GE Global Research, Sensicast & RPI join for DOE wireless sensor networks

Three-year, $6 million project will reduce industrial motor energy consumption with low-cost wireless sensors; projected energy savings exceeds 120 trillion BTUs...

NISKAYUNA, NY, & NEEDHAM, MA, Aug. 9, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of the General Electric company, Sensicast Systems, provider of wireless sensor networking products and solutions, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) announced they're collaborating on a three-year, $6 million project for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project will dramatically increase the overall energy efficiency of American industry by developing wireless sensor networks and systems to improve the efficiency of electric motors.

GE Global Research has been selected to lead the project to develop novel, low-cost wireless sensor networks for industrial equipment monitoring. The first focus will be to analyze the efficiency of industrial motors. Industrial electric motors are used in virtually every industrial and manufacturing process ranging from large pumps for municipal water plants to compressors that transport fuels through pipelines to simple air conditioning units. They are the workhorse of industry, and use 65% of the total electricity consumed by U.S. industry.

Sensicast is providing mesh networking software that eliminates signal interference and integrates the wireless network into the existing plant network. RPI is developing physics-based models for analysis and lifetime prediction of the motors. The goal is to dramatically reduce the cost of owning motor monitoring systems, which should accelerate technology adoption and enable energy savings in motor systems throughout industry.

How it works
Wireless sensors will be installed on selected motors in a plant operation. The sensors will monitor parameters critical to each motor's condition and efficiency based on a combination of measurements such as vibration, temperature and power quality. This data is then transmitted wirelessly to a computer that analyzes the data from each sensor. Any potential problems are transmitted to plant personnel via phone, pager or e-mail as an advanced warning system. This will allow plant personnel to repair or replace motors before their efficiency drops or they fail entirely.

"GE shares the DOE's commitment to use technology however possible to help improve America's energy efficiency," said Dan Sexton, project leader at GE Global Research. "Wireless sensor networks have the potential to provide cost-effective new technology to dramatically increase energy efficiency throughout industry. GE's vision for the future includes using wireless sensor technology in a wide variety of industrial and consumer applications to improve the way we monitor, protect and control the world around us."

"Electric motor driven systems consume 23% of all electricity used in the United States - a truly staggering number. Working with GE and the Department of Energy to deploy smart wireless mesh networking technology for improving these motors' energy efficiency is a real world example of technology making a significant difference," said Paul Sereiko, CEO of Sensicast. "Additionally, this provides significant validation for the strength and scalability of our Sensor Networking Platform."

About the project
This project is part of the $61 million "Industries of the Future" program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, which focuses improving energy efficiency throughout strategic industries within the United States.

The program has three phases: (1) Feasibility study to understand technical challenges (Jan - Dec 2004); (2) Build prototype systems and complete proof-of-concept experiments (Jan - Dec 2005); (3) Implement complete system at a test site and collect and analyze operational data.

The project plan is a three-year, $6 million program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The program is a 50/50 cost share, where risks are shared equally between the U.S. government and industry partners.

Future applications
There are two major advantages of the technology being developed for this program. The first is a robust, low power communications network that will operate in an industrial environment. This low power consumption will enables the networks to operate for years on a single battery. The second advantage is the configurable, two way communications network.

Many wireless systems today are one way, so the system can receive data, but not send commands or confirmation back to the device. This system will have two-way communications, enabling the use of control applications. For example, if a monitoring system is being used on a generator and has sent notification that it is running too hot, the monitoring personnel could issue wireless commands back to the generator for it to turn on its exhaust fan.

These capabilities enable potential applications across many industries, but some exciting possibilities include security applications. A security application in the home would include being notified of certain events combined with the ability to give commands back to the security system. For example, a person could be notified if someone arrived at their home when they weren't there, and then commands could be sent back to the system to disarm the system and unlock the door if needed. Other applications include process monitoring and control, asset tracking and patient monitoring.

About GE Global Research
GE Global Research is one of the world's most diversified industrial research labs, providing innovative technology for all of GE's businesses. Global Research has been the cornerstone of GE technology for more than 100 years, developing breakthrough innovations in areas such as medical imaging, energy generation technology, jet engines and lighting. GE Global Research is headquartered in Niskayuna, New York and has facilities in Bangalore, India, Shanghai, China and Munich, Germany. Visit GE Global Research at www.research.ge.com.

About Sensicast
Founded in 2002, Sensicast (www.sensicast.com) provides complete wireless mesh sensor networks to a wide range of industries. At the core of Sensicast's wireless mesh networking solutions is the comprehensive Sensicast Sensor Network Platform. Sensicast's Platform provides the simplest, most cost-effective way to develop and deploy whole network solutions for intelligent wireless monitoring and control - bringing together multiple remote devices, sensors and networks into one integrated management platform. Sensicast is focused on providing complete solutions for targeted vertical markets and a development platform for original equipment manufacturers. Sensicast is a privately held company with Ardesta, LLC as its primary investor.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. The school offers degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of research centers that are characterized by strong industry partnerships. The Institute is especially well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

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