Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Self learning off-grid solar power compensates for cloudy days

Steve Rogerson
April 19, 2016
 
A self-learning capability for a solar home system monitors both climatic conditions and historical customer usage patterns to ensure a full night of light, even following cloudy days. Called HomeSmart, it comes from UK company Azuri, and is aimed at off-grid areas such as rural Africa.
 
While conventional solar home systems work well in sunny conditions, they often shut off early on cloudy days because they run out of power. HomeSmart is believed to be the first time machine-learning approaches have been used in small domestic solar home systems.
 
For grid-connected customers, solar power is a way of saving money. For off-grid customers, it is often the only access households have to electrical power for lighting, phone charging, radio, TV and other essential devices. Without the grid as backup, customers rely solely on the stored power to provide services at night and, if that power is insufficient, households are often forced back to candles and kerosene lamps.
 
HomeSmart solves this problem in two ways, First, the system actively monitors customer usage to determine a typical expected performance. Then, by monitoring the climatic conditions, the system automatically adjusts the light brightness to meet the user’s expected lighting duration. This active optimisation of light brightness, battery charging and load conditions ensures the system delivers the best possible match to the customer’s typical daily requirement with the available power.
 
Research by Azuri has revealed a wide variety of customer usage patterns. For example, some customers use the product only in the evening, whereas others use it during the day and in the early morning. By adjusting the power profile of the solar home system based on historical customer usage patterns, HomeSmart is automatically tailored to each customer’s needs.
 
The user no longer has to second-guess how much sunlight there has been or how much the lights have been running as the system itself can be relied on to deliver the optimal performance.
 
Azuri aims to deliver a simplified, highly accessible service that delivers tailored benefits and peace of mind for each customer. It reflects the company’s commitment to enabling rural African consumers to benefit from products whose performance and efficiency exceeds that found in most typical homes and businesses in developed markets.
 
“There is continued growth in off-grid markets for smart products that are simple, affordable and reliable,” said Azuri’s CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth. “HomeSmart is the latest step in Azuri’s Designed for Life family of best-in-class solutions specifically aimed at today’s rural consumer.”
 
With the claimed widest reach of any provider in sub Saharan Africa, Azuri is leveraging solar and mobile technology to allow users in 12 different countries to access renewable, distributed power on a pay-as-you-go basis. Azuri’s HQ is in Cambridge, UK, with staff in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania.