Schneider Electric introduces new circuit breaker that can be accessed from a smartphone

Schneider Electric’s latest in its line of Masterpact circuit breakers looks nearly identical to its predecessors, but a closer look underneath the hood reveals some significant changes, made specifically with the incoming wave of new connected IoT devices in mind.

The Masterpact MTZ circuit breaker, revealed at Schneider Electric’s Innovation Day event in Toronto this week, allows for smartphone connectivity for wireless alerts and maintenance through an app, and connects with building and energy management systems through the company’s EcoStruxure Power architecture. EcoStruxure is the company’s IoT-enabled open architecture platform that takes advantage of the latest in mobility, cloud and cybersecurity technology. The new circuit breaker is available through Schneider Electric’s channel partners.

By 2020, 20 per cent of the world’s total electricity consumption will be powering IT systems, said Adrian Thomas, vice-president of buildings for Schneider Electric, meaning the smart cities of the future will have to be built differently from the ground up.

“Our power distribution infrastructure has to change, and it has to change in a non-linear way,” he told the audience, describing the Masterpact MTZ as a “fundamental breakthrough.”

Quick fact:

There were 8.4 billion IoT devices used in 2017, according to Gartner. That number is expected to hit 75 billion by 2025.

The new circuit breaker also comes with a built-in precision Class 1 power meter, and fits snugly in the same footprint of the existing Schneider Electric circuit breakers to help reduce upgrade costs for customers. Thomas skipped over dozens of additional small upgrades to showcase how the breaker interacts with what he called the new digital screwdriver – a smartphone.

“This circuit breaker is fully digitized,” he said. “At any point in its life cycle, we can modify it, change settings, upgrade modules, and when we talk about being future ready, we can continue to upgrade this digitally so you don’t have to do a mechanical trade up.”

Thomas walked through a simple example of a power failure at a power plant. When this happens, facility managers often have no idea where exactly the problem occured or what the extent of the issue is. A lot of time is spent simply identifying the problem, he said.

“But if we move into the future, that facility manager gets a notification, and not only do they know what the problem is, they know what facility it’s at,” he said.

The circuit breaker’s close relationship with the digital world is no accident, and is a reflection of the company’s overall shift to the digital arena, something the Schneider Electric executives repeated frequently during the event. More than 45 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from the IoT market, and their aggressively pushing for innovation on the edge, said Susan Uthayakumar, country president of Schneider Electric Canada.

“We’re in a parallel transformation in both power and digital,” she said.

Panelists discuss their companies’ digital transformation efforts and how IoT fits into it. Photo by Alex Coop.

Technology will always be the enabler, people, partnerships still important, panelists say

Rob Guzwell, director of electrical for the International Calgary Airport, knows the importance of reliable power infrastructures. The airport recently suffered a power outage, but his support staff managed to get things up and running relatively quickly.

“To me, it’s all about the minutes that you’re offline and how fast you can get back on. In that sense, technology is always going to be an enabler, but it’s more about the team and the partnerships, and their ability to listen and understand the problem you’re trying to solve,” he said during a panel presentation.

Other panelists agreed. Bill MacGowan, director of smart building digitization for Cisco Systems Inc. said he’s found himself sitting at the table with CIOs, CTOs and other members of an IT team far more often. Every project he’s involved with nowadays requires this level of collaboration, and the actual technology involved often takes a backseat.

“We’re talking together a lot more about the value proposition and what problem the business is attempting to solve. That methodically is what’s accelerating our customer base. Technology is an enabler of this,” he explained.

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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