Samsung Electronics decided to introduce IoT and cloud service to system air-conditioner solutions. Even though the air conditioner is a necessity but its energy efficiency has been questioned continuously. On the other hand, we unexpectedly waste not a little energy in our life. Samsung Electronics prevents energy waste through the optimal operation control and efficient management of S-NET Cloud, while not sacrificing coolness. Taking a step forward, Samsung Electronics attempts to differentiate their products in the global air conditioner market using the inefficient operation detection technology that identifies early indications of malfunction.
Summer 2016 was extremely hot. Controversy over electric charges was as hot as the weather. The air conditioner was mainly blamed for exorbitant electric charges. The progressive rating system was discussed in the society but the industry is worrying about how to create a cool environment while using less electric power.
Samsung Electronics decided to provide the IoT cloud based service to system air-conditioner solutions. The service is a system that saves energy by keeping efficient cooling and heating, based on the system air-conditioner sensor and operation data, and indoor environmental information; and detects equipment malfunction and performs remote maintenance and management in an integrated manner, based on real-time analysis. Samsung Electronics names this solution S-NET Cloud.
Encounter of the air conditioner with IoT and cloud
Samsung Electronics S-NET Cloud begun with a concern about expanding business itself, by expanding cloud and IoT to the service platform, instead of a simple technology.
Currently, the system air-conditioner market is running totally different from the previous one. Making an efficient product and installing it properly were everything the market demands. However, energy saving and eco-friendliness issues arise due to national policies. The current situation is that consumers are required to save energy but both producers and managers are also responsible for those energy-saving efforts.
“Energy efficiency is required by air conditioner business itself but it is also a big challenge from the perspective of building management. Recently, demand on installing energy control systems is increasing for the air conditioner that is newly installed in the public institution as a national policy.”
Brian Suhgoo Kim, Director of Sales & Marketing Team, Digital Appliances Business, Samsung Electronics, explained. He means that there is a demand for efficient management. However, building management is not easy now, even though this demand is considered. The specialized managing company conducts energy saving for big buildings with own know-how and solutions. However, most small and medium-sized buildings have a difficulty in hiring the personnel who operate and manage such equipment professionally. Efficient energy control and leak prevention are not easy in this situation. Strangely, it is similar to the reason why general enterprises use cloud computing in their services.
Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and Azure SQL Database are used for this system. Middleware and platform run on Microsoft Azure. Samsung Electronics develops and operates the efficient control algorithm and the function of basic equipment control/energy analysis/inefficient operation detection. The biggest reason why Samsung Electronics uses Azure is that they plan to enter the global market, instead of using the system in the domestic market only. Even the multinational company like Samsung Electronics cannot operate data centers separately throughout the world in a stable manner. In addition, it is a serious challenge to receive certification for all the regulation of each country and solve the accompanying issues. The strength of cloud works best in this situation, which is available globally. Brian Suhgoo Kim, Director, explained the “selection and concentration” of the solution service business by saying that, “Microsoft Azure has been operating reliably throughout the world. Therefore, we decided that we can concentrate on service itself without worrying about the infrastructure.”
“From IoT, Cloud to Big Data and Al Service”
Sensors attached on the air conditions rather than separate equipment are used to collect the basic information. Many and diverse sensors are integrated with the system air-conditioner that measure an indoor/outdoor temperature and operating state of the machine. In addition, recent air conditioner models are equipped with person detection sensors in the room to see if there is any person within the range of cooling, in order to reduce energy consumption. This information is connected to the outdoor unit and used to control air conditioner operation in real time according to the basic program scenario. In addition, various factors such as current power consumption and operating time can be checked and analyzed in real time, using a meter.
As a result, an enormous amount of data is created when the air conditioner is running. There was no method or necessity of storing the data efficiently up to now. However, the air conditioner starts and operates totally differently as soon as the data is collected in cloud.
