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  • Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?


    What does the data say?

    This is the second of two pieces on Cogeneration or CHP.  The first explored the topic, this one will explore the RoI of technology proven for other industries as applied to data centers.

    As the data center industry continued to consolidate and competitiveness becomes more intense, IT professionals understand the pressure on both capital and operating budgets.  They are torn by two competing forces, faster and more reliable vs. low cost and now.  IT equipment improvements are continuously and the desire to update always calls.  Reliability has become the mantra of hosted application and cloud customers and although electrical grid failures are not considered “failures against uptime guarantees” for some, businesses affected by outages feel the pain all the same.  And if there are solutions, management pressure to implement them quickly and at low cost is always a factor.

    Cogeneration is typically neither fast nor cheap, but it does offer an alternate path to reliability and uptime.   As in all major investments that require sizable capital and space, the best time to consider cogeneration is during data center construction.  That being said, data centers operating today are not going any place soon, so retrofit upgrade paths are also a consideration, especially in areas where electric power reliability from the local utility has become less reliable over time.  So when should data center professionals consider cogeneration or CHP?  Fortunately there are studies available on public websites that help provide answers.

    Temperature@lert: Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?

    University of Syracuse data center exterior; Microturbines in utility area (Link to Source)

    One such study is an installation at the University of Syracuse.  Opened in 2009, the 12,000 ft2 (1100 m2) data center with a peak load of 780 KW employs cogeneration and other green technologies to squeeze every ounce of energy out of the system. (Link to Source)  The site’s 12 natural gas fueled microturbines generate electricity.  The microturbine’s hot exhaust is piped to the chiller room, where it is used to generate cooling for the servers and both heat and cooling for an adjacent office building.  Technologies such as adsorption chillers to turn heat into cooling, reusing waste heat in nearby buildings and rear door server rack cooling that eliminates the need for server fans completes what IBM calls its Greenest Data Center yet.

    Temperature@lert: Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?

    Left: Heat exchanger used in winter months to capture waste microturbine heat for use in nearby buildings; Right: IBM “Cool Blue” server rack heat exchangers employ chilled water piped under floor.

    This is certainly an aggressive project, but can the cost be justified with a reasonable Return on Investment?  Fortunately data has recently been released to quantify the energy conservation benefits.  PUE performance measured during 2012 was presented at an October 2013 conference and show a steady PUE between 1.25 and 1.30 during the period, a value that compares very favorably when compared to the typical data center PUE of 2.0. Uptime Institute self reporting average PUE is 1.65 with qualifications, Digital Realty Trust survey of 300 IT professionals with annual revenues of at least $1 Billion and 5,000 employees revealed PUE of 2.9.  (Link to Sources: Uptime Institute Digital Realty Trust)

    Temperature@lert: Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?      

    IBM/SU Green Data Center 2009 Goals (Link to Source); 2012 Actual Performance (Link to Source)

    So how can we calculate the actual RoI and compare it to the projected goals.  First, the goals stated in the table on the left show savings of $500,000+ per year.  Another presentation by the microturbine supplier shows a $300,000 per year goal, quite a bit different.  So how do we know what the savings is?  We don’t since there is no reference site where the data center is identical and in an identical location without the CHP.  So we can use the 2.0 average PUE and calculate the energy savings, but that’s not a real answer.  And we also need to take into account the fact that tax incentives and grants such as the $5 Million for the Syracuse University project needs to be reviewed to determine the cost to non-subsidized projects.  Hopefully project managers will provide more information to help data center operators better understand the actual savings as the project matures.

    CHP for data centers is presented with an array of benefits including improved reliability through less dependence on grid power, lower power costs, reduced carbon footprint.  NetApps installed CHP in their Silicon Valley data center to reduce their reliance on grid power due to frequent rolling brownouts and the uncertainties of the power market costs.  Their experience is not as instructive due to the site’s reduced need for cooling due to use of direct air cooling.  As a result the CHP system is used only when the utility is strained.  It is difficult to find quantitative data for modern installations.   While the data seems encouraging, actual energy cost savings are not provided.  We will watch the progress at this and other projects over the next several months to see if CHP costs yield an acceptable RoI via reduced energy costs.  Stay tuned.

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  • About Temperature Sensors: A Brief History and the Vendor Landscape

    About Temperature Sensors: A Brief History and the Vendor Landscape

     

    If you've begun your search for a temperature sensor product, you've likely realized that there are a tremendous amount of choices available. What is it about temperature sensors that makes this decision so complicated? Similar to the theme of our previous article "Choosing a Temperature Sensor: A Paradox of Choice"; the amount of options, features, and specifications can be overwhelming. You might ask,  "Where should I start? What are the key considerations for purchasing a sensor, and how can one differentiate between the near carbon-copy vendors?".

