Dipl. Informatik-Ing. ETH, manager of the Belimo project, Ergon Informatik AG
Intelligent networked valves ensure dramatically lower energy costs for climate control in large buildings. The IT experts at Ergon made an important contribution to turning an idea from the engineers at Belimo into a successful product.
Belimo’s “Energy Valve” shows how the combination of climate technology with IT know-how can create an intelligent industrial product. The electronically controlled valve, equipped with temperature and flow sensors and its integrated logic automatically regulates the water flow in the pipes to ensure that the temperature difference for heat exchange is optimal at all times. One of the first users of the “Energy Valve” is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is now saving app. 1.5 million USD in heating costs annually due to optimized operation.
A universal platform with many options
The intelligent “Energy Valve” is a product of the “Shared Logic” development platform which was created in close cooperation between the technology partners Belimo and Ergon over a period of five years. This embedded platform is a modular system and provides the basic functions for developing control units and processes for engineering Belimo’s intelligent components used for air conditioning in buildings. Based on “Shared Logic”, Belimo built the intelligent “Energy Valve” in summer 2011. The Belimo engineers knew which sensors and actuators were needed to control it, while data communication and user interface expertise were provided by the IT specialists. Belimo is the world market’s top innovator of actuator solutions for controlling heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems based in Hinwil, Zurich. With this latest creation, Belimo met the needs of its customers accurately. Since product launch a year ago, several hundred buildings worldwide have been fitted with the intelligent valves.
Trust fosters commitment
In addition to the technological competence of the joint development team, the trust on which its long-term cooperation was based proved decisive for the successful implementation of the “Shared Logic”. In projects of this kind, Ergon works with small agile teams. The team itself decides on the project plan, the technologies, and tools to be used and who is to do which job. It discusses the problems and solution options in short meetings every day, and all team members support each other. The highly qualified specialists achieve more in that kind of environment than the requirements specification demand of them, and they prove this time and again. For example, one of Ergon’s IT engineers realized that the platform independence of Java could allow the Belimo engineers to test the programming of their product directly on their PCs. Until then, these tests had to be performed at far greater expense in the system itself.