Many data generated by the system air-conditioner is collected by the DMS. The DMS (Data Management Server) is a controller that controls the air conditioner, which is like a set top box installed inside the house. One DMS can control 256 air conditioner indoor units in an integrated manner. Usually, tens or hundreds of air conditioners are installed in one building. One DMS is sufficient enough to comprehensively manage and control the general college building or the primary, middle, or high school building.
The information collected by the DMS is transferred to the IoT Hub of Microsoft Azure using the standard IoT protocol. The IoT Hub is a hub that controls the incoming data in real time, quite literally. The information collected by the IoT Hub is stored in Azure SQL Database in real time. Then, the management system internally developed by Samsung Electronics analyzes energy efficiency, based on the information stored in Azure SQL.
The building manager can check the energy analysis information related to air conditioning at a glance in real time using S-NET Cloud. In addition, this system proposes an operating system that minimizes power consumption, while causing no discomfort to the residents. S-NET Cloud was released in Korea first last autumn, and has been applied and operated in the primary, middle, or high school building, college building, and large size franchise shops. It is reported that energy consumption for air conditioning has dropped by 15-18% on an average, or even 25%, when the solution is applied.
The success of S-NET Cloud doesn’t end here. The inefficient operation detection service, which detects the indications of failure in advance, minimizes the cooling and heating failure period due to the breakdown of the machine. Moving forward, cloud service will get much smarter than current real-time monitoring and remote control with data analysis based on big data and machine learning. Services that finds an optimal operating condition while learning the optimal operation pattern of each field using data analysis and AI service will soon be on the market.
Smart air conditioner that evolves itself and finds optimal operating condition
Currently, Samsung Electronics is running a maintenance service that the remote data center analyzes numerous data generated by air conditioners running in each field, and detects and take actions against malfunction symptoms. When this service is applied, the information generated by the sensors installed in the air conditioner will be analyzed using the inefficient operation detection algorithm, and transferred to the remote control center in Samsung Electronics. Then, the control center identifies the problem accurately before the air conditioner actually fails, based on the received information, and take proper actions in advance before the problem coccus such as repair or maintenance. If a job is simple such as changing air conditioner setting or schedule, the machine can be controlled conveniently without the help of the professional technician. The failure recovery time is reduced and the building manager doesn’t have to pay attention to air conditioner management.
Various services are running in the Azure IoT Suite and Cortana engine. The Azure IoT Suite is used as PaaS. Therefore, it is easy to add or modify the necessary function and module, because basic tools are well prepared that run the simulation engine and analyze algorithms and patterns.
As the solution is designed in such way that system operation is all conducted on Azure, Samsung Electronics only has to develop and upload necessary application modules and contents services as occasion demands.
Samsung Electronics plans to expand S-NET Cloud to bigger services in the future. For example, it is possible to stop cooling when the window is opened or there is no person in the room, or change the operating scenario according to the time zone, or combine lighting and heating. Those jobs cannot be performed one by one by one administrator. More intelligent and self-evolving services can be provided to users, if big data and machine learning AI service are added to the existing IoT and Azure, and the service is advanced.
In addition, this system is not a proprietary technology that can be applied to Samsung Electronics’ new products only. Previous air conditioners produced by Samsung Electronics, which are not the newly released system air-conditioner, can access S-NET Cloud using the DMS.
Samsung Electronics will provide a continuous air conditioner maintenance service as additional business, instead of selling and installing an air conditioner only. A new era has come that the air conditioner is not simple hardware anymore and becomes a service product that users subscribe for use.
Normally, general system air-conditioners last 15 years, and cost saving and efficiency can be improved from the building management perspective, if services are provided continuously during those years. The service itself can be a cost. Samsung Electronics can also expand business as an additional service. In addition, if maintenance is provided continuously, the time of air conditioner replacement can be known exactly using the data, and a replacement sales opportunity can be obtained when the next remodeling time is due. Samsung Electronics’ S-NET Cloud is a representative case that directly demonstrates how traditional business can evolve into new service business, when the IoT and cloud technology are utilized.