualizations of energy loads, as well as forecasted trends and usage alerts. The apps depict exceptional events that a building or facilities manager might want to investigate. Users can also set thresholds and receive proactive alerts, so they are notified of exceptional events and don’t have to continually monitor their systems. With advanced features like wireless 3-phase teaming and built-in occupancy detection, commercial businesses can precisely measure building usage to reduce operational expenses and comply with zero-export energy restrictions.

“Our commercial clients typically install the sensors and watch their energy load patterns for a few days to detect excessive usage and spikes,” Ellis explains. “The apps allow them to quickly isolate energy usage, down to the circuit or machine that is causing a problem.”

“Many clients see a 20 to 30 percent energy reduction within just a few weeks.”

An Extensible IoT Platform for the Future

MachineQ’s wireless gateways are self-provisioning and pre-configured for Vutility devices before they leave the factory. They arrive ready to drop into place, minimizing installation costs and simplifying energy monitoring activities. MachineQ also offers a highly scalable, cloud-based management platform called MQcentral that enables customers to manage thousands of gateways and millions of devices on a single IoT network. Vutility customers can use this versatile platform to connect other types of complementary IoT sensors as well, enabling an evolving set of IoT services.

For example, commercial building owners that install HotDrop sensors along with a MachineQ gateway can easily add other types of IoT devices to the same network, including sensors that monitor core systems handling gas, water, and ventilation. The data gives facilities managers a complete picture of building operations, allows them to identify potential problems, and, in some cases, to micro-meter utility usage for each tenant. Other IoT sensors can monitor temperature to maximize energy efficiency, and monitor humidity to prevent the conditions that lead to mold growth. Parking sensors can direct tenants to open parking spaces, and smart rodent traps can simplify pest control. The possibilities are endless: once a MachineQ gateway is in place, it can collect data from all types of LoRa-based IoT devices. And by using the MQcentral dashboard, building owners can monitor all gateways and devices through a common interface, regardless of geographical location, as well as update firmware wirelessly.

“MachineQ has been a terrific business partner, and they have connected us with many other companies that need our technology.”

“Comcast has a large Rolodex of prospects that are good candidates for our technology. It was easy to get started since we didn’t have to hunt down manufacturers or cobble together relationships for gateways. By marrying our technology to the MachineQ IoT platform, we are helping our customers to affordably monitor their energy usage and be more responsible consumers.”

“By marrying our technology to the MachineQ IoT platform, we are helping our customers to affordably monitor their energy usage and be more responsible consumers.”

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