Best Practice: A Conversation About Glue, and Eventually Energy Management


By Peter Aylett, Archimedia Middle East. A few months ago I made a supposedly controversial statement in a CEDIA class that I was teac...

Peter AylettBy Peter Aylett, Archimedia Middle East. A few months ago I made a supposedly controversial statement in a CEDIA class that I was teaching by saying ‘products don’t matter any more, only solutions’. The statement was part of a conversation discussing brand loyalty where the opposing parties were waxing lyrical about the relative benefits of their chosen control systems. At the colla_Aylett_Gluenclusion of the conversation we all agreed that so long as you were truly an expert in the particular control system that you sell and commission, regardless of which one you use, the user experience should be excellent. Of course differences exist, but to conclude that one system is better than another misses the point that different end users and integration companies all have different needs. I call control systems ‘glue’ because they make all of the parts of the system join together as a whole. My clients barely know that matrix switches, HDBaseT products, amplifiers, Ethernet switches and power conditioners exist. They see and interact with only the user interface. They only see the glue. Changing the glue that a company uses would be a massive undertaking and would require re-skilling across multiple disciplines, including design, programming, installation, and commissioning. Just because you are an expert in one particular brand of glue does not mean that these skills are transferrable to a different brand. Let’s counter this by considering speakers. Whilst of course, there are massive variations in the way that different speakers sound, the skills set that is needed to implement one brand over another is almost completely identical. Because of this, companies tend to have strong brand loyalty to glue products such as control and lighting control systems, but far less loyalty to invisible products such as amplifiers, A/V processors, speakers, and cables. Unfortunately for us, this glue will become increasingly unnecessary. The IoT- and API-driven world will give individual products and subsystems essentially a self-adhesive layer, meaning that they will stick to almost anything on their own with little help from either installer or consumer. [caption id="attachment_7287" align="aligncenter" width="625"]lla_Aylett_Heating Systems map Heating control systems make homes more comfortable and efficient.[/caption] Energy management has long been an area where our industry has struggled to offer reasonably priced systems with a justifiable return on investment to the customer. These systems have largely been based around glue products with all the associated complications and costs. Whilst many of the manufacturers of control glue have recently started to make energy monitoring and management easier, the quantity of sensors and actuators necessary to make these systems truly useful push them beyond most customers who would prefer to spend the cash on a bigger TV and the latest iPhones for all. I feel that the opportunities for incorporating energy management based on control system glue have passed us by. We’ll be seeing lots more of it, but it will be driven largely by wireless IoT infrastructure and self-adhesive APIs connected to utility companies. These utility companies, driven by government targets, are keen to implement demand response to try to reduce peak demand. Products such as the new breed of thermostats (think NEST) are a shining example of this new self-adhesive IoT future. Opportunities do, however, still exist to sell solutions that help your customers’ energy equation:
  1. Install a heating control system such as Honeywell’s evohome. These go far beyond what a single NEST can do and make each room a completely independent zone.
  2. Become familiar with unified communications and conferencing solutions. Enabling your clients to work more effectively from home saves fuel as well as the angst of a commute.
  3. Install simple energy monitoring solutions. Though there is little money to be made from these simple to install devices, they make excellent ‘under promise, over achieve’ gifts for your customers on handover day. I have been using a Smappee monitor for the last six months and it has genuinely allowed the family to identify some standby consumption hogs as well as change our behaviour with lighting and our double electric oven. It also integrates monitoring of our Solar PV system.
[caption id="attachment_7288" align="aligncenter" width="711"]lla_Aylett_mobile management Simple energy monitoring systems can bring visibility to consumption trends.[/caption] Conclusion It will become increasingly difficult to make money from the glue that we are all so loyal to. Whilst any associated energy management will become the preserve of IoT-connected, API-driven commoditised products, we can still use our expertise to go beyond these products and specify genuinely useful energy saving solutions worthy of our expertise. Peter Aylett is a world-renowned speaker and lecturer in residential technology, and the Technical Director at Archimedia, a multinational high-end residential integrator in The Middle East. He is also currently Chair of CEDIA’s International Technology Council Applied Content Action Team, and a regular contributor to HiddenWires.