Although it was initially developed for 3-phase meters, the engineers at 42 Technology realized Triple Ohm could also be used to measure the changes in the high frequency current or voltage harmonics within a single-phase power line.
Monitoring these changes, the company observed that each specific class of appliances (washing machines, kettles, vacuum cleaners etc…) had a characteristic harmonics trace, which could be identified by a specifically trained data analysis algorithm so as to be dissociated from other profiles.
Sampling current and voltage harmonics at 48kHz, a smart meter integrating Triple Ohm can break down the power consumption per device, enabling utilities providers to deliver itemised bills to their customers. The data could also be displayed in real time via a smartphone app or a low cost home energy monitor. Sensing is so accurate, claims 42 Technology, that for a given appliance, Triple Ohm could even spot variations due to malfunction or wear, warning users about potential issues or hinting that a device is approaching the end of its life.
Reached by eeNews Europe, 42 Technology’s managing director Jeremy Carey gave us more details about the company’s product roadmap.
“We’ve built our first version of a 3-phase meter in 2013 with custom hardware, then a 48kHz version for demand disaggregation in 2017, using off the shelf hardware coupled with our metering technology. At the moment, hardware is quite large but our vision is to integrate it to the size of a match-box so it can fit within a smart meter”.
Talking about sampling frequency, Carey justified the 48kHz figure as a design simplification. “You can find plenty of audio chips for data capture at that frequency. We could go to MHz sampling frequencies, but there would be a lot more data to crunch. We need to be able to perform a good separation of data, but with reasonable data loads and processing”, Carey said, adding that one option to further reduce the data load may be to sample the harmonics at 12kHz, providing the appliances’ profiles can still be clearly differentiated.
“The idea is to process the data locally, within the smart meter. So we’ll need a chip with enough processing power, but it will have to be cheap, so moving to a smaller sampling frequency with less bit depth would mean less data to crunch”.
But 42 Technology has yet a lot of work to do optimizing its algorithms and finding the simplest ways to shift through the data generated by going into the frequency domain.
“We look at a whole bunch of stuff, maybe eighteen or nineteen different parameters, mostly in the frequency domain, but also in the voltage and current domains”, explained Carey.
A dedicated team at 42 Technology is recording the signatures of different classes of appliances, building up a library of simplified templates which could be stored on-chip. Winning an Innovate UK Energy Catalyst 4 grant, the company was able to build a number of demonstration units and started collecting real usage data to show to potential development partners.
For now, the company is training its algorithms on discerning between different classes of appliances. “We can’t say the difference between a phone charger and a tablet charger, it is still very much class-level, but in the future we could teach our algorithms to identify the individual signatures of different brands, dishwashers have different cycles, but we haven’t got there yet” told us Carey.
Software could be upgraded remotely as new appliances come to market. Carey expects to license the technology as a front-end to utility companies who would want the whole data, so they could serve it to their customers in a bespoke way with their branding.
“Our solution generates about ten times as much data as today’s current metering data, they’ll want that data in their system where they already manage all their customers’ data” noted the managing director. “They could issue bills split out by the percentage of the different appliances running in the home, so customers would get a much better understanding of their energy spending”.
Carey is well aware that the smart meter market is already quite mature, with roll-outs well underway in various European countries.
“But the good news is that there are a lot of markets in the world that have not rolled smart meters yet, so it is still worth doing” he says. Outside metering, 42 Technology is exploring another commercial option, using Triple Ohm for predictive maintenance, to assess the condition of an appliance. “For an ageing motor or compressor in industrial monitoring, the problem is simpler. This could be done with an FPGA in low volumes”.
42 Technology is looking for investors or partners willing to further develop the technology first to an FPGA then possibly to an ASIC for high volume commercialization.
42 Technology – www.42technology.com