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Digital Control of Energy is Real, Turning the Building Electrical Grid into a Hyper-Intelligent Smart System

By June 8, 2020 July 2nd, 2020 No Comments

It’s 2020, and the global standards for building electrical systems are still based on 70-year-old Thomas Edison era electromechanical architecture that is outdated, prone to malfunction and lacking in basic intelligence that adds functionality and value to powered products. Compared to state-of-the-art innovations like wireless control, machine learning, AI and solid-state silicon technologies, our current electrical infrastructure is akin to seeing that smartphones exist but continuing to communicate with clay tablets or carrier pigeons.

Modernizing this infrastructure with solid-state control of electricity upgrades not only the quality, reliability and safety of our buildings, but also introduces the opportunity to embed more intelligent sensing and connectivity solutions directly into the electrical grid, turning a building’s electrical infrastructure into a transformative smart home foundation for a whole new generation of IoT devices and capabilities.

Why We Need Smarter Buildings

The residential and commercial building markets for new construction and remodel/retrofit often includes smart systems such as residential security and automation systems, commercial fire, access control and building automation systems. While the nuances of each sector are different, key dynamics have so far limited both market penetration and the scope of installations, diminishing their value potential. Currently, less than 30% of U.S. homes employ some form of residential security or automation system, despite a growing consumer appetite for more digitally connected and controllable appliances and home systems.

Solid-state electrification can transform and accelerate smart systems in ways not previously possible. Imagine:

  • The control, capabilities and data offered by smart buildings in which every wall has intelligence powered directly by the electrical infrastructure instead of “lick & stick” battery-powered solutions.
  • The safety and longevity benefits when every outlet, light switch, recessed lighting fixture and even the central circuit breaker panel exclusively uses non-mechanical solid-state switches and power converters.
  • An entire building using machine learning to enhance safety and energy savings without requiring human intervention.
  • 10 times the sensor and data capture capabilities per room wall versus what typical smart security and automation installers put in as a whole “smart home.”
  • Light switches and outlets embedded with new types of sensors to enable instant awareness of a room or building’s safety and health concerns for humans.
  • Residential and commercial security and automation systems tapping into this existing foundation – an Amber-powered foundation of solid-state electrical infrastructure with embedded intelligence.
  • Disparate systems for security, life safety, access and automation all utilizing this infrastructure for more comprehensive, interoperable and unified management of a whole building.

Solid-state electrification, specifically leveraging Amber Solutions’ IP and potential product portfolio, can fulfill this vision of what is possible and deliver on the promise of truly smarter homes and buildings.

The Amber Difference

While most companies who are developing solid-state electrical solutions are focused exclusively on enhancing circuit breakers, load-centers, breaker products and utility-level power delivery, Amber is different. We are not one technology or one breakthrough, but a range of innovations with 5 core granted patents secured with an additional 31 patents pending. Using these technologies, we engineered commercially viable solid-state systems that can improve safety and easily add connectivity and intelligence to every powered product from circuit breakers to refrigerators.

Amber is jump-starting a second electrical revolution that will leverage our innovations in solid-state power control, solid-state power conversion, ground fault/residual current sensing, circuit interruption, 3-way switching with dimming, LED bulbs and drivers (universal compatibility and flicker-less dimming), and more.

These breakthroughs and Amber-powered products solve real problems for the industry today, such as reducing or eliminating AFCI and other nuisance trips in circuit breakers and outlets, while also providing wireless connectivity for instant notifications and remote resetting after trips; enabling true flicker-less dimming that seamlessly dims from 0 to 100 percent with no drop offs at any point; providing embedded solid-state intelligence and control that deliver arc-free tripping and native overcurrent and surge protection for substantially safer electrical delivery throughout buildings.

When these breakthroughs are mixed, matched and productized into hardware, software or cloud solutions, the Amber-powered product opportunities extend downstream to every electrical end-point in residential, commercial and even industrial buildings. These products include hyper-intelligent solid-state outlets, light switches and circuit breakers, which are fully demonstrable today. And that is not all, as there will be even more Amber-powered products in the future like GFCIs, smoke detectors, and even integration into general appliances down the road.
Amber’s disruption enables electrical endpoints including light switches and outlets to aggregate various functions such as motion sensing, dangerous gas detection, air quality detection and temperature sensing that currently require separate standalone IoT devices. Crucially, we designed our solutions to be so small that the products they power can fit into existing standard electrical gang boxes and circuit breaker panel footprints with five to 10 times the features of existing products, while providing better quality, reliability and safety through solid state architecture.

