ESS.WP.920 Critical Thinking:
Smart Connected Fuel Systems
Design for High Performance Buildings
“Information technology is revolutionizing products. Once composed solely of
mechanical and electrical parts, products have become complex systems that
combine hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors, software, and
connectivity … driving dramatic improvements in product functionality and
Michael Porter, Harvard Business Review “How Smart Connected Products are Transforming
At Earthsafe we are used to our fuel systems being a small but critical part of
a complex building system, and our products have always been smart and
connected. But now smart means smarter and connected means more easily
connected, so let’s get into the details of what smart connected fuel systems
should be. Here is a way to think about the progression of product integration
into a complex building system
There are a few important realities driving designs toward smart connected products. Facility owners want:
- To operate the building with the minimum number of people.
- To have the assurance that the systems are operating correctly.
- To have the systems adjust to problems and self-correct, in order to minimize the potential for operator intervention error.
“Smart connected products ultimately can function with complete autonomy. Human operators merely monitor performance or watch over the system, rather than over individual units” Michael Porter HBR
In order to provide this functionality, the capabilities of the products need to be advanced in monitoring, control, optimization, and autonomy. Each builds on the preceding one. To have control capability for example, a product must have monitoring capability
Monitoring: The product integrates sensors and external data sources to enable the comprehensive monitoring of (a) the products condition, (b) the external environment, and (c) the product’s operation and usage. The capability allows for alerts and notifications of changes.
Control: Software embedded in the product enables (a) control of product functions, and (b) personalization of the user experience.
Optimization: Monitoring and control capabilities enable algorithms and optimize product operation and use in order to (a) enhance product performance, and (b) allow predictive diagnostics, service, and repair.
Autonomy: Combining monitoring, control, and optimization allows: (a) autonomous product operation, (b) self-coordination of operation with other products and systems, (c) autonomous product enhancement and personalization, (d) self-diagnosis and service.
What does this mean specifically for fuel systems:
- Smart: Smart Controllers should be an integral part of every component: duplex pumps, filter polishers, fill stations, valve controllers, and day tanks.
- Connected: Connectivity should be built into the controllers to allow Ethernet communications between individual modules.
- Integrated: Integration of the fuel system to the BMS should be very highly detailed to allow operator monitoring of standard points provided for the individual modules.
- Advanced Sensors: Sensors for level, temperature, flow, pressure, and differential pressure should provide continuous range rather than discrete points to allow for better analysis of conditions and to allow early notification of servicing.
- Control Interface: The controllers on the individual products should have touch screen interface capabilities to allow for better communication of system status, and also to enable operator customization of alarm set points, and operation scheduling.
- Alarm and Event Logging: The controllers should have real time clocks and display capabilities for events and alarms. This is to allow for trending, and for rapid troubleshooting of service needs.
- Redundant Components and Paths: Controllers should be capable of monitoring and switching between redundant components, redundant power sources, and redundant communication paths.
Earthsafe has always built smart connected fuel modules and systems. The difference now is that the sensors and components are improving significantly and being reduced in cost. This allows us to build-in the advanced capabilities of highly critical facilities into the standard fuel systems used for power generators.