Cloud-based Metering Infrastructure Management

Gordon Echlin

It’s pretty clear to most that an open information plan that keeps your data free from vendor or system lock-in is essential to any instrumentation and control measures you deploy (you can read our thoughts on that here). 

Less recognized yet arguably as important, however, is having secure and ready access to the actual building devices themselves — both for set up and ongoing device configuration. This is true for all modern, networked, on-premise building equipment — and critical for your metering infrastructure.

Device Status and Programming is Not Enough

A hierarchical approach to meter management lends itself well to many dimensions of modern building management.

Ready access to electrical meters for programming and status has become standard, but it’s not enough. A building’s meter management platform needs to go beyond individual devices to include how the meters are performing in a networked environment. The minimum criteria here is how each meter correlates to the physical elements of a building.

In addition to easy meter management, this hierarchical approach lends itself well to other dimensions of modern building management — including multi-tenancy, multiple sites, Infrastructure as a Service, contract services, and the needs of diverse stakeholder groups.

Allocating Costs and Assigning Control

In multi-tenant situations (residential and commercial), access to building information is not just to understand overall building performance, but also to allocate resource consumption. In some situations the need goes even further to include system control for property managers and tenants. These requirements call for sophisticated reporting mechanisms and the ability to set the scope of visibility and control to defined audiences.

For this reality, web-based access is a must.

Managing Multiple Sites

Many property managers have multiple buildings. Corporate property management not only has numerous sites but may have a footprint in multi-tenant buildings as well as wholly owned single occupant buildings. Having a metering infrastructure that allows for web-based access means that corporate leadership, property managers, and building professionals can all get the level of access and information they need across all locations — in a timely and secure manner.

Working with Third Parties

In today's complicated world of service delivery, a 3rd party may own and operate a building's instrumentation — therefore needing to access and control building devices while at the same time giving property management and tenants visibility. It is also not unusual for building assets like the metering infrastructure to be installed under one ownership, such as the building owner, and then transferred to an outsourced asset manager.

A web-based, hierarchical management system that controls stakeholder scope and privilege is key for managing these scenarios — and a serious, if not critical consideration when deploying any kind of metering or control system.

The Triacta Solution

Triacta’s metering platforms have been web-centric since inception. Management can be performed using local computing resources running Triacta’s configuration tools, or via Triacta Cloud — our web-based software as a service.  

Triacta Cloud provides these capabilities:

  • Hierarchical representation of metering assets with multiple views from different perspectives (for example, but not limited to): electrical system design, common versus tenant ownership, physical building layout, geographical distribution, and service and service provider association
  • XML based export and import of information for use by other applications
  • Clear format fields for meta-tagging description of individual metering points
  • Multiple user accounts with the ability to limit scope of control and visibility for multiple levels of stake-holder (Service Provider, Property owner, Property Manager, Local Tenant, Corporate C*Suite, Contractor, etc.)
  • Configuration tools for full configuration of individual meters
  • Configuration tools for full configuration of very large deployments of meters — with tools for commissioning, installation, wiring, and audit trails
  • Event management for oversight of meter deployments
  • Collection of meter data for scheduled reporting
  • Visual representation of consumption information
  • Built-in applications for application of tariff and service pricing to the individual meter point

The description of these capabilities is important, and beyond the scope of this article, so we will elaborate on these features in a future blog.

For now, check out the following brochure describing Triacta Cloud.

An Important Note on Security

In this age of security concerns it is important to understand how meters attached to a secure network behind a firewall can communicate with a web-based application without causing problems for IT.  Triacta meters are IP network “citizens” — obtaining IP addresses using the DHCP protocol (just like your computer) or having static IP addresses assigned to them. Triacta meters initiate communications with cloud applications just as a web-browser session from your computer would. Any meter user data or meter event information that is meant to be shared is uploaded to the cloud application, and any configuration information that is to be downloaded into the meter is pulled down in the same session. This meter-only initiation from inside a firewall per normal HTTP based operations is highly efficient and doesn't contravene standard network security protocols.

About the Author

Gordon Echlin is Vice President Marketing and Business Development for Triacta Power Solutions LP, where he has been a management team member since 2009. Prior to Triacta, Gordon was a partner for a boutique venture capital firm, Venture Coaches from 2006 to 2009, and started a telematics company, Netistix Technologies, in 2002. Gordon is a Computer Scientist and technologist by education, and prior to Netistix worked in technical, management and sales roles in Mitel Corporation, Newbridge Corporation and several small startups, since graduating in 1982.

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