There is always a reason why. For nearly the last two decades we've worked in operating buildings installing sensors to save energy, most of which were hotels. That is really challenging, because there is only about a 20 minute window to install things into a rented hotel room during housekeeping services. The opportunity to save energy mostly comes from occupancy detection, which requires multiple sensors in every room and even load sub-metering infrastructure.
This combination leads to a lot of wireless and battery powered sensors packed into a very dense area (arguably, the densest habitable environment). Not only that, but it also makes installation of traditional "commissioned" networks almost impossible, since you never know which room is available for installation. Most existing vendor solutions are proprietary or simply don't play friendly.
As new IoT applications are imagined, the need for sensors will multiply and networks will become even more dense. As Artificial Intelligence propagates, both the volume and the number of data points needed to produce accurate and reliable results will dramatically increase. We see a future in which not only people consume data, but AI becomes the customer itself. Existing solutions simply don't meet these basic requirements, are not scalable, too difficult to configure, or require too many permutations for each different environment and application. Even worse, most IoT vendors require subscriptions to premium cloud software, which simply didn't fit into our customers tight budgets, or meet their high security requirements.
A few of the most common things people ask us:
Q: What is a Data Utility?
The Data Utility is the next generation of essential services providers. Just like people buy electrons and water services today, Data utilities will be able to unlock incredible value from physical information prediction systems. We can save Trillions of Dollars globally in efficiency enhancements, environmental and health advancements and resilient software systems. This value will be provided by Data Utilities.
Q: What sensors does Conectric offer?
We've started with several discreet wireless sensor options which can provide immediate value. This includes:
[ Clime G3 ]: Temperature and Humidity
[ Optic G3 ]: Passive Infrared (PIR) Occupancy
[ Portal G3 ]: Door Position/Switch (Magnetic Sensor)
[ Pulse G3 ]: 3V Impulse (Optical Light Sensor)
[ Serial G3 ]: RS485 Serial Data
Sensors can be configured to measure various inputs from external sensors such as contacts, NTC resistors, millivolt and more. We are always engineering something new in our lab as requirements surface. Please follow us to receive updates.
Q: Why does Conectric have so many different sensors?
Unlike other IoT offers that have "combined" many sensors into a single package, each one of our sensors are packaged for bespoke functions. We can do this because our network is not constrained by scalability issues. While there are certainly cases where having many sensors in a single location is useful, our many years of experience shows it is more practical to be able to distribute sensors exactly where they are needed. This reduces the total cost of each sensor and improves the battery life as well.
Q: Does Conectric make it's own sensors?
Conectric's sensors were completely designed in our R&D department in San Diego, California USA. We have several manufacturing partners in the US, Mexico, Taiwan and China to ensure the highest quality product. Our designs are owned by Conectric, or covered under exclusive licenses and patents.
Q: What is the "indoor" range of your sensors?
Battery powered sensors can reach up to 30 meters in wood framed buildings. Line powered routers can easily reach 50-80 meters indoors. For concrete and steel construction, a safe rule of thumb is to cut those numbers in half.
Q: What is the "outdoor" range of Conectric sensors?
Outdoors and without obstructions we have observed transmissions as far as 1km away. In the real world there is typically machinery and buildings in the way. We would budget 100m between routers to be safe.
Q: How many hops can your "mesh network" make?
We have designed a "typical" network to pass messages along routers up to 6 times, with a maximum of 500 routers. More than double current solutions. That would give you approximately 500 meters of indoor coverage and several kilometers outdoors. Enough to solve just about any situation. You could always push it further, if needed messages can theoretically hop up to 32 times but we've never seen that happen in real life.
Q: Why not just use popular protocols like Zigbee or Z-wave?
In principle, those protocols have changed the world and paved the way for newer technology, like Conectric. Although well intended, there are just too many configurations which means every installation becomes custom. Customization leads to a lack of interoperability. Licensing fees can prevent Open Source and community driven advancements. Architecturally, scaling and commissioning are challenging and require planning or were designed for small local networks in single family residential homes. Planning requires expensive consultants. Conectric was designed to overcome these issues and just work "out of the box." This greatly expands the potential audience of developers, integrators and applications for our technology, including as the underlying fabric of the next generation Data Utility.
Q: How long do batteries last?
We can't answer this question with a straight face, because we have not been able to kill a battery yet under full load. We have sensors that have sent well in excess of 20 Million messages and are still going. It's safe to say that if the lithium chemistry can survive for 10 years, the sensor will still be transmitting. We install only the very best lithium Rayovac batteries made in the USA. We never buy batteries from a broker, you can be sure your batteries came straight from the factory if you buy them from us.
Q: How secure is your network?
As secure as you need it to be. Unlike most IoT offers, our solution does not depend on the cloud. If you want ultimate security you can keep it private. To make commissioning easy we keep the network open, but secure the message payload using AES128 encryption. Private keys are stored in the silicon and masked, to keep bad guys out.
Q: Do you use Wi-fi?
