For the last 10 years, IUPUI’s Industrial Assessment Center has provided small to mid-sized manufacturing companies in Indiana with recommendations to improve energy efficiency. Now, researchers at the center are expanding their efforts and developing a new Industrial Internet of Things-based energy management framework with cybersecurity protection to improve a company’s energy efficiency.
“This work is so important from both environmental and economic points of view,” said Jie Chen, chair and professor of mechanical and energy engineering at the School of Engineering and Technology and director of the center. “Energy is a national interest. If we can help companies be more energy-efficient, they can save energy and lower their bills, which can help bring up the profits of the company and make them more competitive. And reducing energy use will have a direct impact on the CO2 generated. That can help decarbonize the nation.”
The center, sponsored entirely with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, has audited more than 150 Hoosier companies during the last decade. To assess a company’s energy efficiency, Chen and his team visit the company and examine its energy use over one day’s time. They then provide recommendations to decrease the company’s utility bill by 10 to 15 percent. This process has its limitations, however, as the situation may be different at various points throughout the year, which can't be fully captured in one day’s data.
A new grant awarded to Indiana University as part of the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute will allow Chen and his team to look at the whole picture of energy use, rather than just a day's snapshot. They are developing an energy management system that can further improve energy efficiency of small to mid-size manufacturing companies. The new framework will allow companies to make intelligent decisions on energy-saving measures using models based on real-time data and data collected over years.
The new Industrial Internet of Things based energy-management framework involves a system of devices with sensors that collect data that is shared over the Internet to a remote server, allowing that data to be analyzed and used to make decisions. Chen and his team will collect data from manufacturing plants and then use data science and artificial intelligence tools to analyze it and ultimately help manufacturing companies do a better job with decision making.
Because a framework like this uses remote sensors and shares data over a network, Chen said this can leave companies vulnerable to cyberattacks. His team adding cybersecurity protection to their framework to reduce that vulnerability.
“When we talk about advanced manufacturing, smart manufacturing or energy efficiency, we talk about a system where there are sensors and data, which means there are specific cybersecurity issues,” Chen said. “With the data communication required as part of an Internet of Things system, there are lots of vulnerabilities where hackers could attack. That’s why we are adding cybersecurity to our energy management system to make it safe. We are going to make them more efficient, but in the meantime, we are also eradicating the potential cyberthreats and trying to find a way to protect the entire system.”
Chen said IUPUI students will be valuable contributors to this new project. One goal of the center is to provide students with important training opportunities to ensure they can promote energy efficiency in their future workplace.
“The Industrial Assessment Center provides students with opportunities to be trained in real-world companies,” Chen said. “And on the other hand, manufacturing companies benefit from this free energy audit sponsored by the Department of Energy. Throughout the whole process, we can better understand the energy-efficiency problem facing our nation.”
Amrou Awaysheh, executive director of the IU IoT Energy Efficiency Lab and the IU Business Sustainability and Innovation Lab, oversees IU’s membership in the Cyber Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Awaysheh said the work helps American manufacturers save money and become more competitive in a global economy and lays the foundation for manufacturers in their transition toward a clean energy future.
“Researchers across all IU's campuses continue to work on groundbreaking research to help manufacturers have more energy-efficient operations and cybersecure supply chains,” Awaysheh said. “At IU, we are investing in building resources to help manufacturers in Indiana and across the country. We leverage the latest academic research to help companies solve real world issues. Our work has helped companies eliminate millions of tons of CO2, save billions of gallons of water and conserve trillions of BTUs of energy. I’m excited that we can grow this work and continue to have more of an impact.”