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COMPRESSOR TECHNOL


particular application, which would not be possible without data gathered by an intelligent system.


Q. What are the benefi ts for the contractor? A: Contractors can use the functions of the intelligent device to help in commissioning a new unit, with many of the factors set automatically by the device based on information about the refrigerant, application and compressor model. This signifi cantly reduces the time required to


get a unit up and running. The data log can also be used to confi rm that the compressor is being operated correctly, and identify any issues that need attention during the commissioning process. In operation, it can also help diagnose potential problems and speed up fault-fi nding, and, if connected to a computer, alarms can be read in real-time. This gives engineers unprecedented access to systems and how they are operating.


Q. And for the end-user? A: By improving effi ciency and reliability, and speeding up servicing and maintenance, it can save the end-user money. Reduced downtime also protects the end user’s business and maintains productivity, also key bottom line issues.


Q. How can contractors use intelligent systems to better serve their customers? A: Critical system faults don’t normally just happen. There is usually some precipitating issue that is accompanied by tell-tale signs of a problem. If left undiagnosed and untreated, this could


eventually develop into a bigger problem that could aff ect the whole system, and ultimately result in a total breakdown. An intelligent compressor can detect these early signs and send a report to the service company and/or end user, indicating what is happening. The system can adapt its operation to help manage, restrict or eliminate the eff ect of the problem until the fault is rectifi ed. In this way, the compressor is not operating at extremes if something potentially dangerous occurs within the system, minimising any resultant damage. Contractors could use the system’s capabilities more proactively, rather than being reactive as they are now. For example, they could use historical performance data to discuss with the customer potential system improvements to reduce operating costs and optimise operation for a particular application.


Q. How well equipped are contractors to use the capabilities of intelligent systems? Do you think industry training puts enough emphasis on this? A: Interestingly, most air conditioning contractors


have tools such as a laptops or tablets, while most refrigeration engineers do not. However, they all have smart phones, which is pretty much all you need to communicate with these intelligent devices.


It is a question of training in using the software


in conjunction with their existing system expertise. It’s obviously important that people understand in depth what changes to the system actually mean, rather than it simply being a case of numbers being typed in.


It is equally important to understand what the data coming out means. We must not rely on the system telling us what to do without informed human understanding, particularly as this relates to health and safety.


Q. Is there a training need specifi cally in relation to intelligent systems? A: Yes, but I believe it should happen in combination with improving the general level of skills in the industry. An intelligent compressor can collect and collate data, and advise on what is happening, but the engineer has to be able to interpret this and make appropriate manual adjustments in the correct way. This has to be based on an understanding of how systems and their components operate.


Q. Do you see any potential downsides to intelligent compressors?


A: There is always the possibility of an inexperienced person making changes without proper knowledge. This comes back to the need for training, in both intelligent systems and key refrigeration skills.


Q. Is there a legitimate concern about security, or the ability of unauthorised third parties to access systems?


A: There is always concern over security and normally with good reason. However, in my experience most security breaches result from someone doing something they probably shouldn’t, such as clicking on a suspicious link in an email or sharing passwords. Many businesses operate mission critical systems with components that have access to the internet, or could be compromised in some way, but they still do it. As with most aspects of life, the human factor is probably the highest risk.


Q. Is this ever raised as an issue by end users? A: Only in general terms in relation to sharing data over the internet. However, most have business and sales systems connected, which are as secure and protected as far as they can be. Intelligent compressors are connected to that platform


COMPRESSOR TECHNOLOGY


and provide data when asked via the protected network.


Q. What safeguards is Bitzer putting in place to ensure security?


A: The devices are designed to be fully functional as standalone products, with safety and effi ciency algorithms running without access to the internet. Therefore, they do not need to be connected all the time, or, indeed, at all. However, the real- time benefi ts of intelligence could be lost if they remain as standalone devices, as real-time alarms won’t be sent and proactive system analysis won’t be communicated. Full capabilities depend on connectivity and communication.


Q. Is there a need for an industry-wide approach on this? That is, an agreed security protocol, for example?


A: These products sit on already tried-and- tested communications platforms, such as secure IP networks which can be protected with high integrity processes. I think adding another level would just make things more complicated and restrictive. A lot of successful packages operate on an open-style system, so the security works as well as it would for any package.


Q. Looking to the future, how might intelligent systems improve things? A: The opportunities are almost limitless. Imagine that an end-user has a call from the service company to arrange a site visit to replace a component that is not working properly. The intelligent device has already advised the service company of the problem and the parts needed, and also the time-scale available in order make the repair to avoid any further issues or a breakdown. The end-user just has to program a short visit with minimal down-time to suit their business. In the old approach, the service company would likely be responding to a call reporting a system failure that would require an engineer to visit to diagnose the problem and identify the spares required. These would then have to be sourced and delivered, normally at a later date. Instead of a possible period of plant downtime, the intelligent approach ensures that the unit is repaired before it ever breaks down. The savings in time and money could make a huge impact on the economics of operating plant – not to mention the reductions in human stress related to equipment breakdown. On all levels, I believe that intelligent refrigeration equipment is set to play a huge role in the future and will, over time, transform our industry.


www.acr-news.com July 2018 35


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