We use the same universal frequency, 2.4GHz, but a different standard called 802.15.4. Wi-fi was not designed for small packets of sensor data. It was designed for high bandwidth, high throughput (fast) data, like streaming audio and video feeds. Wi-fi uses a lot of energy and is not practical for battery powered sensors, they would die very quickly. Many IoT offers (almost all really) are using Wi-fi these days. That's fine if you have a power supply, but not practical in retrofits where wires don't already exist. It also doesn't have a lot of range and isn't easily scalable without a lot of routers. Wi-fi is basically the most "un-green" wireless networking solution. It also has the downside that if you want to follow best practices for network security every time the public key is changed, it would have to get updated on every single device. That's not fun or practical.
Q: Will Wi-fi interfere with Conectric or vice versa?
No. Although they operate on the same radio frequency, Conectric sensors use a different channel than Wi-fi. We both occupy the air together, but Conectric uses special algorithms to make sure that we don't bump into each other.
Q: Why don't you use lower frequencies like other IoT solutions?
The simple answer is because we don't have to. The Conectric mesh network can get plenty of coverage without going down the spectrum. Lower frequencies tend to use more power as well, so we believe our batteries will always last longer. Finally, we used the universal ISM band, which isn't country specific and has worldwide certification. One of the biggest problems with IoT offers is that you have to use a different solution for every market. Not with Conectric.
Q: Do I need to subscribe to your cloud?
No. Our solution is extremely flexible. The "cloud" is one of the most annoying parts of all the IoT solutions we have ever looked at. Vendors want to trap you into expensive monthly payments. That just doesn't work in every case, especially when energy is the value prop. Even worse, this prevents most developers from being able to create value added solutions for their customers. We wanted to leave the solution open for private networks, private clouds, or any cloud really. If you need a cloud, we can also set you up on our Google Cloud. Its infinitely scalable, highly secure and cost effective.
Q: Where can I find your documentation?
Q: Can I integrate your sensors to an existing Building Automation system, energy metering system, or do I need to replace it?
Your Conectric Network will operate independently of your existing BMS/BAS or SCADA system. You can easily integrate the data you collect from our sensors or even send commands back to the BAS using our RS485 Hub, Edge Gateway and Echo USB Routers. The Hub allows you to send and receive serial commands through the Conectric Network. You can parse them in our gateway or your gateway into whatever protocol your system uses. You won't need to replace your existing BMS, but you will probably find it a lot more cost effective and reliable to just transition into Conectric.
Q: I already have my own gateway, do I need to use yours?
The Conectric Network can integrate into any available serial port on your gateway, including USB ports. Our Node.js soft gateway runs on most operating systems including Linux, Linux Distros like Raspbian, MacOS and Windows. We didn't want the whole value of our company to lay in a single piece of hardware.
Q: Does Conectric have a gateway?
Yes. If you want to use our plug-and-play fully assembled ultra-compact Border Controller gateway, you can. We have versions to support connectivity via ethernet, wi-fi, 3G/4G and LTE. Our gateways can also be pre-configured for totally private networks, with a self-contained database for storing sensor data and dashboard for reporting without touching the internet. Our gateways have delivered over 6GB/month in sensor data using Open Source MQTT as the broker, LTE backhaul, and Open VPN to Google Cloud Platform.
Q: How long is your warranty?
Conectric offers a 1 year standard warranty, and has extended warranties depending on your application. We have been producing sensors in the same factory for almost 20 years, and we know of installed sensors well over 10 years old that are still operating.
Q: How can I display the sensor data? Is there a dashboard?
There are many great dashboard and data visualization applications out in the world. Some of them require cloud services and others can be locally installed. By linking your Conectric Network with a database and storing your sensor messages, it should be very easy to store and read them in a dashboard. We have several examples on how to do this in our YouTube channel. We have seen Conectric sensor data integrated on popular dashboards like Grafana, Tableau, Kibana and even custom apps.
Q: Can Conectric sensors send notifications?
Absolutely! We have seen great integrations with popular messaging apps like Twilio (SMS) and Slack (chatbots and group messaging) and Grafana (visualization, including email event notifications). We have several examples on how to do this in our YouTube channel.
Q: Can I see the "health" of the sensor, how do I maintain it?
Our sensors were designed with ultra-long battery life and literally zero maintenance. Every sensor message contains vital information like battery voltage. Sensors periodically "check in" to warn you if they are missing or broken. Because our sensor data is abstracted into web printable JSON messages, it is very easy for any web developer to write script to automate health updates with just a few lines of code.
Q: How do your sensors scale? Do I need a lot of sensors for this to work?
Your Conectric Network can have between 1 and 50,000 sensors, it's all the same. All you need is an Echo G3 USB Router and a sensor. The rest is up to your imagination. If you connect the Router to an internet connected machine running our Node.js gateway and a database, you can create a web hook to popular messaging apps like Slack or Twilio. You could send an SMS message to your phone whenever someone opens the refrigerator or walks onto your porch. If you want more messages, just add more sensors. If you are a city manager and want to monitor micro climates on every street. Just do it!