Category

IoT

Convenience Stores Step Up Tech Game

By | c-stores, IoT | No Comments

The Age of Convenience

There is one thing I consistently find so interesting, the one thing almost every single person has on them at all times….their phone a $800 (sometimes more now) dollar piece of our lives. Which, by the way, is not just a phone anymore but a smart device that can make calls, surf the web, be your personal assistant, translate a foreign language for you, and the apps….there are multiple apps for anything you can think of. This is a device of convenience…we don’t even have to leave our house or pick up the phone to get any kind of food delivered to our house. In this age of convenience, where anything and everything is right at your fingertips retailers have since been capitalizing on that and now come the convenience stores.

Convenience Store News conducted a study focusing on technology and how it plays a role in convenience stores. They discovered that over 50% of those who participated in the study plan to add new equipment and replace old technology this year. The change is thought to be attributed to the realization that technology can bring together and help grow other aspects of a convenience store owners business. Much like a building automation systems already do for retail and restaurant locations. With the trend of food service growing in convenience stores now the food safety aspect will come into play as well.

Another notable finding from the study was the increase in new products being introduced to the customer via social media, 46 percent to be exact. The companies already using social media have their own mobile app and are using it to keep their customer base educated and engaged. According to Statista, 81% of Americans have a social media profile, over 1.96 billion people are on social media worldwide and that number is expected to grow to 2.5 billion in 2018. With that eye-popping number, it’s a given that social media marketing is a must.

Casey’s General Stores’ mobile app just surpassed 1 million downloads since it launched in January 2016. The app offers the essentials: hours of operation, location but with some awesome feathers like ordering pizza and made-to-order sub sandwiches. The success of this app just reinforces the findings from Convenience Store News, technology integration is essential for your business to thrive in this technology-driven world. It’s not just about having an app or system that integrates with your store, but an app that is useful to your customers, a system that is useful to you….an app that keeps your customers opening it daily and a system that keeps showing its worth to you and your staff daily.

Share and Follow Us:

Smart Cities a Thing of The Future?

By | Efficiency, IoT, Uncategorized | No Comments

Flying cars, diners with tv waiters and hovering trash cans…. a scene from the 1989 Back to The Future Part II movie that depicts a severely futuristic 2015. Although we do have semi-autonomous cars and not flying ones, tablets to place your order at restaurants the city of Chicago has a new approach to smart cities and we have some insight at how they plan to get there.

The Smarter City

Chicago has recently been expanding their efforts in becoming a smarter city according to a recent Cnet article that was published. What does that mean? Chicago residents can open a browser on their phone and see the location of every snow plow in the area. City officials can use a computer analysis to predict where rats will be in the city using information like locations of overflowing garbage and planned sewer pipe repairs, helping them combat their immense rat problem, along with replacing 270,000 street lamps with LED’s starting in September 2017.

The new project in progress is a new digital mapping system that will help determine what pipes are where under the city and just what each of those pipes is for. Currently, if any repairs are to be done in the city, crews must contact the office of underground coordination to identify what pipes are nearby and if they encounter an unknown, a specialist has to be brought in to determine if the pipe can be removed. This causes the city time delays and money.

The Solution

A phone app and computer program that creates a digital blueprint of Chicago’s underground pipe maze consisting of water, sewer, electric, gas and broadband lines…not including other services from 30 other companies and utilities. Chicago partners withhttp://www.uilabs.org/ UI labs to create a 3d map of Chicago’s pipeline infrastructure. The map is created by an image analysis startup company called reconstruct, using software from Cityzenith. After a construction crew unearths pipes, replaces old ones with new ones, he then could pull out his phone and take a 360degree video of where the construction took place. This data is given to Reconstruct where they use an analysis technique on the video called point clouds. They analyze the points in the video which helps to create a 3d image of the pipes that were just recorded. Right now it takes 2 weeks to create a 3d image of the construction site video to map the underground of pipes, their hopes are to create a google maps of Chicago’s underground to make several processes more efficient and easier.

They will no longer need paper blueprints of the pipe maps, and can easily update where pipes have been replaced with the new technology. “My whole thing is to allow us not just to use data to be better at what we do, although that’s what it is, but also to continue to give people a chance to interact and interface with their government,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated.

