i3insights – Get to know our Head of Technology

Published on: December 14,2020 Published in: Insights

So, I have been asked to write a little about myself, I won’t be doing that because I hate talking about myself, instead I thought I would use this to talk about something that is close to my heart, that being my family and my impact on the planet, and how I and others are using technology to help reduce it.

How did it all start?

Anyone I have ever spoken to will likely know that for me it all started with electric vehicles. To put it simply, I love them! We bought a BMW i3 almost as an experiment, not expecting much, just before our son was born. We needed to replace my wife’s beloved Volkswagen Beetle and decided we wanted to do something to help. Whether you believe in Climate Change or not, I suspect we all have been to inner cities with car emissions making it horrible to breathe – so an EV seemed an easy win, of course, at this stage, I did not realise it was going to have such an impact.

And what about now?

Fast forward 18 months, we have just replaced the BMW with a Kia eNiro because we wanted the extra space and range, we have a roof full of solar panels and home batteries for storage and a solar hot water diverter that heats the hot water tank from excess solar. With all of this, we can live on pure solar for nearly half the year (excluding car charging).

Almost as a memory of what life once was, I have a shiny Petrol Volvo, which was the most expensive car we had ever bought sat on the driveway with just under 2000 miles on the clock after a year. You might be thinking, why are you not using it? But the simple reason is why would we drive it when it costs 10 times as much per mile (15p vs the 1.5p) and emits huge amounts of tailpipe emissions.

How does technology factor into this?

The challenge for me was combining all these new components, for example I kept forgetting to check the weather and if it was going to be rainy remembering to top up the house battery overnight where I got cheaper electric and when the majority of electric comes from renewable sources.

Realising there had to be a better way of remembering, I started simple and wrote some basic .net code to automatically send me a notification if the solar estimate is less than my general daily usage. I would then manually go out to the garage and use 4 buttons to set the inverter to charge, all because even though it was connected to the internet the cloud service did not let me set it remotely.

After far too many cold walks to the garage, I decided enough was enough. I called the solar inverter manufacturer, and they were helpful and sent me the documents for the data. A few hours later, I was able to use a Python script to update the inverter from the sofa using a Raspberry Pi connected to an RS485 connection.

Spurred on, I decided to link it into the rest of my home automation software. Now as long as I remember to plug the car in, my application will automatically find the cheapest time to charge the car overnight and if it is going to be bad weather will charge the house batteries. There is even a time during lockdown that I was getting negative pricing from my energy company where I was paid 5p per kWh to take electricity, and of course I check if there is any spare solar and if there is use that to charge the car for truly zero emissions motoring.

The amusing thing that I generally find, when I charge the car at public chargers (not that I do this much at the moment) people will often come and talk about the car and electric cars generally. There are so many myths out there about unreliability and limited functionality – my personal favourite was when someone insisted that you couldn’t drive them in the rain! Then of course you meet the people that insist they need to drive 400 miles without stopping for a break. As an example, even on a basic 50kWh rapid charger you will gain around 100 miles in around 30 minutes, the newer Teslas can charge around 200 miles in 15 minutes, newer cars like the Niro and the longer range Tesla model 3 can do around 300 miles on a charge, at 70 mph that is over 4 hours without stopping!

What is your key takeaway?

As with most things there is no specific right or wrong answer for any individual or company, I am not suggesting that everyone should rush out and put solar panels on roofs and buy an electric car (and I am certainly not saying they are perfect!). However, I would encourage everyone to look at their lifestyle, especially with the changes in ways of working – would an EV now work for you or your business? Are you now at home in the day and therefore make Solar Panels a better financial decision? There is very little doubt that Green energy and reduced consumption are a major part of the UK Gov plans on reducing carbon emissions, I would strongly recommend getting involved sooner rather than later and start reaping the benefits, both financial and ethically, sooner.

As for smart home, automation and control, this is an area that is going through a major maturity leap. 5g is potentially going to change this and we are starting to see LoRaWAN and Sigfox become more popular in the Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) space. The technical barriers can now be overcome and the applications where we are seeing this being used are ever expanding. As a business, we at i3Secure are keeping an eye on this and will in the future look at how it can be applied to help businesses.

So that’s me, if you ever want to talk about electric cars or renewable energy let me know. It also seems only appropriate to mention that one of the reasons I moved to i3Secure was to help the team and customers use technology to help with their Cyber Security needs – so again reach out if we can help your organisation.

I thought that I should at least include one photo of myself so this (title picture) was taken a couple of years ago when my wife and I visited the west coast of the US and of course no trip would be complete without visiting Silicon Valley!

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