Archived: Energy-Saving Through Sensors from Omron

Omron, a Japan-based global company that focuses on developing MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) products for customer solutions, has attempted to address Japan’s recent energy concerns with three particularly interesting innovations that were on display at MEMS 2011. The lineup included a full office energy management solution featuring: the “Indoor Environment Monitor,” new facial recognition security system, and an automated air-conditioning adjustment system.

Omron-MEMS-indoor-environment-monitor

The Indoor Environment Monitor utilizes MEMS technology to create a comfortable (and safe) working environment. The monitor aggregates information such as the room’s temperature, relative humidity, air velocity/airflow, and occupant’s active metabolic rate to calculate an effective body temperature. The system then determines the severeness of heat illness in levels in ascending order from “Need for Care, “Caution,” “Heightened Alert,” to “Danger.” What’s interesting about this monitor is that it wirelessly transmits this information to a smartphone app or PC, which can be used remotely to monitor a grandparent or young child left by themselves at home. Innovation such as this that allow remote care via sensors is a particularly useful advancement.

Omron-MEMS-indoor-condition-monitor

With the recent increase in software security threats causing a slight panic among the general public, and growing concerns of unsafe and unprotected passwords, Omron also introduced an “intelligent” security system that takes into account “setsuden” (energy saving) as well. In the form of a webcam, this system adds the concept of using thermal detection on top of facial recognition, and combines these two security measures to solve two challenges: unauthorized access to users’ computers and energy saving.

The process is fairly simple in the sense that the thermal camera detects faces of registered users and only allows access if body temperature is detected. Holding up a picture of a registered user would not grant access to the computer. Not only does this make logging in easier and convenient, with regards to “setsuden,” it saves energy by going into sleep mode the second the user leaves their computer (laptop). This reduction may seem trivial when compared to the rest of energy saving products that we have introduced in previous articles, but the Japanese have a popular saying: “even ashes can pile up to form a mountain.” What is most fascinating about this new system is that the whole process is instant and takes less than a second to turn itself on and off.

Omron-facial-temperature-recognition-security-system

Omron’s third product involves using SSMs (Smart Sensing Module) to significantly reduce air conditioning power by using adaptation features while maintaining production standards. Using the same technology from the two innovations above, the SSMs are placed in strategic places, acting as a human detection sensor, air flow, and temperature/humidity sensor. The SSMs then transmit their calculations to the air conditioner, which adjusts accordingly the amount and temperature of the air flow it releases. Omron’s Semiconductor factory, which monitors clean room conditions in real time, has been testing the effectiveness of their new technology and so far, have successfully achieved a power consumption reduction of 25%.

omron-air-conditioner-adjuster

New products that use cutting-edge technology never fail to impress us, and Omron has certainly done a fine job of appealing to society’s latest concerns like the aging community and “setsuden”. Energy saving measures have been rolled out across all industries as a result of the disasters in Japan, and innovations in technology aimed at reducing energy consumption due to blackout threats have become a noticeable selling point in consumer appliances.

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