 

Started From The Bottom Now We're Here

This type of innovated thinking all started with snow plows and a simple tracking mechanism and has grown into bettering the city for not just the government planning but the residents who live there. Chicago seems to have embraced technology to its fullest and made moves to become more efficient. This is not only applicable on a city-wide scale but in our everyday lives, our work, our schools, and our home. It’s not about technology taking over but utilizing one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal to be a better, more efficient, sustainable culture.

Share and Follow Us:

IoT Today & Tomorrow- Tracy Markie Speaks @ RFMA 2017

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Tradeshows, Uncategorized | No Comments

Tracy Markie, Small Box Energy’s CEO, spoke at the RFMA conference on IoT Today & Tomorrow- Practical Use for Facility Managers. He expressed the differences in IoT today, how 6.4 billion

David Andow President of Small Box Energy

David Andow President of Small Box Energy

‘things’ will be connected; and IoT of tomorrow and how research suggests that 20.8 billion ‘things’ will be connected. IoT affects everything from the front of the house (POS, Customers, Marketing, Social, etc.), to operations (employees, Accounting, Suppliers, & Inventory), and to the back of house (Food Safety, Equipment Monitoring, Energy Efficiency etc.). The impact that a cloud based platform that connected every aspect of your business to conserve energy and gain visibility is priceless.

The session also included educational content about using EMS (Energy Management System) Data collected with IoT platforms can provide insight into HVAC issues at your restaurant.  Poor performing HVAC systems are energy wasters.  Servicing or replacing old HVAC units also lead to fewer complaints from customers.

RFMA Closing Party

RFMA Closing Party

We enjoy having the chance to attend these trade-shows as it gives us the chance to meet new people and build strong, new relationships; but it also allows us to meet up with old friends and have a great time!

Share and Follow Us:

Equipment Performance – A Portfolio Perspective

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT | No Comments

Quarterly reports review your entire portfolio highlighting run-times, energy usage, and alarms.

Whether you own 2 stores or 200, being efficient is the key to reducing operating costs. Small Box Energy understands that need, which is why we provide quarterly ‘Fit’ reports specifically for your equipment.

You’ll be able to see and compare:

  • HVAC compressor runtimes
  • Walk-in compressor runtimes
  • Alarms over the period
  • HVAC target temperature overrides
  • Energy Usage

A sample report looks like the picture below.

portfolio - partial -2

Data Enables Strategic Decision Making

One of the advantages of IoT is the ability to access data. In fact, we serve up over 140,000 data points each day for each of our sites that we monitor. But what do you do with it? How do you analyze it? What is the real advantage of having all this data? The advantage isn’t the data, the advantage is having the tools to combine and display the data you need into a useful format that is easy to read and understand. As the picture depicts above, we segregate and display the data by equipment so you can easily read and compare. Colors indicate performance evaluations. You can quickly scan the data, pick out the equipment in danger and compare the data across your entire portfolio. Customers have been able to make strategic decisions for efficiency, such as these:

  • Modify temperature settings to maximize energy efficiency
  • Choose to repair or replace equipment based on performance and other portfolio equipment needs
  • Evaluate a 3rd party vendor
  • Eliminate or modify existing preventative maintenance program based on equipment needs
  • Reevaluate the design and equipment needs for new locations

IoT and data provide the means, Small Box Energy makes it useful and actionable. Call us today or request a presentation.

Share and Follow Us:

A Needle in A Haystack

By | Case Studies, IoT, More Value, Remote Diagnostics | No Comments

On-site Technician and CSM Quickly Diagnose Freezer Issue Using Remote Control and Data Analysis

My father was a farmer and I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack” when he was working on his equipment after something broke down. Well, that is the beauty about IoT and data, you can control and diagnose issues from anywhere in the world, reducing guessing games, which is exactly what happened earlier this week.

A technician was on-site at one of our restaurant customers. He called our tech support line because the freezer wasn’t reaching temperature and continued to cycle between refrigeration and defrost mode. By looking up the unit on chameleon-cloud.com, Jake (our technician) was able to tell him the coil temperature and room temperature which was the first step to diagnosing the problem.

