NTU tool can help firms cut energy bills

Evercomm Singapore co-founder Ted Chen with a wireless sensor chip, part of an analytic tool that enables firms to find out the exact factors that affect energy consumption.
Evercomm Singapore co-founder Ted Chen with a wireless sensor chip, part of an analytic tool that enables firms to find out the exact factors that affect energy consumption.PHOTO: NTU

A university in Taiwan saved more than $650,000 in the past year by using air-conditioning and lighting appliances at the most energy-efficient levels.

If companies and housing estates use the same analytic tool - created by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) - they, too, could cut their energy bills.

Some firms here, including semiconductor maker GlobalFoundries, have already started doing so, alongside a few others in Taiwan.

The tool includes wireless sensor chips installed on appliances to collect raw data from them, such as temperature and the workload of computer processors. This data is then sent to a central server, where it is analysed using an algorithm, to give an estimate of how much energy will be used.

Through software modelling, companies can set targets for energy savings and decide how to cut down on consumption.

Mr Ted Chen, co-founder of Evercomm Singapore, which helped to commercialise the technology, said in an interview at NTU yesterday: "Large semiconductor factories and campuses could save up to $1 million a year without a need to change much of their hardware."

This is what Evercomm has helped Taiwan's National Dong Hwa University to achieve, in the biggest project it has taken on so far. "By combining the software algorithm with hardware sensors, we can find out exactly how much cooling a room needs, whether there is an oversupply of cooling, and so adjust the air flow and temperature to achieve the best balance," he said.

Evercomm plans to expand into the data centre industry and the heartland as well. It is in talks with urbanisation consultant Surbana to deploy the analytics to Housing Board flats and housing estates.

In May, it carried out a pilot at the Toshiba-NTU modular data centre, which cut its monthly electricity bill by 5 per cent.

Assistant Professor Wen Yonggang of NTU said: "Servers which are performing intensive computing will generate a lot of heat.If we know which these servers are, we can spread out the computing load and reduce the heat emitted by the servers, in turn reducing the energy needed to cool them." Prof Wen developed the algorithm used to analyse energy consumption.

Mr Chen said: "We hope that our local innovation can help to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions of companies in Singapore and overseas, and help to mitigate climate change."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'NTU tool can help firms cut energy bills'. Print Edition | Subscribe