Since the beginning of the heating and combustion industry as we know it today, manufacturers, fuel companies, and more have always been working to improve fuel systems for more reliable comfort and better performing systems. Due to this innovative momentum, many advancements have been made in heating technology to create a more efficient, effective system. One of the most revolutionary developments in fuel tank technology in the past several decades is the emergence of the connected tank gauge (CTG). The purpose of a connected tank gauge is to provide automated tank level readings and provide fuel alerts to fuel distributors and consumers as well. As manufacturers have continued to improve their appliances over time, CTG systems have become one of the most important pieces of an optimally-performing heating system. In this post, we'll discuss the history and evolution of connected tank gauge technology at its roots and as we know it today.
History of the Connected Tank Gauge Concept
The first tank gauge adapters that functioned based on the concept of a connected tank gauge were generally composed of a magnetic reed switch that was designed to trigger when the tank level reached a certain capacity. When the level of fuel in the tank dropped below a certain set level, the magnetic reader would close, causing a phone to dial and sending a low-fuel call to the fuel distributor.
These types of magnetic reed tank gauges were the first iteration on the connected tank gauge concept and were developed in order to provide remote tank readings similar to those that consumers and distributors can access with today's CTGs.
However, a newer technology was emerging to replace the magnetic reed: the ultrasonic tank gauge. Using sound wave reading technology, the new wave of connected tank gauges emitted ultrasonic signals down into the tank to measure the fuel level. The gauge then measures the time it takes for the signal to reverberate back to the source. It then uses an equation of distance to time in order to calculate the tank level based on how long it took for the signal to return. The ultrasonic tank gauges proved to be more reliable than magnetic versions because they have fewer moving parts that may break down or fail over time, and the tank readings are unaffected by changes in the chemistry of the fuel.
The Advent of Residential Connected Tank Gauge Technology
For years, these CTGs were used almost entirely in large commercial applications to automatically monitor the fuel levels of large fuel tanks for facilities or gas station fuel stores. These types of commercial facilities depended on the fuel distributors to make timely fuel deliveries in order to stay in business, and a CTG system was an automated way to avoid costly and dangerous fuel run-outs in the commercial space. At this time, fuel companies had not yet seen the potential for these benefits to improve the reliability and convenience of residential heating systems.
This arrangement lasted until a crowd-funded campaign allowed the idea of connected tank gauges to catch the attention of residential consumers. When a small start-up company launched a crowd-funding campaign for a residential ultrasonic tank gauge, the "smart gauge" idea began to gain traction with both consumers and application manufacturers. By appealing the residential consumers first, this company (and others that may have followed) were able to get through to industry manufacturers. As multiple companies began to notice the demand and need for a residential remote reading gauge, they began to make their own ultrasonic tank gauge offerings.
The main issue that remained with connected tank gauge systems was the ability for the distributor and/or the consumer to actually read the tank levels and decide the best strategy and timing for fuel deliveries. Older tank gauges were able to send a low fuel signal to the distributor, but they could not communicate these readings to a central platform where the distributor could access and organize the data by gauge, area, or account. However, the ultrasonic tank gauges today are starting to provide a solution to the next step in remote tracking with back-end software.
With these new software-enabled connected tank gauges powered by modern WiFi and other wireless technology, some CTGs can transmit tank readings and information to a digital platform where distributors can see when tank levels are low and organize the most efficient delivery schedule for all of their customers at once. As the main goal of using the CTG remains to provide comfort to customers and protect their most important investment--their homes--modern residential CTGs are the next step to eliminating the costly and potentially dangerous effects of unexpected fuel run-outs.