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The Definition

"ECOP", stands for Energy Conservation Observation Platform.  It is a modular, configurable, secure system for monitoring environmental variables that can help people learn how to better manage their systems.  This description covers a broad area of capabilities, some of which we will introduce below.


In light of its name, ECOP is a power monitoring solution, so at its core it  measures and tracks the usage on AC power circuits to give the user a clear idea of their consumption patterns.  It does this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.  This data is provided in an intuitive reporting system that shows the data at several levels of granularity that are easy for users to navigate.  

In addition to power usage, ECOP can also track AC power generation (a solar powered inverted, for example).  Also available is the ability to track other variables about an environment that can help when analyzing problems or making decisions about system repairs or upgrades.  The immediately available variables are temperature, humidity, and water presence.  However, the types of variables that ECOP is capable of tracking is almost limitless, due to the modular design used when building ECOP.  Things like radiation, rain / snowfall, and wind will be added to ECOP as time and demand dictate, so let us know of things that interest you.  

Why Monitor

The motivation for monitoring power can vary widely.  We envision the main reason being that homeowners and small businesses can better understand their power consumption and make informed decisions about how to consume more efficiently.  There are certainly many other valid reasons, some of which we have recognized as important enough to directly design features that support them.

For the sake of learning about ECOP, power savings is as good a motivation as any, and to save power it really helps to know where and when you use it.  With ECOP tracking this data at all times, usage patterns become very obvious, in a visual way.  Seeing those patterns over time can be very enlightening.

When applied to a residence, this lets the homeowner know where the most power is being used, and when, which could possibly lead to changes that result in a more efficient home.  By measuring, trouble spots can be targeted with confidence, and once improvements are made, the results can be easily compared against the older system, giving valuable feedback on how effective the change turned out to be. Continuous monitoring can also highlight when the performance of older equipment starts to degrade, giving the homeowner advanced warning of trouble rather than a surprise when the unit finally fails.

Power monitoring was the genesis for ECOP, but it turns out that monitoring additional variables along with power usage, can make the power data more meaningful.  We added the ability to monitor other environmental variables, such as temperature and humidity, to provide some context to the power monitoring data.  Certain power measurements taken on equipment that is directly affected by those variables can be considered in light of the conditions when the measurements were taken, giving more insight as to what the data really means.

For example, consider a system that is tracking the energy cost of a new heating unit.  Now assume that it is using 500W of power per hour to heat the space and ECOP is showing a steady, consistent usage pattern.  Then, something happens, and usage spikes up to 750W of power per hour and ECOP shows that the unit is running more often - again these patterns become very apparent.

This could be caused by many different factors.  Someone may have left a window open, it may have gotten colder outside, or the unit could be failing, or even a combination of these.  When monitoring only the power consumption of the heater, the only way to figure this out is to start gathering more information.  We decided to include as much of that information as possible right in the system so it is tracked historically, giving context to the other data the user wants to see.

The ECOP Difference

Aside from its monitoring and reporting features, there are two main reasons to choose ECOP: security and flexibility.  As you will soon see, data security in a system like this is very important for privacy reasons.  Flexibility is important for many technical reasons, but for users, flexibility means getting the system they need without paying for features they don't need.  In our mind, these two reasons alone make ECOP the obvious choice for residential and light commercial power and environmental monitoring.  

To the point about security, realize that once long-term power usage data is gathered in a form that is easily deciphered (like in pretty line graphs and nicely labeled reports), it is extremely easy to learn the patterns of the environment being monitored.  This, in fact, is the purpose of such a system, but that is a double-edged sword. You not only learn patterns of the system, you also learn the patterns of the users of the system.  

We feel it is vital for consumers to understand this and to be protective of their privacy with regard to this information.  For this reason, data security is our number one design consideration.  The data stored in ECOP is yours and is not available outside of your network unless you decide to make it so. This is designed, as an 'opt-in' decision rather than an 'opt-out' decision.  

Now consider the ramifications of allowing someone to gather this data on your behalf.  They can potentially commoditize it while also regularly charging you to access it.  They can potentially have a security leak and expose your data.  

We'll say it again: the data gathered by your ECOP is your data.  We don't have any access to it, we don't want access to it.  If you decide to share your data, there are ways to do so in a manner that makes it as secure as accessing your bank account online.  Again, that's your decision and we can help you with that decision, but your ECOP data is under your control at all times and you will never be charged to access it.  There isn't much more that needs to be said about security until the user decides to open up to the Internet so those details are addressed in a supplemental document Adding ECOP to the Internet.

As for flexibility, no one can foresee all the situations where a product like this might be useful, so flexibility was the second major design criteria.  This allows the consumer to pick and choose which pieces are needed to solve their particular problem.  Being able to exclude modules that aren't needed gives the owner more bang for their buck.  More importantly, being able to add modules over time allows users to start out small and expand their monitoring solution as their needs and interests grow.

The flexible and modular nature of ECOP allows us to tailor a system for the environment it is going to monitor.  If a user decides that excessive humidity might be a factor in the operation of his air conditioning system, then humidity can be tracked and the truth of the matter revealed.  Another user in a different house may not consider humidity to be at all a concern and not include it in the cost of the system.

Of particular interest, outside of the realm of monitoring, is the addition of control features that will let ECOP affect the environment rather than just monitor it.  The flexible nature of ECOP will make these new features available to existing users without requiring new hardware, or expensive system upgrades.

What’s in the Box

When you invest in ECOP you will get a set of equipment that gets installed into your environment.  The exact items will vary depending on what you purchased, but most packages will look similar.  Here is a list of the potential pieces:

1. The Main Unit - this is the processing center of ECOP.  It is a headless computer appliance that runs the monitoring software and serves the reports.  It gets added to your home network and is accessed with your home PC using a modern browser.  All software required to run ECOP comes installed on this component.  Customization for the target environment is performed by the user/installer using the standard ECOP user interface.

2. The Controller(s) - this is a hardware converter that interfaces with analog sensors, providing the ability of the software to determine the values those sensors are reading.  ECOP can utilize different models of these converters for different installation requirements.  Different controllers are needed for some types of sensors versus other types, but all controllers support more than one type of sensor, and multiple sensors.  Typical ECOP Main Units support up to 3 distinct controllers at one time (which would indeed provide a very capable sensor array).

3. The Sensors - for measuring AC power, current transducers are installed and wired to a controller.  For water presence a simple device is wired in during installation and placed in the location to be monitored.  Temperature and humidity sensors are wired to a serial bus controller designed to work with them.


All of this may seem daunting at first, but we think that understanding some of the complexity of monitoring systems will help you get a better monitoring solution.  Getting an ECOP system that is just right for your home or business is easy.  All you need to know is what things you want to monitor and the rest naturally follows by answering a few simple questions.  We will consult with you about your monitoring goals and help you determine what component(s) are appropriate for you.

Your system is built to these specifications and when you take ECOP out of the box it is ready to wire up,  add to your network, and customize to your environment.  Our installation guide, which will be sent with your unit, will walk you through the process from beginning to end.  And as with anything from Absolute Power and Control, if you have any problems or questions, just ask.

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