From inception to innovation

By Marc Garner, VP, Secure Power Division and Major Pursuits Team, Schneider Electric, UK & Ireland.

Since its inception in 1836, Schneider Electric has been at the forefront of technological innovations that have revolutionised industry and society alike.

Beginning within the iron and steel industries, with its acquisition by the original Schneider brothers in Creusot, France, and later diversifying into the emerging electricity market, the company has led technological developments that have been essential to transform entire sectors. This includes the buildings, homes, data centres, grids and industries of the future.

Technological revolutions

In the last 250 years, the world has gone through four technology-led revolutions, which have both influenced, and been influenced by, corresponding developments in the generation and provision of electricity. The first saw the dawn of the industrial revolution, where the mechanisation of industry with the introduction of steam and waterpower. At the same time, pioneers such as Faraday and Volta were making advances in early methods of generating and storing electricity. We believe this was the first electrical revolution.

A century later, the world learned how to scale these technologies with the construction of power plants and distribution networks to enable the mass deployment of electricity to industrial and domestic customers. This second stage of the ‘electrical revolution’ enabled both the production of consumer goods powered by domestic electricity and gave businesses the capability to manufacture products at high volume.

From about the 1950s onwards and the dawn of the computing age, the development of semiconductor electronics led to a proliferation of automation and rapid advances in information technology (IT). Digital technology also spurred the development of renewable energy generation techniques such as solar cells, thereby we saw the birth of a renewables and the age of Electricity 3.0.

Today, we have reached the fourth stage of the electrical revolution, or Electricity 4.0: the age of digital and electric everywhere, with near universal access to data, smart machines and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Now through the convergence of digital and electricity at scale, and the power of software, the company enables businesses to drive greater efficiencies and reduce their environmental impact.

Heritage and history

Schneider Electric has evolved alongside these revolutionary changes, having first moved into the emerging electricity market in the 1890s and, in the early 1900s, the company expanded from France into Germany, and thereafter, into Eastern Europe. Its work included the manufacturing of electrical motors, locomotives and electrical equipment for power stations.

In the second half of the 20th century, the company continued to focus on the electrical sector, with the acquisition of several companies in the field of electrical distribution and control. These acquisitions were influential in the evolution of the brand, which was reflected in its change of name to Schneider Electric in 1999.

With the coming of the 21st century, the company also moved to position itself in new market segments, spurred on the growth in information technology and digital infrastructure. In particular, its acquisition in 2003 of American Power Conversion (APCÔ) gave the company a leadership position in the world of data centres, physical infrastructure and mission-critical power protection.

The organisation’s reputation for ‘legendary reliability’ within the field Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS), combined with Schneider Electric’s IT and operational technology (OT) expertise, made it the global leader in electrically-powered infrastructure overnight and cemented its position in the world of data centres.

Following the APCÔ acquisition, Schneider Electric began to acquire businesses expert in the fields of building automation, movement control, security and Smart Grids. Seeing the opportunity to utilise technology and data as a force for good, it focussed its efforts in helping reduce the impact of climate change and through innovation in technologies such as its pioneering SF6-free switchgear, it has helped to eliminate the effects of harmful greenhouse gases.

Partner for efficiency and sustainability

As a global leader in energy management and automation, Schneider Electric believes access to energy and digital is a basic human right. In furtherance of that belief, it empowers all to make the most of their energy and resources, ensuring that access to digital information is available for everyone, everywhere, at every moment.

Along with this commitment comes its mission to be its customers’ partner for sustainability and efficiency. As climate change gathers pace, it is paramount that consumers and businesses alike take steps to reduce their environmental impact. It is said, for example, that 80% of the world’s emissions come from energy, and the best unit of energy saved is one which is not used.

Here digitisation and electrification are the key vectors for decarbonization, with data giving us the visibility and insight to drive efficiency and upon which to make ground-breaking decisions in the battle against climate change.

The data centres of the future

Today technology has become an essential part of our lives, and both the applications and services on which businesses and consumers depend. Integral to this ‘digitised’ and connected way of life are data centres, which are the heart of the digital economy.

Schneider Electric believes the data centre of the future must be increasingly efficient, sustainable, resilient and adaptive, helping to futureproof against technological advances, while being a catalyst for sustainability. Its EcoStruxureÔ for data centres architecture, for example, includes a wide array of critical power, infrastructure and software technologies, designed with efficiency and sustainability in mind.

These range from lithium-ion powered UPSs’, to free-cooling systems and vendor-agnostic data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) software, and form an integral part of data centre sustainability strategies. Moreover, its leadership within the field of data centre sustainability has enabled the company to devise industry-first frameworks on which owners and operators can measure their progress and fast-track sustainability initiatives.

Today the company remains the global leader in the digital transformation of energy and automation, and is committed to building a net zero future for all.

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