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The Internet of Things

Going the distance with district heating management

At the “Henninger Stadtgärten” apartments, the combination of energy-efficient technologies and connected control systems allows residents, facility managers and energy suppliers to precisely control energy consumption – even when residents aren’t home.

As the city of Frankfurt works to attract thousands of new financial industry employees, estate developers here have completed the first phase of new luxury apartments with energy-saving technology that is one of a kind. 

They are apartments where “Industry 4.0” and the Internet of Things are more than vague concepts. At the “Henninger Stadtgärten” (“urban park”), the combination of energy-efficient technologies and connected control systems allows residents, facility managers and energy suppliers to precisely control energy consumption, significantly lowering overall costs and reducing maintenance. Since the building technology is monitored and managed on a cloud solution, all this is done from afar – even when residents aren’t home. 

Solar energy meets the cloud

The systems used at “Henninger Stadtgärten” span from the solar production of energy in apartment houses to energy management in individual units. For property managers and suppliers, it also includes the provision of warm water and the billing for all energy used.  

Already, per phase of the development, some 100,000 energy-related data points are collected and sent to the cloud-based server every minute. Once all the development phases have been completed, this will happen almost every second.

The residential complex “Henninger Stadtgärten” is an important construction project for the financial metropolis Frankfurt.


The cloud data is monitored by a company in Dresden, some 500 kilometers from Germany’s banking hub in Frankfurt. There residents in Frankfurt get support for heating, cooling and water consumption if needed.  

Such monitoring once took a small army of local workers and property managers days to perform but is now done virtually in real time.  

All eyes on Frankfurt

The monitoring team can localize and analyze any technical problems. If a resident calls up and says the heating isn’t working or the water is not clear, system operators can use a virtualized map and real-time data to quickly find the source of the problem. The visualization and diagnosis are possible at any time because all data from onsite is transferred to the cloud platform where analytics programs are used for automatic monitoring, to detect anomalies and to make predictions about usage and upcoming maintenance. 

A “like” for M2M

Here’s how Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things come into play. Enter PEWO Energietechnik GmbH, headquartered in Elsterheide, near Dresden. It is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and service provider that makes all the above happen for the 200 apartments that are already occupied. PEWO also uses data from the network to keep providers of hardware, such as the maker of the boilers, up to date on how the machinery is running. 

Everyone is talking about Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. Here it’s running live. This goes beyond the so-called smart home. This is a smart district heating network.
Nico Petrick, PEWO Energietechnik GmbH


For instance, it provides and oversees automated feedback on machine performance and machine-to-machine communication, the basic tenets of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. “Everyone is talking about Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things,” says Nico Petrick, owner of PEWO. “Here it’s running live. This goes beyond the so-called smart home. This is a smart district heating network.”

Going the distance: a complete management system

When the last phase of development is completed, PEWO will have delivered a total of 800 fresh water and heating stations for the individual units. As part of those stations, PEWO incorporated Siemens Climatix controllers, which are optimized for district heating applications, and other hardware, including the Siemens M-Bus Module. It’s this module that transfers heating consumption data from meters directly into the Climatix controller, and PEWO uses that data to provide the billing service to the energy provider. 

Siemens provides a complete management system to OEMs like PEWO, from heat production and distribution, to energy management in individual apartments, right up to the billing of energy costs.

“We chose to integrate the Siemens controllers in the individual apartments and the fresh water and heating stations because we can integrate them precisely into our technology. The devices can be pre-programmed and used in our series production. They also gave us a new source of revenue since we are able to provide the energy company with the bills it needs to pass on to consumers. It was critical to have the right controller,” Petrick said, adding, “We’re not just building the fresh water and heating stations, we’re responsible for making them work.”

Rhea Wessel is freelance writer based near Frankfurt.
Picture credits: Martin Leissl