VANTARA. Hitachi Vantara. Yes, took me a while to get used to it as well after almost 15 years at HDS but I must say reading all the internal and external communications and overall business and technical transformation gets me more excited by the day.
HDS, Pentaho and Hitachi Insight Group are combined into a new company focussing on IoT, Analytics and helping customers obtain the maximum use and benefit out of their operational technologies via bullet proof IT from HDS.
Two months ago I had solar panels installed. Living in the Australian Sunshine Coast Hinterland I thought I’d let the name and location do some work for me and as a positive side-effect bring my power bills down as well. In addition to that I’ll prevent a few tonnes of CO2 emissions by not having the power companies burn black rock. The challenge is however to make the best use out of the solar installation. As I did not opt for a battery installation (simply too much money and the ROI makes it currently not worth it) the panels deliver between 4 and 5KWh on average depending on a few factors like cloud overcast, angle of the sun, shade of trees etc. Every kilowatt I do not use I feed back into the grid for others to make use of. The power company gives me AUD$0.06 per KWh but charges me AUD$0.26 for every KWh I pull from the grid in case of consumption. So the best use of the panels I get is obviously during daylight and make sure that the consumption profile is near the production capacity of the panels. This means that energy hungry equipment like washing machine, pool pump, water heaters etc are best used during the time the panels deliver the optimum on power and only activate these appliances if the provisioning capacity is actually met. Not much use to have all appliances turned on at once using all power from the panels but still requiring the excess to be pulled from the grid where a sequential use over the day ensures I don’t need to pull any electrons from expensive pole on the street.
Now, as I have a daytime job at Hitachi Vantara I don’t have time to watch the screen on the DC/AC inverter to check what the current supply is and run to the appliances to turn them on or off. I tried my kids to do that for me which lasted for about 10 minutes and my wife looked at me wondering if I had gone nuts when I asked her. (OK, OK, she’s not the only one…… :-)) So what do we do. Obviously being a techie I have some computing equipment around and a few of which are RaspBerry-Pi’s. Tinkering on Linux systems for +- 20 years has also given me somewhat of an edge strolling the open-source world and you get in touch with home automation software. After a few site visits I opted for an awesome tool called “Home Assistant“. It’s 100% written in Python, built in a modular fashion and well maintained. The second thing I needed was something to actually turn on and off the equipment. Now, the laundromat we have was made before IoT was even a valid acronym so no intelligence here, same goes for the pool pump and my oven and a bunch of other appliances. I needed to go on the hunt for power switches that would be able to connect to the network and be able to be turned on and off via the network. The nasty thing of most of these solutions is that they all require “cloud-access”. Stuff that uses Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Home and a fair few others talk directly to these cloud providers and you have to use their API’s to obtain the data out of their cloud environment. My opinion is that none of them have any business when I turn on the lights, oven, pool pump, whatever so I needed something else. I stumbled over a Sonoff POW switch. This one not only is able to switch on or off but has an in-build wifi chip as well as a programmable interface on the pcb plus a power monitor which can send the current power usage of the attached device to an MQTT host. Soldering a 4-pin header onto that pcb and hooking it up to /dev/ttyusb0 did provide the option to be able to program the thing with custom software. As with most things related to technology you’re not the first doing this so I came across a piece of software from Xose Pérez. As the Sonoff has a rather generic chip for these kind of features he already wrote new software which provides a lot of options to hook these up to home automation software like Domotics, Home-Assistant etc. After downloading and compiling the code I was able to link this to my Home-Assistant (HA) instance via MQTT and configure HA. I then looked at the Solar Inverter to obtain the current power value and based on that created rules in HA to turn on and off the Sonoff switches based on the supply and demand. This resulted in the nice menthods that my power usage is controlled by mother nature. Another thing I implemented is the use of my phones’ location services. This allows me to have the phone notify the HA software when I leave the house so it can automatically turn off all the lights, lock the doors and enable the alarm-system. The reverse obviously will also work.
Teenagers have the tendency to think the world is made for them and only them. This also means that the expectancy levels are to such an extent that everything seems to go automatically. Clean clothes simply appear in their closets, food is like a sharks teeth system which seems to be of never ending supply from the back of the pantry and “bills” is a word that hasn’t made into their vocabulary yet. This also means that their metabolism makes sure a regular trip to the supermarket is needed to make sure you don’t starve yourself, the doors always remain open after they’ve passed and lights will remain on when they leave ANY room irrespective of time-of-day and . Replacing the light switches with managed smart-switches means I can simply prevent them being able to turn on the light if the amount of lumen in their room is above a certain level and have it also automatically switch of if the motion sensor has not triggered after an certain amount of time. Lights in the bathroom turn off automatically after 30 minutes as I expect you to be finished taking a shower well before that. I’m thinking of putting a switch on the hot-water pump to turn off after 5 minutes as a shower should not take more than than. Getting a cold supply after 5 minutes will make sure they finish up before that. 🙂 So many more things to do and see where I can make better use of the home-automation concept.
Ok so now what does this have to do with Hitachi Vantara you would ask. Living in Queensland, Australia also means that you’re residing in an area prone to large scale droughts which may last for months in a row. Queensland is however also one of the areas known for being the food source of this country and crop and live-stock farming is huge. Now for crops to grow and live-stock be able to survive you need a few things. Water is one of them and a fairly critical one. Focussing on crops you also need nutrient rich soil and light. The last ones are not a problem and are here in abundance but without water they are useless. It is therefore of the utmost importance that water is managed almost to the droplet. The optimum balance of nutrients, light and water is different per species and as such different ratios of these need to be used and managed to obtain the best harvest and in the end business outcome. The food and agricultural universities have studied these different crops and can provide the optimum requirements for each vegetable and fruit species. You can only manage that at scale if you have data that shows you the current balance and as such you need to have sensors that are able to measure humidity, temperature, light, wind and maybe even chemical substance ratio’s of the soil. Pulling weather predictions from the Bureau of Meteorology gives you a bit of an overview of some metrics like temperature, wind direction and speed and rain-fall so a pre-calculated off-set can then be done on the triggers configured. (No use of watering 100 hectares when the weather predictions show it is going to rain the next day.) That data can then be collected via a solution like Lumada, analysed by Pentaho IoT analytics after which different rules can automatically start processes like watering, fertilisation and open and close shades to obtain the optimum balance for that specific crop. When water is stored in dams and tanks for irrigation purposes you also can take those levels into account to be able to calculate how much water is still required and if some adjustments of irrigation ratios might be applicable to be able to sustain the growth of crops without quality and quantity deterioration. From a business perspective this not only contributes to the best seed to product ratio but also prevents over or under utilisation of scarce water and expensive fertilizers. In this way Lumada and Pentaho not only provide a optimum business outcome but also ensure eco-friendly and sustainable usage of natural resources. This is what Hitachi calls “Corporate Social Responsibility” and it is one of things I’m proud of being a part of. Regards, Erwin