    Without slicing and dicing the entire landscape from AVTech to Monnit, there are a few key considerations for purchasing of a temperature sensor and monitoring system. One of the most common questions (that is, from the potential customer to the vendor) is to ask "Can I view my temperatures/monitoring points remotely?". The answer is typically yes, as most vendors have an optional add-on service that includes the ability to monitor temperatures remotely. Although sensors may be thousands of miles (or a stone's throw) away, readings, logs, and other compliance-fueled information can be easily accessed from most systems. When inquiring about temperature sensors, make sure to outline the importance of remote monitoring for your specific situation to the vendor. Communication is the key!

    As a simple example, our Sensor Cloud service (priced at $9.95/month) provides a nice glimpse into remote environments. By using a web portal (myalertlist.com) for access, a well-traveled professional can have peace of mind as they sift through devices, alerts, and status reports on-the-go. There is also the ability to maintain log storages for up to three years, a crucial necessity for many compliance-minded customers. An impending audit or compliance check can be nerve racking, so a log history is often a "must" for these situations. Many of our competitors offer a similar service, with varying feature sets and optional add-ons. To that end, Temperature@lert is not the only shop on the block with remote monitoring capabilities, but it's worth noting that a Sensor Cloud-enabled device is smarter and more reliable than bare hardware.

    Another issue that's often discussed in the 'prospect' circle is the variety of alert types. Many years ago, capabilities were somewhat limited in the sensor market. Vendors could typically offer email alerts for sensors that had reached their respected threshold, but even then, smartphones and on-the-go emails weren't as common. Common problems began to arise with this limited capability; customers asked "How will I receive alerts during the time when I'm away from the office, or if I'm in Disneyland, how will I know if my server room is overheating without email access?". Fast forward to today, and the evolution of temperature sensors, monitoring software, and other communications has brought expanded alert capabilities to customers (large or small). Many vendors now offer text message alerts to supplement emails, and thereby opening the mobile stream of alerting to cell phone users. This is an excellent step-up from the standard email alerts, and frankly, most of us are pretty responsive to text messages.

    But unfortunately, text messages are typically useful for casual conversation, simple notes, and/or friendly reminders. When a conversation reaches a critical point or becomes time-sensitive, a simple phone call is the most direct route to communication. Almost by definition, text messages are passive reminders/notifications, and aren't exactly ideal fortemperature monitoring alerts. A text message that signifies an overheating server room or vaccine refrigeration failure is hardly sufficient to address these significant problems. And the "alert" comes in the form of a quiet beep or bell. (hardly an alert at all!). Even with the evolution of many of our vendors and competitors (with text and email alerts), our own Cellular Edition is the only low-cost, high performance device that offers phone calls for alerting. Calling on the passive nature of a text alert, a phone call is a more immediate, direct, and urgent form of communication for customers to receive alerts. Again, while Temperature@lert is not the only vendor in the marketplace that offers text and email alerts, the ability to send phone call alerts is one of our primary differentiators (and, may we say, one of our primary selling points due to the sense of urgency that comes from a phone call alert).  

    It should be noted that the Sensor Cloud service (while included with the Cellular Edition) is an optional add-on purchase for our other products. Both the WiFi and USB edition can be tied to a sensor cloud account, allowing the same bells and whistles from above. From cell phone alerts, to log storage, to remote monitoring, Sensor Cloud is a truly comprehensive service that boosts all of our products to the "next generation" of temperature monitoring.

    While remote monitoring capabilities and cell phone alerts aren't the only considerations for temperature sensors, these are two of the main issues that we see from our customers. We've assembled a solutions team, or a dedicated group of individuals that will dissect your needs, work through pain points, and devise a solid solution. Our support staff is also available around the clock, and customers are welcome to reach out directly to all team members with questions or concerns. Many vendors have large corporate ears, and it can be difficult to reach the proper ear for pricing, support, and/or standard customer service questions. With Temperature@lert, an informed mind sits at the other end of every call or question. 

     If you've arrived hoping to learn about temperature sensor vendors, or to learn about a few key differentiations relative to temperature sensors and their respective vendors, we hope that this information will be useful in your purchase journey. If you'd like to chime in on the discussion about temperature sensors, their history in the B2B market, or the vendor landscape, chime in on the comments section. 

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  • Building Management Systems vs. Off-The-Shelf: Size Matters

    Stemming from an excellent article from pharmamanufacturing.com, the divide between the “Sledgehammer or Walnut” approach (for monitoring and automation) is highly applicable to Temperature@lert’s overall philosophy and goal. The above graphics show the divide between a 'turnkey solution' for all automation and monitoring, versus an off-the-shelf product that stands as a specialized monitoring solution.

    For large scale applications, an all-inclusive Building Management System (BMS) is a highly desireable solution. Still, the first concern with these larger systems is the overall control, as incremental changes, auditing, and management is more difficult on the larger scale. If you have highly specific temperature controls or monitors, the ‘hand’ of a BMS may have difficulty administering smaller changes or performing audits. Such incremental changes can include daily alarms and reports. To quote the article, utilizing “catch-all” BMS systems (wherein incremental changes and modifications are necessary) is like “using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut”. Though the systems do provide comprehensive service, the installation and/or application may not be useful for all businesses. The second concern is the cost issue, particularly if a BMS system is not already in place. You may find that outfitting your buildings with a BMS system is a costly solution, and deployment is typically a longer process than an off-the-shelf solution.

    Temperature@lert takes pride in being an off-the-shelf monitoring system, and we’re happy to highlight ourselves as an “easy, compliant, and supported solution”, quoting from the article’s general statement. We may have our limitations, and we understand that the need for a larger, complete BMS system may be necessary for large scale businesses. On the other hand, to quote from the article, “adding users and locations is relatively straightforward (with off-the-shelf systems). Very true, and this represents a primary benefit of Sensor Cloud, our all-in-one cloud suite. With Sensor Cloud, adding users and locations is extremely simple, and you have the ability to monitor all of your devices in one place (internet connection provided). When compared with a BMS, our Sensor Cloud is a “closer look” at your sensors and devices, and provides superior incremental flexibility. If you’re facing a potential audit of your temperature devices, you’ll have instant access to the raw data, and will have no need to comb through a BMS to pinpoint the information.

    As another follow to the article, our technical support represents another benefit of our products. For a BMS, you may be interacting with Honeywell or other large corporations. You may not get the help you need, when you need it. At Temperature@lert, we provide a more personalized support service.  We like to maintain familiarity with your specific needs and concerns, and we are committed to helping you keep compliance for your industry. We work as a team, and no problem is too small to fix.

    We've also launched a services arm to provide nationwide installation, custom software and sensors, private labeling, and compliance for the benfit of customers that have specific requests or considerations. For more information on Temperature@lert’s off-the-shelf monitoring products, also visit our Products page.  Also, check out our Free E-Book onTemperature Monitoring for tips, suggestions, and concerns for your specific industry.

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  • Temperature@lert Surpasses Over $1 Billion in Assets Protected

    Temperature@lert, a leading provider of low-cost, high-performance temperature monitoring products, is now protecting over $1 Billion of customer assets.  Temperature@lert's mission is to provide companies and individuals with remote monitoring and alerting of temperature and other environmental conditions to alleviate customer worries about system malfunctions or product damage due to changes in temperature or other environmental conditions. 

    Temperature@lert was founded and funded in 2005 by CEO Harry Schechter in Washington, D.C. with the USB Edition as their first temperature-monitoring device developed. Currently Temperature@lert’s central office is located in Boston, MA and their current product and service offerings include: USB Edition, WiFi Edition, Cellular Edition, Solar Cellular Edition, and Sensor Cloud. Several of their products and services have won awards ranging from the MITX Innovation Awards to the American Business Awards’ Gold Stevie.

    Temperature@lert’s award-winning devices have aided users in major industries spanning from Information Technology (IT) to Biopharmaceuticals and Medical to Commercial Refrigeration.  Clients include Abbott Laboratories, Microsoft, Apple, Heil Environmental, Merck Corporation, University of Connecticut, Vanderbilt University, and University of Pennsylvania to name a few.

    “By giving 110% personally and having established a talented team willing to do the same, Temperature@lert has successfully grown in both research & development and users over the past eight years,” says CEO & President, Harry Schechter. “We now protect over $1 Billion of customer assets with over 40,000 devices in 50 countries with the world’s easiest to use solution. Temperature@lert’s mission to monitor environmental conditions and prevent problems related to such conditions is truly being realized and fulfilled. We strive to keep innovating and alleviating environmental conditions related disasters globally.”

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  • Tip: Considerations for Effectively Monitoring Refrigerators, Freezers, and Coolers

    Whether you're monitoring ice cream or vaccines, storage temperature plays a significant role. After all nothing could be worse than walking into a large puddle of melted/spoiled product or even worse damaged research materials. Although it is easy to hope that refrigerators, freezers, and coolers actually stay at a  consistent cold temperature, many do not plan for equipment malfunctions nor power outages.

    No one or company is exempt from such a harsh reality, for example Harvard's McLean Freezer's recent incident. Their freezer, containing brains for research on Autism and other neurological conditions, had malfunctioned causing 150 brains to decay and decompose. A loss of this magnitude is not only financially damaging but has potentially set back research on neurological conditions for a decade. This type of research material damage, illustrates that you truly cannot put a price on proper storage.

    The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that 17%-37% of vaccinations are improperly stored. Not only members in the medical and pharmaceutical industry are effected but members of the food and beverage industry suffer from malfunctioning cooling equipment. As our Facebook Fan, Chris Stepanian noted, "I can't see why every restaurant and food distributor doesn't have [a Temperature@lert device]".

    For refrigeration needs, we suggest either our WIFI or CELL device. The CELL has a backup battery that can transmit even during a power loss. Our WIFI is also an excellent option if you currently have an implemented
    UPS backup power as well. Either device combined with our temperature sensor can help you monitor more efficiently and alert you to any problems. Specialized sensors and accessories are available as well, such as: stainless steel tipped temperature probes for submerging in liquid, expanded range probes for cryogenic temperatures, and buffer vials so you do not set off false alerts for when the cooler door is opened.

    By preparing for potential disaster, you can feel secure knowing that Temperature@lert is there for you when you need it and there when you can't be there. Does that sound like an exaggeration or an overstated guarantee? We can assure you that it is not. Temperature@lert is working whether you are working or not. Our devices work whether you are awake or asleep because we strive to be the most innovative monitoring system for our users.

    Unfortunately, our team has heard story after story about loss through improper storage and Harvard's incident is not just another rare mishap. It is always better to avert disaster in the first place than to prepare better for the next one. If you would like to learn more about proper storage, please check out our complimentary e-book.


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  • Sensor Cloud is now available for USB and WiFi Edition

    There has been a lot of hype over Sensor Cloud and it is now available for for USB and WiFi Edition products! There are low-cost subscription plan offers for both USB and WiFi Edition users. Functionality and security are not generally available for these types of products; however, Temperature@lert's launch of Sensor Cloud for USB and WiFi Editions now give its users an opportunity to have an improved system of defense against risks.


    Sensor Cloud allows customers to monitor their temperature readings and edit alarm settings via any web browser or smartphone. Through the Temperature@lert Sensor Cloud interface, customers can immediately see the current environmental conditions of all Temperature@lert devices on a customer’s network. Users log in to Temperature@lert's secure servers to set phone, text message and email notifications when one or more temperature thresholds are exceeded. Whether devices are deployed in the next room protecting valuable vaccines or across the country in a remote ski lodge, the Sensor Cloud homepage displays the status of the monitored environment, allowing Temperature@lert’s clients know everything is running smoothly or which specific device is sending an emergency alert message.


    “Our large installed base of USB and WiFi customers have been asking for an online browser interface,” noted Harry Schechter, President and CEO of Temperature@lert. “Our Cellular Edition Sensor Cloud has been running reliably for the past four years, and customers currently using the Cellular Edition have remarked on the simplicity of the system. This release brings online access to USB and WiFi Edition users and allows additional functionality previously only available in the Cellular Edition.”


    Some of the advanced features and benefits of Sensor Cloud are: 

    • Set multiple temperature alert thresholds for a single device – provides escalation plan functionality. 

    • Send SMS text messages in addition to the standard email alert messages.

    • Send multiple email and SMS text messages to multiple users for each alert level. 

    • Send email and alert messages to different users for each temperature alert level setting. 

    • Enable HealthCheck, which will send an alert message when the device has not reported in for a user set number of reporting intervals – lets you know when your network or PC to which the device is connected is not working properly. 

    • Subscribe to automatically generated PDF reports. 

    • For a slightly higher subscription fee, send telephone voice messages for temperature alerts. 


    Temperature@lert saw the success of Sensor Cloud for its Cellular edition clients and decided it was time for both USB and WiFi editions to experience this innovative system of protection. Please contact Temperature@lert for more information! 


     

     

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  • New Greener USB Edition - Same Great, Easy to Use Value

    Looking for our USB Edition?  If so, you'll see our latest design featured on this website.  Temperature@lert's team of engineers and designers put their heads together and repackaged our flagship USB temperature monitoring and alerting device.  The new design has the same robust electronics and temperature sensor, but uses less materials in the enclosure and shipping package.  This means less material is used - we've reduced the product's carbon footprint without sacrificing the value, ease of use, quality and reliability of the industry leading USB environmental monitoring appliance.

    Check out our full announcement and our product page to see what our design wizards have done.  And as we've announced, this like all Temperature@lert products is Made in the USA.

    Link to Full Announcement on Temperature@lert Website

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