Modular Cloud-connected Energy Management System
EcoBuild is a rising engineering sustainability consultancy in the MENA region. Suitably located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of UAE-one of the world’s hottest testbeds of engineering and technology, they provide engineering and design services to achieve highest sustainability standards in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. EcoBuild wanted to expand their market by becoming a provider of energy monitoring and management solutions to complement their design and consultation services. However, being a small startup and lacking an experienced hardware and manufacturing team made the problem seem intractable.
EcoBuild approached us with an idea. What if we build a modular energy management system (EMS) using Hexabitz modules? It makes perfect sense for a small company to develop such a complex system in a modular fashion. You can tackle the problem bit-by-bit and expand the functionality as you grow. The lack of internal hardware design team made a custom PCBA solution risky and very expensive when outsourced to a design firm. EcoBuild is still testing the waters and not willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on custom-made hardware that might not sell. On the other hand, available modular electronics solutions in the market did not seem suitable for an actual product that can be made compact, reliable and be sold to consumers just similar to a custom-made one.
Hexabitz platform provided the prefect combination of real-life-ready form factor and extremely modular and configurable architecture. The system connects to smart energy meters (electricity, water, gas) via either RS485 or Ethernet using ModBus protocol. A USB module facilitates connection to a central PC where Hexabitz-developed PC and cloud software collects meter measurements and synchronizes a local and remote Azure Cloud database. A micro-SD card memory module is used to store meter readings in case PC or Internet access is not available. Other variations of EcoBuild EMS connects directly to the Internet via Ethernet or Wifi connection to cloud servers. Hexabitz designed web portals for EMS administrators, operators and home users where they can access important information and plot graphs of their various meter parameters based on user permissions. These portals are accessible from web browsers, desktop clients or smartphones.
The modular architecture allowed EcoBuild to divide-and-conquer a complex project into multiple phases where new features (e.g. direct Internet access, internal logging, wireless connectivity) can be easily appended to current design without wasting previous efforts and investments. The beautiful flat and three-dimensional nature of Hexabitz arrays combined with flexibility of 3D printing enabled EcoBuild to construct a beautiful and futuristic device inline with their design ethos and brand identity.