Quick to realize the industry shortcomings, Ryan Morris, Executive Chairman of Software Motor Company (SMC) set out on a journey to change the industry narrative. With extensive experience gained through leadership and governance roles, Morris leads his team at SMC to revolutionize motor technology and mitigate computationally intensive control challenges with an intelligent and efficient high rotor pole switched reluctance motor—the LED of motors.
In an interview with CIO Applications, Morris shares his insights on the company’s value proposition, and the smart electric motor systems it has brought to market.
What predicaments do manufacturers face today, and how does SMC address those?
The challenge for manufacturers boils down to conserving energy and reducing system maintenance costs, especially for multi-site commercial building operators. These commercial buildings house numerous inefficient AC induction motors that waste often more than half of the energy they consume to operate. Our primary objective is to optimize the HVACR system efficiency with a blend of smart switched reluctance motors and modern IoT computing technologies.
After a decade of extensive R&D, SMC has set a new standard in this realm with a highly reliable, efficient, and intelligent motor system. The recent advances in power electronics have empowered us with a computing platform that enables optimal control across all operating modes in an HVACR system. This platform embedded with intelligent control through the Internet of Things (IoT) allows the motors in HVACR systems to run efficiently and purposefully.
Through our dozens of pilots, we’ve reduced energy consumption by more than 55 percent while maintaining system effectiveness and improving reliability. With our Smart Motor System, clients can enjoy a significant ROI by combining energy savings with the benefits of IoT connectivity for remote HVACR system monitoring and automated maintenance.
Could you cite an example of how SMC leverages IoT to help clients manage their HVAC systems?
SMC’s Smart Motor System can be effortlessly integrated with clients’ legacy HVACR, refrigeration, and pumping systems while providing the full benefits of IoT and big data. Our Smart Motor System is based on a high-performance, smart, and reliable design that helps clients minimize their HVACR maintenance costs.
The advantages of the Smart Motor System can be best described with an application we’ve developed in the highly fragmented dairy industry. Dairy is a business that has lacked R&D on the facilities side—a barn today looks pretty much the same as 30 years ago.
Our primary objective is to optimize the HVACR system efficiency with a blend of smart switched reluctance motors and modern IoT computing technologies
VES then used our motors to design what they call Animal Centered Environments, a completely new category of dairy facility design, enabling them to stand out in a space while competitors make commodity fans. With superior motor physics being an anchor point, SMC’s motors produce unparalleled torque compared to the motors that require reduction gearboxes or belts, needed annual laborious replacements. The motors’ always-on connection via the cloud permits 24/7 management of the environment, which provides instant economic benefits to the dairy farmer. Our ability to combine both hardware and software-driven traits with cutting-edge electric motor technology keeps VES ahead of the competition.
What makes SMC’s motor technology tick?
Our switched reluctance motor (SRM) technology works on a different principle compared to conventional motors. A vast majority of motors in the world today are AC induction motors with an elegant but simple mechanical operation, which require power semiconductors for variable-frequency drives to run at different speeds.
Our high rotor pole switched reluctance motors, on the other hand, are more like digital motors that pulse currents to produce torque only when needed for useful work. This enables clients to economically utilize energy for their operations. Though these motors have been widely used in niche, high-reliability applications such as nuclear reactors, mining, and pumps for over 30 years, establishing precise control to run efficiently was not possible until our innovations. We overcame this complexity by leveraging powerful computers to simulate the electromagnetic behavior of the motor system and advanced software to drive an appropriate pulse of current for producing adequate torque. SMC came to the market with a vision to replace electric motors with optimally designed motor systems that bring efficiency, reliability, intelligence, and control. In short, our products are ‘software wrapped in metal.’
Could you share a client success story?
We recently worked with a restaurant chain that had massive energy and maintenance requirements as their HVACR applications were running for long hours. One of the restaurant owners was skeptical about utilizing the cloud, IoT, or any connectivity solutions. Prior to SMC’s involvement, a team of electricians performing building maintenance had rewired a panel incorrectly. Every time the owner turned off the lights for the evening at closing, the power to the entire structure was cut off. Our robust IoT monitoring capability allowed us to show full visibility of the connected motors in the client’s HVACR systems, which alerted their power was cut off from 2 AM to 6 AM. When we showed the owner the apparent power outage he exclaimed “THAT’s why my oysters have been going bad overnight!” He fixed the problem and became a convert.
How does SMC’s work culture boost success?
SMC invests enormously in building its culture of intelligent, intense, and empathetic people laser-focused on solving complex problems to pave a path for success through trust building and open communication. To achieve our mission to replace all motors with optimal systems, we rely on five guiding values—build trust, reason from first principles, communicate openly and precisely, create sustainable value, and respect humanity. With a growth mindset, we see solving new problems as learning experiences.
What does the future hold for SMC?
As a company, we are expanding our client-base overseas to establish an international presence while the R&D team is actively enhancing our smart motors with additional capabilities. Recently, JLL, a large property manager that manages billions of square feet of commercial real estate, invested in SMC to collaboratively work with us on achieving their clients’ sustainability goals. The next significant advancement in the product aspect of our business is the DairyBOS, a feature that combines intelligent motor controls and advanced cloud software to deliver constant monitoring, analysis, and optimization of complex building operations. We’ll be taking our platform approach to a broader array of markets soon as well.