Control System – Did We Get Left Behind?
(originally posted on AutomatedBuildings.com – link to article)
Open Source, Plug & Play, IoT, and an Automagically Connected Home, these are terms we hear all the time. But what do they really mean? And more importantly, what do they mean to the Integrator community?
The connected buildings and devices that can be accessed via the web are not new. Integrators have been doing this for years. Most of the public didn’t know how, or really care how HVAC, lighting, access control, elevators, parking garages, etc. were controlled in the building they worked. This was all done “behind the curtain” and as long as they were comfortable, they didn’t even think about it.
Fast forward a bit to late 2007, mid 2008 to when smartphones began to appear. The phone itself was not the radical innovation. The radical innovation was the App Store. Now the end user could make their phone into whatever they wanted. They were not stuck with whatever the phone manufacturer put on the phone. Their phone could be a weather station, a travel agent, GPS, a bank, movie maker, an arcade. In fact, the phone could be all of these at the same time. And for a lot of apps, they were free.
This created another revolution… The app developer community. Anyone could download the tools to build applications to do whatever they could dream up and submit it to the App Store. The developer could make it free of charge or not. The apps that cost could range from less than $1 to less than $5.
Pandora’s Box was opened and Consumers/End Users wanted more. This drove app developers to create apps that “did stuff”. As a result we began to see IoT devices pop up such as the NEST thermostat, Apple TV, computer, security camera, etc. And last, but not least, home automation. All this by 2009. So if you are keeping track, all this occurred in less than two years from the release of Smartphones.
What does that mean to us? The end user expectation of ease of use and connectedness bar is being set higher and higher and their tolerance for implementation time and cost lower and lower.
End users are now able to go to the big box home improvement stores and get a home automation system for than less $500 and set it up easily in one afternoon. They are able to control the system with their Smartphone and they are not limited to being at home to do it. From wherever they can check to see if the garage is closed and if not, close it. They can check the temperature of the house and change it if necessary. They can control their lights remotely. They can also schedule how their home will run. Besides home automation, the end user can remotely control the TV and set the DVR to record shows using an app.
Last year during one of Apple’s announcement webcasts, Apple said that just around the corner consumers would be able to tell Siri “I’m going to bed” and the home automation system would lower or raise the temperature to the user’s preference, check to make sure the garage door was closed and close it if it wasn’t, check the alarm system and arm it if it wasn’t, check the lights and turn off the ones in the other part of the house, turn on the lamp by the bed, and set the alarm clock based on the day of the week.
Okay, but what does this mean to us? End User expectation of how things should work.
It is not a far stretch to think that the next logical revolution would be a totally connected end user environment. This would include home and work. In other words the End User start of day would impact the home automation and their work automation. For example; if you take what was presented by Apple and add the work automation, the end user’s start of day would integrate both.
The alarm goes off. The End User speaks the words “Hey Siri, work” or “Hey Siri, home” (by the way, if your iPhone is plugged into a power source and the feature is turned on, Siri is listening), a chain of events could occur. If “Hey Siri, work” is said, the alarm clock is turned off, the bathroom lights come on, other lights in the home are turned on, the home temperature is raised or lowered, the coffee pot starts, Siri gives an estimated time the End User needs to leave in order make it to work on time, and the alarm system is turned off.
When the End User is headed to the car to leave (motion detection), the garage opens and the car starts. Once the End User leaves, the alarm is set, lights are turned off, and the garage closes.
Meanwhile at the office… the time of expected arrival is sent to the End User office building. This sets up a chain of events at the office based on time of arrival which could include the temperature is raised or lowered, lights turned on, elevator patterns are changed to accommodate the number of people arriving, parking suggestions are given, and the coffee pot in the End User’s office is turned on. The building could “see” everybody that is coming and what time they will get there and adjust itself accordingly.
Obviously building automation systems are more complicated than home automation systems and therefore cost and implementation times are greater. That doesn’t mean we can sit back and rest on “it is what it is”. Larger players are moving into “our space”. Google and Apple are seriously investigating and in some cases already delivering solutions for commercial control systems. We have to listen to our consumers and push ourselves to improve connectedness and integration time. Innovation is and should be the driving force, but the consumer ultimately decides the direction innovation goes.
IoT is here to stay. Maybe not that exact term but connected devices, consumer and commercial, are. Let’s enjoy and hold on to our part of the market we helped start. We can do this if we embrace transformative change.