Thinking Smart

A Singapore clean energy solutions provider has teamed up with China's second largest manufacturer of wind turbines to pave the way towards sustainable living - on a large scale.

BY Tan Keng Yao
PHOTO & ILLUSTRATION iStock

Y

ou may not stop to think about it, but commercial buildings guzzle electricity - think air-conditioning, ventilation and lighting. And generating electricity creates a huge carbon footprint

To compound the problem, a portion of energy generated is inevitably wasted as it is converted to heat, light or sound when moving from one system to another. The goal of energy management is, therefore, to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of energy lost.

Envision's reach covers wind power, solar photovoltaic systems (above), charging networks, smart grids and buildings, among others.

En-trak, a proptech (property technology) firm which focuses on technology in real estate, has a solution for that. Founded by Singapore-born, Hong Kong-based Vincent Chow, the company specialises in collecting real-time energy usage data in buildings using sensors and meters. Its cloud-based energy management software consolidates the data and analyses it, before presenting the information in an easy-tounderstand interface for end-users. This helps building owners pinpoint exactly where energy is being wasted - like faulty air-conditioning components, for instance – and to fix the problem.

"Buildings were once designed without considering how the occupants use energy. As sustainability takes centre stage across the world, we need a platform to make sense of data on energy usage," says Chow.

A trained civil engineer, Chow and his team developed their first real-time energy management system back in 2012. They then rolled this out at schools in Hong Kong to help students understand when, where and how electricity was being used. This system was also quickly adopted by hundreds of schools in Singapore and Macau.

Singapore's Nan Hua High School, for example, won an Energy Efficiency National Partnership Award for its effectiveness in managing energy consumption after implementing En-trak's platform.

Encouraged by the positive market feedback, En-trak's team went on to develop a business version in 2013, and En-trak was formally incorporated in Singapore the same year. Today, the company has more than 450 clients in the Asia-Pacific region, including Singapore's National Environment Agency, and helps its clients save about 25 per cent of energy usage.

“ Together we can create a much more powerful platform that will enable our clients to get valuable insights into how their buildings and clients are operating and optimising energy. ”

Vincent Chow, Entrak founder, on the partnership with Envision

INTEGRATED APPROACH
En-trak expects its Smart Building energy management systems to go even bigger. In April 2018, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Envision, China's second largest manufacturer of smart wind turbines. With the MOU, both companies have agreed to jointly explore development opportunities on Smart Building energy management applications in the region, as well as create Smart City solutions using Envision's Intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) platform, EnOS™.

IoT is the concept of connecting electronic devices to the Internet - from mobile phones, smart TVs and home security systems to photo & illustration istock technological devices used to monitor traffic or meteorological conditions.

In the case of EnOS™, all data related to energy may be connected via the Internet. Its reach covers multiple domains, including wind power, solar photovoltaic systems and charging networks, smart grids, smart buildings and smart cities, as well as intelligent electrical terminals.

For Chow, collaborating with Envision was the natural choice, as it allows each party to bring their strengths to the table. "Our cloud-based analytic platform can integrate data from different sources and sensors, and is compatible for integration with major energy brands. On the other hand, Envision is an expert in renewable energy, and has the capabilities to handle large-scale projects. This includes smart cities, which use various electronic IoT sensors to collect data and manage their assets efficiently.

“ SMART CITIES, TECHNOLOGY AND SUSTAINABILITY ARE UNDENIABLE GLOBAL URBANISATION TRENDS. WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK TOGETHER TO EXPLORE NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN ASIA, WHERE URBAN TRANSFORMATION IS TAKING PLACE AT A MUCH FASTER RATE THAN THE US OR EUROPE. ”

"Smart Cities is a big concept. It is almost impossible for one party to do everything. But together we can create a much more powerful platform that will enable our clients to get valuable insights into how their buildings and cities are operating and optimising energy," Chow says.

En-trak was linked up with Envision by Singapore's Economic Development Board, and the two corporations are presently collaborating on smart energy projects in Singapore and Vietnam.

Likening their partnership to a marriage whereby both parties are aligned in terms of vision, Chow shares that it has been a harmonious one so far. According to the entrepreneur, his Chinese counterparts' global view and enterprising attitude have been an inspiration.

"Envision's team members have many years of experience working in other parts of the world. They have a global outlook and an understanding of international corporate norms. I think we should learn from them and look at things from a larger scale," he shares.

For the Singaporean employees of En-trak, working closely with the Chinese has indeed been a learning experience, especially in terms of leveraging technology in all aspects of business management.

For instance, while the Singaporeans typically use messaging app WhatsApp to communicate, their Chinese counterparts utilise WeChat - China's equivalent of WhatsApp - for everything from reviewing contracts to purchasing orders. This ultimately helps to speed up work processes.

It seems that the learning was a two-way street. Colin Yu, vice-president of Envision Digital, says his employees found it a pleasure to work with the Singaporeans, and benefited from their logical thinking, attention to detail, and organisational skills.

"We also learnt from the Singaporeans on how to mitigate risks as early as possible. This has been a very good learning experience," he shares.

But perhaps what is most encouraging is both En-Trak and Envision's shared commitment towards harnessing technology to create a more sustainable future.

"Smart cities, technology and sustainability are undeniable global urbanisation trends. We will continue to work together to explore new opportunities in Asia, where urban transformation is taking place at a much faster rate than the US or Europe," shares Chow.




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