The CIR conference was a very interesting event focused on heat, power, and transport. I went to the Thursday event to represent Akvaterm accumulator tanks along with Juho Nuosmaa. The Thursday event was focussed on heat.
Juho spoke about Akvaterm heat accumulator tanks, heat storage and best practise. He covered some of the basics ways in which storing heat energy in water can increase system efficiency and make it more convenient for the installer and final user. We took a demonstration AkvaGeo tank along which is designed specifically for heat pumps, getting better rates of efficiency out of the pump and allowing you to store energy from the pump when it is cheapest to produce; either when there is plentiful or cheap electricity or, in the case or air source heat pumps, in the daytime when air temperatures are higher and the pump is more efficient to run.
Quite a few of the speakers talked about 'The Internet of Things'. The concept is that objects like your mobile, your car, your solar controller, heating programmer, and so on, are increasingly able to communicate with each other and via the internet. The actual mechanisms to achieve this were varied and each person speaking seemed to have their own system or portal which they wanted to promote. Like Facebook I think that they aim to provide the service for free as they can see the future benefit of all that data moving through their systems. It is worth checking out though so there was a chap there from Pachube (whose desktop was nearly as full as mine is which is saying something!) which facilitates hardware that 'talks' to their servers. They then make the data available which also allows collaboration and collation of data. So for instance you might want to see how much solar hot water is being produced across Europe and their system would allow you to build something which let you do that.
Another innovation was a microcontroller called Mbed. Mbed connects via usb to your PC and can be programmed via an easy online interface. You can plug in various probes and sensors, create a program for the microcontroller and then compile and apply the program. The microcontroller can also connect to the internet via the usb connection allowing it to report back where necessary. So you might want something to happen when the pressure in a pipe goes above a set limit for example and this would let you build a prototype for your eventual production.
I don't think 'The Internet of Things' will really kick off until there is a common, open source , standard for these 'Things' to communicate with each other.
Another valid point is that it will take a lot of energy for all these Things to communicate with each other and let us view the results on our iphones? Will it save more energy than it consumes?