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Sensors: How post-construction innovations can prevent costly damage

The Internet of Things (IoT) is showing no signs of slowing down. By constantly evolving and improving technology, one challenge businesses face is how to keep up. Alex Blake, ABM Critical Solutions, looks at a new technology that is set to improve data centre services and successfully prevent downtime – sensors.

Transmitting data to a 3G plug source every 15 minutes, these miniscule sensors have an impressive battery life of 15 years. Specifically in the final stage of post-construction, introducing sensors could drastically prevent downtime by alerting teams to issues in real time.

A recent case study of a data centre in Holland highlighted the importance of humidity monitoring by sensors. While onsite, teams were unaware of the levels of humidity because of increased footfall and the area hadn’t been fitted with doors. The humidity sensors alerted the team and it was immediately investigated, resolving the problem. The consequence of a rise in humidity levels going unnoticed is a significant cost to the business if equipment were to be damaged and timings to construction delayed.

So, how exactly do sensors prevent downtime?

In the wrong environment, data centres stand little chance of survival, so testing for external contaminants is key to preventing downtime. The main applications of sensors are for; temperature, humidity, proximity, leak detection and touch.

During the post-construction phase, new – and expensive – equipment is being installed. If equipment is to be placed in a contaminated area, it could lead to system failure or major damage – something no business wants to be faced with. The same rule applies to humidity, as demonstrated in the data centre in Holland.

Data received from proximity sensors has additional security benefits as it can alert to doors left open near cleared or restricted rooms, exposing the space to contaminants. If doors are accidently left open – even for five minutes – the space will require an audit, possibly followed by an additional clean. While leaks are few and far between and depend heavily on the location of the data centre, introducing sensors to a critical space acts as a safeguarding procedure to prevent downtime.

Touch sensors are used mainly for fire walks around a critical space. Usually checks are signed off on paper or verbally confirmed, whereas with the touch sensors there is proof of presence that the check has been completed. Again, this safeguarding measure ensures teams are following protocol and therefore downtime is avoided. This method also saves time and admin work as teams can generate reports from the live dashboard at the touch of a button.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Sensors act as a core element of a risk mitigation strategy. By taking a proactive approach, customers can rest a little easier knowing everything is being done to reduce the probability of downtime or damage to installed equipment. Introducing sensors into a critical space requires in-depth strategic planning from start to finish.

To get the most value from sensors, strategic placement and management of information are paramount to their success. Information received is only useful when it forces an action. Due to the thickness of walls in data centre infrastructure, this proves difficult for signals to get through. To resolve this, signal boosting equipment is used and luckily, it is cheap and easy to install.

Getting the timing right is another consideration for critical teams. Working alongside hundreds of contractors at different paces can prove very challenging so introducing sensors will help critical teams to foresee any delays in timing and report back to the customer. Using this collaborative approach, critical teams can work closely with the customer and contractors to ensure work is completed at an optimum level. 

Sensors have undoubtedly made a positive impact to the way critical teams monitor and prevent issues resulting in downtime. As we know, system failure can impact a business considerably by putting customer loyalty at risk, loss of earnings and additional costs to repairing equipment. The bottom line is that sensors ensure the correct precautions are in place and are a valuable efficiency tool for teams to utilise.

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