Author: Dorothe Enskog
Published: Aug. 17, 2012

Saving Energy Without Needing to Renovate

Saving Energy without Renovation Sensors transfer heating oil and gas tank levels to the Silentsoft server. Not only does this facilitate the work of many caretakers, adding further sensors provide for reduced building energy consumption without renovation work.

Most after-sales service calls from property owners about heating are not because the boiler is broken, but because the oil has run out. This gave Fabio Cesa the idea of developing a measuring system to monitor the level of oil in the tank remotely using a mobile phone. This technology is called tele metry. In 2000, Cesa and Jean-Luc Mossier founded Silentsoft. The company quickly took off, winning the Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award only five years later.

A Market Niche with Potential 

Silentsoft has created a niche for itself in the 50 billion US dollar remote machine-to-machine (M2M) service market. The company measures levels in heating oil and gas tanks and waste silos using sensors. The sensors are connected to a telemetry unit, which contains electronic switching circuits and a GSM transmitter. The transmitter passes the data captured by the sensor to Silentsoft's server on a daily basis, or at intervals requested by the clients. The raw data is then analyzed by Silentsoft using algorithms developed in-house, and this information is made available via the website to clients as the basis for decision making. "We can tell our clients when their heating oil tanks need filling or their waste recycling containers require emptying. We can also tell our clients how their boiler thermostats should be set up to run optimally. We offer them a low cost turnkey solution to reduce their energy consumption without any particular renovation measures," the company's CEO, Charles Upchurch explains.


Heating Management 

There are about 150,000 residential buildings under property management in Switzerland. Approximately 45,000 of these are heated with oil, with a third of these equipped with Silentsoft's telemetry units. "Our typical client manages an average of 100 buildings. With Silentsoft's telemetry units, clients can simply visit our website to see which tanks need filling. Another click of the mouse and their oil distributors also get this information, and the manager's job is done. No more problems with heating failures due to running out of oil, and suppliers can also plan their deliveries more efficiently. It saves them a lot of time, reduces their costs, and, what's more, is environmentally friendly," says Upchurch.

For example, the company's telemetry units help identify those buildings requiring more heating oil than others and therefore generating excessive CO2 emissions. As data is updated daily, the cause of the problem is easier to identify. Silentsoft counts the Swiss Post and Swisscom, which both own thousands of properties in Switzerland, among its clients. The range of services is currently being extended. Water, gas and electricity consumption can now also be monitored remotely and the data accessed online. Additionally the energy classifications of buildings can be determined and comparisons made between different buildings. "We are already seeing increasing demand for this kind of energy optimization services for buildings," Upchurch states.

Bulk Inventory Monitoring Enables Better Planning 

Silentsoft is also active in bulk inventory monitoring. Upchurch acknowledges that it has taken the industry a long time to be convinced by this new technology. Total Fuels France, which supplies a million tanks, has taken five years to install 1,300 telemetry units. Yet orders are now taking off rapidly. Silentsoft has already installed 15,000 tanks, gas meters and waste containers throughout Europe with its monitoring systems, and Shell has awarded the company a large order to equip their European gas stations.

It takes no longer than an hour for one of the field staff to install a telemetry unit. After installation a test measurement is made and the transmitted data checked against the local reading. Real estate administrators typically pay an annual flat-rate fee for Silentsoft's solution. In contrast, the large oil and gas companies buy the telemetry units and then just pay an annual flat-rate fee for data processing.

Focus on Europe Silentsoft has equipped more than 30,000 buildings and tanks in 12 European countries with its telemetry units. This makes the company the market leader with its niche products, and it is planning further worldwide expansion.