Facility & Maintenance Management

How to Reduce Energy Consumption in Retail Chain with IoT Sensors?

December 15, 2022

Energy prices are still rising, and current geopolitical events are accelerating this price hike, affecting the retail industry as well. The good news is that there are some ways to significantly reduce costs without passing them along to customers. An innovative approach and thoughtful management are the answers. What is the meaning behind these concepts?

Dariusz Meres, Business Development Manager at Velis Real Estate Tech, discussed these issues together with Grzegorz Kossakowski, Head of the Facility Department at Empik, and Radoslaw Kurenda, Chief Technology Officer at Spark, during an expert discussion on how to reduce energy consumption in chain stores using IoT and Smart Metering. Experienced real estate professionals shared their experiences and pointed out very specific examples of how and where to find savings as well as how to measure, monitor, and report on energy consumption in retail chains.

• How can Smart Metering systems generate savings?

• What are the challenges that may arise during the installation, implementation, and configuration of Smart Metering systems in retail facilities?

• What data should be collected in CAFM-type systems integrated with Smart Metering or BMS?

You'll find answers to these questions and more in this article.

How can Smart Metering Systems Generate Savings?

It is important to consider each premises individually when implementing Smart Metering. Almost every location differs in terms of environmental factors, such as entrances from the street, large windows, roof slopes or good insulation.

It is estimated that a Smart Metering system can save you 5%-10%, which are significant savings at today's electricity prices. Assuming the premises have previously implemented internal procedures to maximize energy efficiency and installed equipment, a similar result can occur. For example, determining the hours of operation and temperature of the air conditioning and ventilation equipment and lighting of the premises, since this equipment are mainly responsible for most of their costs. Over the past five years, smart metering systems have become significantly cheaper, making investments in them more profitable.

What Are the Challenges During the Installation, Implementation, and Configuration of Smart Metering Systems in Retail Facilities?

The most common challenge for existing buildings that are being adapted to automation or Smart Metering is incomplete or incorrect documentation. On the other hand, new buildings usually have complete documentation that is easy to obtain, review, and analyze.

Technical aspects of the infrastructure can also pose a challenge for older properties. Back then, designing and installing was quite different from today. It takes more work and money to adapt a Smart Metering system to measure different appliances separately. There may be problems with the connections between specific components of the system. An example is BMS systems previously implemented in a building that read meters. In many cases, they are not well matched or do not work correctly, and the user has difficulty operating them. Nevertheless, in newly constructed post-retrofit buildings created in accordance with modern standards, implementation is much easier. Such buildings are equipped with new, wireless infrastructure.

The current geopolitical situation also affects the accessibility of equipment, which is another challenge induced by the pandemic. As a result, order times have increased. When equipment shortages or long lead times occur, it is important to have several equipment suppliers to make alternative deliveries.

It is also challenging to connect the system to an internal IT network. IT teams must work hard to certify the system as secure, which requires extensive efforts on their part.

What Are Good Practices in Preparing for This Type of Investment?

It is important to take an individual approach to each property and perform a preliminary audit. By doing this, you will be able to examine the existing infrastructure, gather user feedback, and consult with the property manager. By doing this, you can isolate problems and choose components and infrastructure based on the needs of a particular user.

In large corporations or in more complex facilities, access to infrastructure is often very difficult. In such situations, the solution provider can create an external infrastructure, where its own computer bus is used, a network structure, if there is such a possibility and user consent, or switch to wireless communication.

What Kind of Data Should Be Collected CAFM Systems?

Data collected in one place (in the application) is essential for generating reports, preparing comparisons, and conducting analysis. Visualizing the gathered data is also important, not only for the property manager or technical director, but especially for the tenant coordinators.

Metering all the installations within the facility would provide an overall picture of the situation at any given time, but this is not economically feasible.

When an undesirable situation occurs, one PropTech app should automatically send alerts to responsible persons. In addition, with beneficial IoT sensors for real estate, key parameters such as temperature or humidity should be monitored from different zones of the store.  

Energy consumption information from smart meters is provided not only monthly or weekly, but also in fifteen-minute or even five-minute intervals. The reporting of energy consumption is also important from the real estate ESG reporting perspective. In the near future, all buildings will be required to have smart meters, which will allow remote consumption monitoring.

Technology related to IoT sensors can also be a great complement to BMS systems. These systems are typically used by property managers, owners, and technical directors, and data included in such systems often refers to the whole real estate. In contrast, an IoT sensor transmits environmental data, such as temperature, lighting or the presence of people in a specific location. Based on various parameters, for example, the number of people in a room and the humidity, it can be possible to calculate certain estimates.

