KNX Seeks to be the Control Backbone of the Connected Home

2015 was another year of change for consumer expectations of technology. Consumer-based smart home technologies really took off with IP-connected thermostats, personal CCTV cameras and wearable extensions to your smart phone all proving to be very popular. Amazon also had an important role to play when it revealed “Alexa”, which allows for a constant listening response to voice commands.

So what is happening in 2016? Virtual reality and augmented reality are making headway in a consumer-based way with virtual reality cardboard boxes for your iPhone having quite an impact over Christmas. However, once they have all disintegrated the real offerings will appear. Initially for the gaming markets, but almost certainly for new forms of media as new elements to entertainment make themselves clear. Wearable tech is becoming more ever-present, and whether that is for lifestyle and health or as an outstation for your smart phone or tablet, its functionality and relevance will improve throughout 2016.

A huge amount of change but, where are the standards? What will win out as the consumer preference? Until that is clear, the offerings will all be disparate in nature in order to maintain exclusivity to the manufacturer or developer.

There are of course many ways to get round this, but consumer expectation is that of simplicity and reliability. That is why it is so important to start with good basics. Personal security for your home and occupants, using detection and recording technologies is almost certainly a main consideration.

A reliable wired gigabit network is essential. You could also argue that the same needs to be said of the wireless network too as most of our interaction devices rely in this. A reliable and scalable building control system covers elements such as lighting, heating, ventilation, façade control, blinds and curtains control and security interfacing for enhanced comfort.

Two of the above three utilise a set of standards, meaning choice of which manufacturer is only down to cost, offered specs and personal preference. The building control system is where there is no defined standard for doing this. However, there is one international standard which has a membership of over 400 companies, producing a huge array of specialist products specifically designed for building control, which all work together when required.

This is the KNX standard.

KNX was first utilised in 1990 and since that time, only the products have changed. The protocol and language for communication remain the same. Why is that important?

It means you do not end up with building controls put in landfill on a wholesale basis. As the author, I have worked on products in installations approaching 20 years old. I have also installed new products alongside old, with no detriment and more importantly, no issues with either programming or operation.

Standards are important not only for quality assurance, customer confidence and safety, but also to ensure a product does not become redundant (at huge cost) by change of communicated language. Refer to the history of what happened when Sweden changed the side of the road cars had to drive on. The result was total chaos, and a cost of almost €400M at today’s prices.

For 2016, don’t get your hopes up that standards will become more universal. Look at your own TV and its competing brands. With the exception of some services being accessible by all, their offerings of web browser and available applications, are all quite manufacturer restricted.

However, we are all used to the IP standards and come to expect it to ensure simple use of new devices. Perhaps it is time to make that change to the building controls within your home or place of work too. In the fullness of time, all new buildings will have systems, all people will be used to operating systems, and the benefits, or more efficient use of energy and other resources will be expected and possibly, if required, be legislated for.

Security is imperative to the developed world, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that means alarms and cameras. It means secure energy supplies, communications networks, transport systems and other life essential systems in order for us to live as we expect.

Home security is a robust growth areas and this is not limited to cameras and alarms. Secure lighting, heating and system control are as important to personal security these days and the ability to meet your expectation is out there.

The first step is to appoint a technology partner and find out exactly what you can do. A full list of accredited KNX members is available online, and should be consulted as early as possible in the process.

KNX UK is the national association that promotes KNX technology and its members within the United Kingdom. The KNX Association represents KNX as the worldwide standard for home and building control. The association is a non-profit organisation.

Iain Gordon is a qualified electrician, technician and KNX partner having worked in this industry for 30 years. Iain has been actively involved in the promotion of KNX technologies in the UK since 2007 and was president for the KNX UK national group for more than seven years.

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