Amber-powered products offer a highly competitive set of features, but the real value arises when they are installed together to enable a unique safety, power management and IoT connectivity eco-system that is not currently achievable through any other means.

The resulting solid-state electrical infrastructure with integrated connectivity and intelligence can transform every building’s electrical endpoints into a new energy and IoT foundation. That’s Amber’s disruption – built-in solid-state-based intelligence and connectivity embedded in the very electrical infrastructure of every building in the world.

Everyone Stands to Benefit from Smarter Electrical Systems

Amber’s breakthroughs massively expand what can be achieved through building electrical and building intelligence. Having instant, comprehensive awareness and control of whole building environments will alter the market paradigm, the value proposition, and even potentially the economic model of every major smart building system today. A wide variety of industries and individuals will benefit from these changing expectations, including developers, builders, smart systems manufacturers, end consumers and business owners.

Builders and electrical product manufacturers can reduce post-occupancy support costs through wireless delivery of insights for problem assessment and wireless control of electrical issues without requiring a truck roll. Property managers, maintenance workers and building managers will have whole-building awareness of energy usage and status, so if a circuit breaker trips, they are notified immediately and given data on how and where the problem occurred. Compared with the current response procedure of getting a call about a power outage, walking to a breaker panel, seeing a tripped breaker, and then having to physically inspect the related area for problems, the procedure that uses building intelligence is far simpler and faster, with the potential added benefit of a data log automatically capturing every event for further analysis.

There are a range of others who can benefit as well, including electricians and electrical contractors, CEDIA smart platform providers and installers, commercial system providers of fire and access control and building automation, and others.

Smart, hyper-connected and hyper-intelligent buildings will transform the human experience much like the internet has, providing brand new capabilities and information that improve safety, energy conservation, business operations and home life. As buildings increasingly monitor themselves and provide status updates to owners and inhabitants, solid-state electrical architecture will form the backbone for advanced analytics while simplifying high-tech renovations and remodels.

An Innovation as Disruptive as Electricity Itself

As we work to build excitement among industries that have historically been slow to adopt paradigm-disrupting technologies, the potential of these innovations will grow even further. We are hard at work educating businesses, industry leaders and the public about the opportunity to create and embed enhanced algorithms and control software directly into electrical products, and we expect to reach a tipping point where the popular discussion quickly turns from “how will this help?” to “why haven’t we always had this?”

Although a handful of companies are spearheading this solid-state revolution, Amber Solutions, with its breakthrough IP and product portfolio, is unique in its ability to affect all electrical endpoints and devices by evolving their power delivery and control systems to solid-state solutions. Unlike competing solid-state electrical products, Amber’s breakthroughs are not solely focused on upstream uses for industrial, utility breaker and transformer sectors.

Rather, Amber is focusing on downstream solutions that deliver exponentially more sensing and data capture facilities – per wall – of every commercial and residential building and renovation project. In the future, Amber will even offer industrial IoT (IIoT) advantages for appliances related to energy usage and failure rates and more.

We are engaged with a handful of very large, very influential electrical products manufacturers to create a portfolio of Amber-powered products. And together, we will disrupt the status quo of building standards and electrification procedures to convince global industries to abandon archaic, incident-prone and largely “dumb” electricity control products in favor of much more compelling and useful replacements that can utilize existing infrastructure like wiring, gang boxes and circuit breaker panels.

With strategic agreements in play for Amber-powered endpoint devices in the works, Amber Solutions is ready to help the world reimagine what’s possible with intelligence embedded directly in the electrical grid of every building on earth.

Thar Casey is Founder, President and CEO of Amber Solutions, Inc. A successful serial entrepreneur, Mr. Casey was previously President of IDEX America, Inc. He also served as Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer of PicoField Technologies, Inc., which was acquired by IDEX. In addition, he co-founded Prenateck, a fetal heart rate monitor, serving as Chief Executive Officer. He also co-founded Insound Medical and served as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Operations. Insound was acquired by Sonova-Phonak.