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As we enter the era of the internet of things (IoT), everything around us seems to be becoming more connected and "smart," from mobile devices and cars to thermostats, industrial machinery and even switchgear. By tapping into the power of the IoT, connected devices can generate and share massive amounts of data that can be used to enhance electrical system performance.
However, not all equipment in its natural state is enabled for connectivity, especially when it comes to electrical systems. In fact, across industries, many facility electrical systems are more than 30 years old. Fortunately, upgrading equipment to a "smart system," where switchgear and other base electrical equipment are installed with communications and other connectivity, is a relatively simple process.
A variety of devices and solutions can be easily integrated into existing electrical equipment to enable smart system capabilities. Examples include circuit breakers that offer trip units with communication and power monitoring capabilities, thermal sensors to monitor bus and cable connection temperatures, partial discharge monitoring to ensure equipment is properly maintained and upgraded at appropriate times, humidity monitoring sensors that allow communication with existing management systems, power monitoring devices that connect to management systems to help with power quality analysis, and smart relays that increase the reliability and safety of aging equipment.
Modernized equipment can provide many advantages, from improved reliability and greater efficiency to enhanced safety. Additional benefits include the following:
With data readily available and presented simply and concisely, it is easier to analyze and spot trends to make faster decisions. This allows plant personnel to better understand and study their aging equipment.
The ability to monitor, control and display data can reveal opportunities for asset improvements. Having access to real-time data remotely, instead of needing to go to the front of the equipment, can save time and costs, as well as reduce the risk of exposure to arc flash incidents.
Embedding IoT solutions in aging equipment enables alarm email notifications to be sent to individuals within the organization and provides customized alert messages to pinpoint alarm specifics and locations.
By upgrading aging equipment with modern technology, it becomes easy to connect to a computer or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to be able to retrieve data and review the equipment's performance. Additionally, with the newest technology, plant managers can collect data and review it from a mobile device.
There are many other benefits to digitizing aging equipment that can aid in developing maintenance plans, equipment planning and reducing the need to have employees in front of the machines as often. In the long run, these smart systems can influence expenditures and safety by adding predictive maintenance on top of preventive maintenance.