Smartphones and energy surveys

In a recent newsletter I listed six things that a smartphone could be used for in connection with energy surveys:

  1. as a camera, obviously;
  2. as a stopwatch: for example timing a 1-bar drop in air pressure when you turn off your compressors, to estimate leakage;
  3. as a means of reading inaccessible rating plates or meter dials;
  4. to co-ordinate ‘drop tests’ where one person does spot meter readings while another turns major loads on and off;
  5. as a hand-held meter-reading terminal using a web service like MeterPad;
  6. just as a browser to gather information on unfamiliar plant and equipment.

Readers were not slow coming forward with more ideas. Daniel Lash  was first to respond: apparently if you point the camera at fluorescent lights, you can see the flicker in those which do not have high-frequency ballasts. He also mentioned using the phone as a compass; downloading an app that estimates heights; and adding plug-in infra-red camera attachments… And it’s a torch.

Peter Henderson was next in, with news of the Flir CAT S60, a rugged mobile phone with integrated thermal imaging.  Paul Spencer unearthed ‘Spike’, a clamp-on laser rangefinder that connects through Bluetooth.  Alan Turner mentioned the KSB Sonolyzer app, which gives a rough idea of motor speed from the fan noise frequency. Asynchronous induction motors slow down (‘slip’) in proportion to mechanical load, and as their full-load speed is stated on the rating plate, their speed can be used to estimate their load factor.

Not everything lives up to its promise. Howard Ward reported testing a lux meter app on three different phones and getting inconsistent results when compared with a real instrument.

Finally if you want a peek at the ultimate in smartphone deployment, have a look here at what Dr Russell Layberry has been doing at Oxford with cheap second-hand phones