The Internet of Things can be described as the concept of connecting any object to the internet and to each other. Examples of objects include items we use every day, such as cell phones, washing machines, wearable devices and television sets. But, there are also many ways IoT is being used by businesses to lower their costs and provide greater value to their customers.
One example is how IoT is being used in Arrow’s state-of-the-art Value-Add Center (formerly called the Arrow Integration Center) to help optimize energy usage. The Arrow Value-Add Center is a 200,000 square foot facility in Phoenix, Arizona. It offers partners “cradle to grave” services and solutions that can be designed and built exactly to customers’ specifications, from simple builds to complete converged infrastructure solutions.
“We had been researching smart buildings from both an energy and environmental perspective,” said Roland Ducote, Arrow OCS corporate supplier manager. “One of our partners asked us if we would be interested in piloting an IoT energy-savings solution for our Value-Add Center. We thought it was a good idea, because we would be able to accurately measure energy consumption and take proactive actions to improve efficiencies.” The goal of the first phase of the IoT implementation was to monitor and collect data about the Arrow Value-Add Center energy consumption. Specifically, Arrow wanted to know:
- The energy used in specific areas of the building, so that anomalies could be investigated to see if they were valid and warranted.
- The information that could be gathered for analysis, so that preventative maintenance could be scheduled.
- Types of alerts that could be issued real-time that would notify management of an impending breakdown or hazard.
- Long-term electrical usage, so the best electrical rates could be negotiated.
A project design was developed by the Value-Add Center engineers and Arrow Systems Integration. Arrow SI is a subsidiary of Arrow Electronics, Inc., and is a total solutions provider specializing in unified communications, voice and data technologies, contact center and network security ‒ all while providing customers with service and support. The IoT solution used three key vendor pieces – a hardware thin client, integration software and visualization on a data platform.
The Value-Add Center team was responsible for physically installing the required sensors and the associated wiring. From there, Arrow SI took over the integration aspect. They made sure requirements and expectations were established, and then they developed a prototype and finalized the design. “Arrow SI has the ability to put together solutions with resource and has execution flexibility,” said Ashish Parikh, VP software development and solutions for Arrow SI. “The world is transitioning, and it is important for distributors to be able to tie all the pieces together for their customers. Arrow SI has the engineering and technical talent to make this happen, and we proved it in this installation.”
The Arrow IoT Value-Add Center implementation went quite smoothly, taking only about three weeks from concept to completion. The Value-Add Center and Arrow SI engineers installed the solution, which is a testament to the engineering capabilities provided to partners on a daily basis. All hardware and software was integrated together without bringing down any systems.
“Before the implementation, we could only see usage on daily, weekly or monthly reports, but not for any specific part of the building,” said Matthew Fagan, Arrow Value-Add Center facilities manager. “It was a reactive situation. Now we have a clear picture into our energy usage in all areas of the facility so we can better manage it. As a result, we have realized cost savings.”
Fagan now has a real-time tool to monitor electrical usage. He can see exactly how much energy is being used at any time anywhere in the facility. “I am able to be proactive and trouble-shoot potential issues with the data I now have available to me,” Fagan stated. “This type of IoT implementation is relatively new to everyone,” said Parikh. “We have been able to demonstrate our integration capabilities in the Arrow Value-Add Center, while most people are just talking theory. But we actually did it.”
Longer term, the Value-Add Center team sees many opportunities where they can further integrate IoT technologies. Monitoring indoor air quality and facility maintenance are two good examples. Indoor air quality is an important part of worker comfort and necessary to monitor aspects of a manufacturing environment. Arrow will setup gas sensors to monitor the indoor air quality. This addition to Arrow’s smart building will allow further demonstration of multiple sensors, speaking multiple language, onto a single gateway.
Another aspect of building maintenance is water damage from leaks. As buildings age, the risk for leaks increase and could decrease productivity from a manufacturing site. Arrow will setup a wireless leak detection system that will also feed into the same system as the energy and indoor air quality monitors.
If you would like additional information about the Arrow IoT implemention or to learn more about Arrow SI capabilities, contact your Arrow representative.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in July 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.