Power availability, power reliability and power quality are essential for critical power environments, including critical power buildings such as hospitals, power plants and data centers.
As Kevin Morin explains in our interview on IoT in critical power buildings, power availability is one type of key critical power applications. Another example is energy accounting, which has everything to do with costs. And in both types of applications IoT nowadays plays a role.
Critical power buildings need the right power at the right time and quality for the right purposes, reasons, risks and degrees of criticality
With power availability you could say we’re not – or far less – in a context of energy costs and savings but more in one of cost avoidance and of business and operational continuity whereby costs stand for a range of financial and certainly non-financial consequences you want to avoid in critical power environments. And on top of the availability of the power, reliability, quality, maintainability and manageability all play important roles in critical power buildings. In this article we mainly look at power availability and reliability, including the dimension of manageability.
Power quality and degrees of criticality in critical power buildings
A critical power building is complex, otherwise there wouldn’t be certification programs such as the EcoXpert Critical Power certification, for which Kevin is responsible, to begin with.
Everything already starts with the reality of a critical power building. It’s not as if all parts, zones, rooms, locations and ‘applications’ are equally critical. A building consists of so many parts and functions that the degree or level of criticality isn’t equally high everywhere. You can imagine that in a hospital, for instance, the rooms where equipment is stored for the cleaning of the healthcare facility is not the same of that of the room where essential IT equipment sits and certainly not as critical as an intensive care unit or operating room/theater.
In other words: there is a whole lot of planning and infrastructural work with various bits, pieces and of course services within the premises and context of one critical building and its various degrees of criticality, which again can be split into several sorts of criticality. If you start adding aspects such as the registration desk, day hospital zones, elevators, rooms where patients come to meet with doctors for follow-up, the hospital canteen or restaurant, staff changing rooms, the pharmacy, the parking lot and so much more, the picture becomes even more complex.
Electrical power availability: capability of an electrical system to provide power with the proper quality for the powered equipment, yet often measured as an uptime rate over a defined period (with typically several 9’s)
The critical aspects of a critical power building with power availability, reliability and quality needs
It’s clear that power availability, reliability and quality needs are highest where the stakes and degree of criticality is highest.
When we keep using a hospital as an example, one immediately thinks about operating theaters, locations where critically ill patients are being treated or followed up and so forth. However, also think about test labs, patient rooms where care might be less intensive but important medical equipment is needed for the patients and, last but certainly not least, the IT environment with its server rooms and data centers where critical medical and patient-related data is being processed or made accessible and where important systems are housed which make so much aspects of a hospital in today’s digital environments run for the benefit of patients, doctors, nurses, staff and numerous other stakeholders.
An additional aspect of power availability, reliability and quality is related to the consequences of power issues and electrical anomalies. Poor-quality power with a high degree of instability can shorten the life cycle of equipment or cause other forms of – sometimes very critical – damage, to give just one example. Moreover, even when available and reliable, power also needs to respond to green energy standards and the power infrastructure as such needs to be safe as such too of course.
Power maintainability and manageability in complex critical power availability environments
This indirectly brings us to the dimensions of power maintainability and manageability where IT and OT convergence, and data systems and the Internet of Things come more clearly in the picture.
Critical power buildings don’t just need the right power at the right time and quality for all the right purposes, reasons, risks and degrees of criticality. Scalability, flexibility, preventive/predictive maintenance and, in case of a disruption, immediate automated action (e.g. switching to generators and uninterruptible power supplies in a smooth way) and understanding the cause of anomalies in order to fix, prevent and – when needed report – them are all important elements too.
Power availability concerns applications which look at factors that are related to the availability, quality or reliability of power in a facility
It’s here that the possibilities to maintain and manage, from A to Z, lead to the need for more integrated systems and traditionally rather isolated functions meet and converge, offering end-to-end overviews despite the underlying complexities and with a focus on insights, intelligence and action on top of more traditional maintenance. And it’s here that we find a mix of smart systems, leveraging IoT data, analysis and platforms for various types of users, ranging from facility management responsibles and CIOs and IT/security staff to even medical staff, hospital administration and so on.
In times where data is not just mission-critical but also key to innovation and actions which can be literally life-saving and require immediacy in some critical power building settings, for instance, all these elements meet each other in critical power and smart power availability systems. Add to that regulatory needs to report potential incidents and the criticality becomes even clearer.
Obviously this isn’t just the case for hospitals but also for other critical power buildings and environments. And, even if power availability, reliability and quality in these critical environments are less about costs and more about a broad range of possibly dramatic and extremely impactful consequences on all possible levels, it’s clear that the future and success of any organization depends on how well it’s designed, configured, guaranteed, connected, scalable and manageable too.
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