Unipi Neuron controllers used to manage data centre “free cooling” solution

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A customer from Great Britain utilized customized Unipi Neuron controllers for a free cooling management project at the University of Aberdeen's datacentre. 

The University of Aberdeen is a leader in the research and understanding of the impact of climate change and takes its responsibility for reducing carbon emissions seriously. By implementing SMARTset the university has invested in technology to cut costs and control energy use in the critical infrastructure supporting its Data Centre.

Challenge

Having invested in a “free cooling” solution to take advantage of its relatively cool climate the university wanted to improve its ability to adjust the controls in response to changing circumstances. The existing Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) had a non-intuitive user-interface incorporating a proprietary software to make adjustments and change set points.

A competitive tender was issued to replace the old controllers with a user-friendly interface, with remote control facility, to display the status of the system, including active alarms, and to enable the user to easily modify environmental parameters.

Solution

The chosen solution was delivered by AIT Partnership Group Ltd using SMARTset Industrial IoT software. As a hardware solution, Unipi Neuron controllers customised via the Unipi OEM programme are used, featuring custom colour and graphics features. Multiple controllers and Unipi Extension modules are installed throughout the data centre, collect data from sensors and data centre devices, and relay them into a SMARTset instance running on a local machine. 

SMARTbox S2 controller, an OEM variant of the Neuron M103

The solution provides customisable dashboards accessed through a browser from any connected computer or mobile device. The dashboards ensure you clearly see only the information you need in a format you want, using a wide range of widgets with graphs, dials and animations to show fan speeds, temperature and humidity levels, energy use, PUE and other parameters. New widgets can be easily added by selecting from the widget library and associating it with a data source and dragging it where required.

A screenshot of the datacentre's user interface. 

In addition to providing monitoring of critical infrastructure, the dashboard widgets enable users to configure setpoints and thresholds without having to directly access control algorithms. This means that, unlike a traditional BMS, SMARTset allows authorised users, without any specific code or programming skills, to make changes to controls.

The data is collected from sensors and equipment outputs via SMARTbox gateways connected across the LAN to the SMARTset instance which in this case is hosted on a local machine.

Result

The University Data Centre infrastructure team can make adjustments and changes to improve the efficiency of their “free cooling” system without the need to reprogramme the underlying control algorithm as well as altering control strategy to negate the effect of the very variable climate. This means they can optimise energy and cost savings without risking downtime as the demands on the data centre change, without having to re-programme controllers.

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