Jake remotely put the unit in refrigeration mode for testing purposes and continued to analyze the compressor data while the technician proceeded to review the operation of the unit on-site. Together they discovered the expansion valve wasn’t working properly and not giving enough refrigerant to the unit. Because of the accurate diagnosis, the technician was able to adjust the superheat to help temporarily keep the temperature down until the unit can be fully repaired. Of course, we will continue to watch the unit remotely and alert management and the technician of urgent temperature issues.

This was the first time this technician had worked with Small Box Energy’s chameleon™ platform. He thought the system was extremely beneficial to diagnosing problems, both remotely and on-site; so much so, he is working with Jake to schedule further training with colleagues because he felt his organization could benefit from the system through control, alarming, remote diagnostics, and energy saving capability.

Share and Follow Us:

Not just for restaurants and c-stores anymore, other retailers are choosing Small Box Energy’s chameleon™ too.

By | Events, IoT, Tradeshows | No Comments

Small Box Energy provides an affordable energy management solution for retail space under 15,000 square feet.

Small Box Energy was proud to exhibit in the Intel booth (@IntelRetail) at NRF this last week where we showcased our chameleon platform that utilizes Intel’s Quark architecture at the heart of our intelligent IoT chameleon webserver. The Intel and Small Box Energy teams presented to many retailer chains, reseller partners and international channel sellers who took an extreme interest in our solution.

“The scalability and versatility of chameleon is why we are getting so many inquiries from retailers,” said Tracy Markie, chief executive officer for Small Box Energy. “The balance of features and ease-of-use may catch their eye, but the real, tangible value they see chameleon bringing to their operations is what keeps their interest.”  Retailers work the same long hours as restaurants, so they use a lot of energy with extensive equipment run-time and wear. A large percentage of stores have temperature controlled inventory, such as flower shops, pharmacies, pet stores and dollar stores. These attributes align to the chameleon platform uniquely, and when demonstrating the platform at the show, executives immediately saw the value, efficiency and costs savings it could bring to their bottom lines.

Small Box Energy is the only energy management platform providing temperature monitoring and early equipment diagnostics as part of their energy management platform, and users have seen savings up to 30% throughout their operations.

Our business model is simple. We offer a managed solution and monthly operational expense (OpEx) payment structure based on the equipment installed at the stores thus eliminating capital expenditures (CapEx). Your entire portfolio of locations can be managed on chameleon-cloud.com using a web browser or one of our mobile apps. The extremely user-friendly interface utilizes a tiered, customizable login structure to give managers and employees the appropriate access to manage information, review alerts/alarms and change settings as needed.

When speaking to executives at the show, Our Customer Success Team emerged as a key distinguishing factor among competitors. Our services include 24/7 monitoring for each location. If an alarm is received and not acted upon, we contact the management staff just to verify they saw the issue and are working on a solution. Facility leadership was very interested in alerting and alarming, reporting and analytics. To ensure success, we provide ongoing insight into operations, equipment performance and overall energy usage with key recommendations to decrease costs. This deep dive analysis is enabled through chameleon’s unique IoT technology and will continue to provide value for years to come to retailers.

With all the ‘buzz’ at NRF about Small Box Energy and our solution, you can expect to see a lot more about chameleon helping retailers neutralize increasing costs resulting from new labor and wage regulations and insurance hikes.

Share and Follow Us:

Small Box Energy Showcases Operational Efficiency for Retailers @ NRF2017

By | IoT, Tradeshows | No Comments

Intel® invited Small Box Energy to share our chameleon solution at NRF’s BIG SHOW 

Small Box Energy is proud to be participating with Intel and numerous other innovative companies at the 2017 NRF annual convention with many other innovative companies. IoT is changing the retail landscape daily and brings efficiency, reduced costs, and greater productivity to your business. Small Box Energy’s chameleon platform can help retailers predict maintenance needs, reduce energy and reduce inventory loss of temperature controlled foods.Come check us out at booth number 3125!

