Sensors Mag

Electricity is Our Friend

February 28, 2006 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors

As a result of a recent and particularly nasty windstorm, we lost power for several hours. This happens infrequently but serves to underscore just how much of our lives is electrified.

Yes, indeed. We use a lot of electricity to power and enhance our everyday lives and of all the uses lights and climate control are the biggies. Remember your parents telling you to shut doors, turn off lights, and for goodness sake put on a sweater if you're cold? Hands up all of you who, once you actually were in charge of your own utility bills, started understanding those maxims of frugality?

Conservation and Stewardship

There are at least two major trends in the sensor industry that pertain to electricity. The first is the growth in sensor-enhanced building controls. If you've ever had to flail about while working late at the office because your office light went out when it hadn't detected any motion for a while then you are familiar with these devices. The same goes for climate control systems that aim to keep buildings from getting too hot or too cold. (I'm still waiting for a climate-controlled building where I don't have to bundle up in summer lest the AC turn me into an icicle. I live in hope.) A nice illustration of this kind of application cropped up in a recent article in the Indian Express Newspaper's Mumbai Newsline. India's booming economy is causing an energy crunch and so the government of Maharashtra, one of the most populous Indian states, is trying to curb the wasteful habits of its ministers and secretaries by using sensors to turn off lights or fans in empty offices.

Watching the Grid

The second trend deals with using sensor technology to monitor and optimize the national power grid. This can include sensors on the power lines to measure their temperature, current, voltage, and how much they sag, to sensors keeping watch on transformers and other critical transmission equipment to give early warning of impending problems. Once again, sensors are helping utility companies to understand what's really happening in their systems. (Heck, this particular trend even has its own trade show!)

Me? I'm just happy to have my power back.

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