Sensors can send data not only to property managers and owners, but also to tenants, who can install them themselves and make comparisons. Using these sensors, you can monitor the air quality in the rented space or check room occupancy.

What are the Expectations Regarding IoT Sensors?

For effective air conditioning and ventilation management, the ability to collect real-time information on the temperature of the premises is essential. IoT sensors are also useful for gathering data on lighting, leakage of water or help with measuring fresh air exchange.

Having full knowledge of these areas in real time allows all parties involved to make appropriate adjustments for effective, ongoing management. Additionally, this results in savings. Store managers, for example, should also have access to such data. This can also serve as a motivational system by ensuring that the lights are turned off during off-hours, or dimmed at specific times (e.g., at the start of the day when no lights are needed) or setting the appropriate room temperature.

What are Other Applications of IoT Sensors Besides Reducing Energy Consumption?

A key issue is how to manage people and ensure employee comfort. Using special comfort sensors, such as carbon monoxide sensors, it is possible to ensure optimal conditions for office work and meetings through proper air exchange, such as turning off ventilation when necessary. It is also becoming more common to have occupancy sensors that count the number of people in a room. As a result, it is easier to manage office space or facility space.

Additionally, IoT can help track assets in warehouses, i.e., monitor the flow of goods. It is possible to automate the storage and shipping of goods using RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology. Thanks to RFID and IoT gateways, it is no longer necessary to manually count and check inventory.

IoT sensors can also be used for predictive maintenance. It is possible, for example, to install sensors in a building to measure vibrations during the operation of pumps. An analysis of the bathtub curve can tell maintenance when additional maintenance is needed and prevent impending failure. Sensors that detect leakage can also prevent flooding in a room from spreading.

In addition, IoT sensors are often used for heating control. A sensor can change the heating parameters of a facility based on weather forecasts; for instance, if you know the forecast, you can cool down the building earlier and turn off the heating to reduce costs. Similarly, when employees are informed of impending frost, the heating can be turned on earlier to ensure their comfort.  It relates to ESG reporting and setting goals, for example, in reducing energy consumption over time. A significant benefit of collecting this data is the possibility of making accurate comparisons.

What Challenges Arise When Installing IoT sensors?

As IoT devices are often battery-operated with wireless communication, location is of little importance when installing them. It is possible to build the infrastructure quickly, covering even multi-story buildings. A challenge, however, is achieving the desired effect through integration with existing systems such as HVAC systems and building automation systems.

How to Effectively Benefit from the Implementation of Smart Metering?

Before implementing Smart Metering, it is worth considering the following steps:

• The first step should be to set a goal based on an analysis.

• Provide data with results and indicate how to achieve it.

• As a result of the Smart Metering system, accurate information is provided about consumption at each fraction.

• The manager of a particular facility can then decide whether or not to reduce the temperature below the top-down set based on exactly what the result is.

• A continuous adjustment is made based on the data he receives, depending on the situation.

IoT and Smart Metering: What are the Greatest Benefits?

• Implementing and operating such systems has a relatively quick return of investment (ROI), meaning that actual savings are generated relatively quickly compared to the costs associated with the development and implementation.

• Real-time data collection and dissemination are also important.

• It is also crucial to receive automatic alerts so the responsible persons can be notified within 24 hours, even if they don't log in, and act quickly when an event occurs, such as surpassing a score.

• In addition, the system generates data transparently in real-time, compares facilities across the network, analyzes, streamlines processes to generate further savings.

The list of advantages of using IoT sensors is even longer.

The Future of IoT Sensors Development

Energy conservation is currently one of the most pressing challenges. Sensors that help with this are becoming cheaper, and technology will continue to advance in this area. Monitoring assets, such as human resources, infrastructure, goods, and supply chains, is also a growing area - i.e., automating processes, monitoring data, and analyzing it.

Automation Is the Future

To sum up, Smart Metering and IoT building software offer many benefits. Not only reducing costs by reducing energy consumption in facilities, but also improving processes in building maintenance. Another advantage is improving communication between stakeholders, addressing faults faster, monitoring, analyzing, and drawing conclusions based on collected data in real-time. Additionally, such technologies contribute to the non-financial reporting (environment, social, and governance). Due to the enormous amount of data, these issues become extremely important, especially when managing a portfolio of retail chain stores.

Would you like to minimize your energy consumption costs? Get a free consultation and learn how IoT, smart meters, and multi-industrial facilities management software can help your real estate business.

Written by:
Velis Team

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