About NRF

NRF’s Annual Convention & EXPO earned the nickname “Retail’s BIG Show” years ago and because the name was so appropriate, it stuck. Today, Retail’s BIG Show is NRF’s flagship event held annually in New York City. The three-day event offers unparalleled education, collegial networking with 33,000 of your newest friends, and an enormous EXPO Hall full of technologies and solutions. Even after more than a century – 106 years to be exact – Retail’s BIG Show is still the only place where you can see and experience all things Retail because we’re always adding new programs and updating others.

 

Share and Follow Us:
balancing a restaurant for comfort

A Balancing Act: Room Comfort

By | Case Studies, Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT | No Comments

It’s probably the most common complaint in any restaurant, “it’s too cold in here!” Of course, almost everyone’s comfort level is different; however, we can agree that there are some acceptable standards for restaurants. We can also agree that the room temperature should be even across the room(s) for everyone’s dining pleasure. But achieving those standards can be very challenging.

Many people don’t understand air conditioners rely on sensors placed in the room and to balance the comfort across the space, the sensors need to be located correctly. For example, if there is a room with a lot of windows and sunlight; a sensor should be located near that area and at the opposite end of the room where these is no sunlight/heat from the windows. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to place a sensor near the door to the outside because heat/cold air rushing in from the outside will affect the space temperature. Therefore, placing the sensors strategically around the room enables an average to be taken and used as the input, so the HVAC unit can determine how long to blow cool air and effectively cool the space evenly.

Typically, this isn’t something business owners worry about – I mean let’s face it we have enough on our minds as it is. When the HVAC units are placed, the contractors place the sensors based on traffic flow and building factors to optimize your efficiency and comfort. But overtime, these sensors could stop working, be moved by other contractors, or the space itself could have been modified or changed.  That is why having remote diagnostics can help you determine when your HVAC unit is running efficiently due to sensors.

Case Study: Remote Diagnostics Uncovered Sensors Placed Incorrectly

Problem:  Managers told the Small Box Energy Client Success Manager (CSM) they felt the space was warmer than the thermostats indicated, and often had trouble keeping the space at a comfortable temperature for customers.

Upon inspection of the equipment through remote diagnostics, the CSM could see the target room temperature was barely being reached and the compressors were running constantly in 2 stages of cooling.

Sensor MisPlacement

Diagnosis: When the technician visited the space; they found the sensors were located incorrectly causing the room temperature being reported to be drastically different than if the sensors were placed properly.

Solution: The SBE technicians relocated the sensors, and the CSM noticed a significant difference in run-time for the compressor and the unit is now consistently reaching the target temperature.

sensor placed correctly

Additionally, the managers have reported back that the room temperature feels comfortable.

The Turquoise line is the Current Temperature

  • The straight Black line is the Target Temperature
  • The Purple line is the Discharge Temperature (this should be 15-20° below the target temperature)
  • The Blue lines are when the unit is in the Cooling Stage

 For more information on how Small Box Energy can help you save energy and money through remote equipment diagnostics, contact us today.

Share and Follow Us:

It’s only 2 degrees, what difference can that make?

By | Case Studies, Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Visibility Stories | No Comments

Case Study: Adjusting the set-points reduced the HVAC run time by 20%

Energy Star states commercial buildings can trim their air conditioning cost by 12-15% just by raising their room temperature 3˚ during the summer. But how do you really know if you are saving money?

Our Client Success Managers review each site and all the equipment at the site. During a recent analysis, Joe noticed the kitchen compressor was running extremely long. Therefore, he suggested raising the temperature 2˚ to see if they could cut energy costs while keeping the kitchen at a comfortable temperature for staff.

This simple analysis cut the compressor usage by 20%, cutting compressor run time by almost 3 hours a day. While that does not seem like a lot, take a look at the graphs. Besides energy, this will reduce wear on the compressor and help elongate the life of the unit.

Original Graph – Target temperature of 73 degrees in the kitchen – Compressor run time of 13.1 hours (787 minutes) over a 24 hour period

compressor run time with thermostat at 73

After Adjustment – Target temperature raised to 75 degrees in the same kitchen – Compressor run time of 10.5 hours (630 minutes) over a 24 hour period. Savings of 20%.

compressor run time with thermostat at 75

Small Box Energy provides the visibility restaurants need to reduce workload on equipment and save money.

Share and Follow Us: