Our Backbone for Voltage Optimization
Berlin. November 2021. Almost everything works better with clear and transparent communication. For EnergyLabs, it is especially true building a network of interconnected devices that perform voltage optimization in hundreds of buildings. The ActiveEnergy portfolio of solutions depends on secure and stable data transmission. For this reason, EnergyLabs has put a lot of thought into the ActiveEnergy (AE) Cloud and continuously optimizes it. Following, we will focus on the current status quo of our AE Cloud, the main benefits for our customers, and the technical functionality.
What is the ActiveEnergy Cloud?
EnergyLabs set up the cloud application as a multi-purpose tool. We use it to support our customers as well as our own team in daily tasks. We identify four functional layers:
- The information layer enables the presentation of all relevant data on building- and portfolio level to our customers. They can log in to their account and find all information in a clear and structured way.
- The device layer allows the data collection from and control of our devices AE MobileHub and AE PowerStation within the ActiveEnergy network. This layer is indispensable for EnergyLabs’ portfolio of solutions.
- The organization layer facilitates EnergyLabs’ traceable and transparent management of our customers’ data for the savings reports, CO2 saving certificates, and the monthly invoicing of our service fees.
- The intelligence layer is the link between all the layers. There, all information comes together. All data is analyzed, verified, encrypted, and saved. The intelligence layer also includes our machine learning algorithms.
AE Cloud’s operational details
Of course, these functional layers are running on individual servers, machines, and instances. They operate on different databases with different levels of security. The individual nodes (ActiveEnergy devices, servers, customers’ devices) are communicating with each other using encrypted channels through custom-designed API (Application Programming Interfaces) and VPNs (Virtual Private Network). The latest standards in encryption and data integrity algorithms are applied.
Last but not least, we included some third-party applications. We selected a few established tools for some tasks, especially for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and accounting. But let’s have a detailed look at how the AE Cloud comes together.
The AE Cloud Architecture
As introduced, we structure the ActiveEnergy Cloud into four functional layers. More information on each layer will follow. Figure 1 shows the whole application map with its main functions.
Figure 1: The AE Cloud architecture with its four functional layers.
The information layer
Starting in the top left corner (Fig. 1), we find the informational layer. This layer covers those functions of the AE Cloud that our customers see and use as they log in to their accounts. This layer is a typical modern web application. The user interacts with a frontend provided with information by the backend. The backend is pulling data from or sending data to the intelligence layer as they are needed.
Logged into the AE Cloud, the users can monitor, manage, and download all kinds of data relevant to their building portfolios. Examples are information on their building’s energy consumption, realized energy and CO2 savings, contract details, etc. The user can also manage and download contract details, invoices, and certificates regarding their building portfolios.
The device layer
The next layer we look at is the device layer in the top right corner (of Fig. 1). The device layer covers the communication with the AE PowerStations. It assures their operation, the voltage optimization and allows predictive maintenance. While the device layer is essential for monitoring and controlling our hardware, it also ensures the sending and receiving of buildings’ consumption data (device API) and its encryption. Additionally, the device layer covers functions for version control and over the air updates of our hardware devices.
The organization layer
The organization layer is where EnergyLabs combines all the accounting and operational functions of the ActiveEnergy solution. These are the functions that our customers do not see. Nonetheless, they are the ones that are crucial for keeping the service running smoothly and on-demand. This includes accounting, invoicing, and quotations, the generation of our energy savings reports, CO2-saving certificates, and the collection of energy prizes that vary from customer to customer, and our customers’ master data. The realized energy and CO2 savings directly influence the license fee paid to EnergyLabs.
The intelligence layer
The intelligence layer is the core of the ActiveEnergy Cloud. Here we check, analyze, and store all data sent to and from the AE Cloud service. Let us start with the user data. User data is needed for our customers to be able to log into their accounts. There, they find their buildings and connected devices (AE PowerStations), building consumption data, etc. Additionally, information includes the company name, session IDs, or last logins.
On the accounting level, the data EnergyLabs needs and uses for operations is saved. This includes accounting data, information on the customer like address and contact details, details about the buildings or building portfolio, and contract details. On the device level, we store information on the location and version of each installed AE PowerStation. Further information on the energy consumption in each building like grid voltage level, power factor, target voltage level, and others are considered.
On the machine learning level, we use some of the data mentioned above and its historical records to predict the future voltage levels in a building or a building’s future power demand. This allows us to adjust voltage levels precisely to the energy demands of a building.
Security of AE Cloud
Since security is a big topic when dealing with client data, we would like to finish with a list of EnergyLabs’ actions on this matter:
- Encrypted communication between devices and AE Could
- Encrypted communication between Cloud backend and user interface (browser)
- Device data saved only anonymized on the server
- Account data saved on a separate server with special security policies
- Client account data is only accessible for users with account rights.