Private networks help companies go green

HVAC
More enterprises are connecting their HVAC systems to private cellular networks. (iStock / Getty Images Plus / Nadya85)

Private wireless networks are helping companies conserve energy and reduce their carbon footprints by giving them more control over power consumption. By using cellular networks to monitor and control HVAC equipment, enterprises are realizing immediate savings in energy use.

Ericsson was one of the first companies to flag a real-world example. The Texas factory that makes its 5G radios also uses a private 5G network to connect equipment, and Ericsson credited the private network with a 25% decrease in the factory's energy consumption and a 75% decrease in wastewater. 

RELATED: Ericsson 5G private network helps its factory during pandemic

Cradlepoint, now an Ericsson subsidiary, is seeing increased demand for its cellular routers in private networks used for HVAC control. "It's driven by the need for a greener world, and a way to control conditions better, reduce costs, reduce consumption, reduce pollution," said Cradlepoint CMO Todd Krautkremer. "We’re working with a couple of major HVAC solution providers that are trying to provide networked climate control for retail spaces, where they deliver climate control as as a service." 

Krautkremer said HVAC providers need to bring their own networks to enable climate control as a service, adding that private wireless is typically much faster and cheaper than leasing and connecting fiber. He said 5G makes the wireless private network even more valuable. "5G now lets them take that and extend it beyond the climate control, maybe into a lot of the AR/VR capabilities that buildings have, and deliver that as a service," he said. 

Retail is Cradlepoint's biggest vertical, and Krautkremer said that in this industry, private networks for HVAC are getting extra attention because of Target's network security breach, which occurred when the retailer's HVAC vendor was hacked. Other retailers now want to segregate HVAC from networks that handle customer data.

“They realize that by letting their HVAC infrastructure ride the same infrastructure that they use for IT, it creates an adjacent red space," said Krautkremer.  "If they segregate it they can have a much better experience, so we’re actually working with a number of retailers in segregating their HVAC controls from their primary network, and one of the ways you segregate that is on a parallel wireless network.”

Parallel wireless networks are getting a lot of attention in the smart building space. A private network makes sense because it "does not interfere with any tenants or any other wireless signaling," said John Gilbert, COO and CTO of Rudin Management Company, a New York real estate firm that has created software called Nantum for smart building management. 

RELATED: New York real estate investor bets big on CBRS

Gilbert is excited about using CBRS private networks to help buildings monitor and control energy use. "At the same time the FCC commercialized CBRS, CEOs were lining up in Davos saying they would go carbon neutral," he remembers.

As Gilbert noted, CEOs around the world are committing to reduce emissions, and private cellular could be an important tool in helping them achieve those goals, particularly when combined with edge computing for data analytics.

“The more granular data that we’re able to collect and analyze, the more efficient a building can become, the less carbon it will produce and the less electricity it will consume," said Gilbert. "This will create a more sustainable and carbon neutral environment."