Technology: Energy Management

By Simon Buddle, Future Ready Homes. It’s been a lovely summer here in the UK. And, in fact, I’d say we’ve had one of those Indian summers. On the 31st of October, my partner and I sat and had lunch out on the terrace with clear blue skies, 21 degrees Celsius, and the very last of the warm sunlight on our skin enabling vitamin D production. Enter stage left the 1st of November; near horizontal rain, a heavy blanket of cloud so low and black that it made you stoop down to avoid getting caught up in it, and a wind that could tear the flesh from your bones. Oh, how we do love a bit of weather in Blighty. So it’s time to reach for the thermostat. Having been set to zero all summer, of course, we now spin it round to 21 and that’s pretty much that for controlling the heating, binary one might say. Except of course it’s not very accurate, has a tendency for the on/off point to wander by up to 3 degrees either side of the set point and, if we’re honest, it looks plug ugly. The most recent Impact Assessment document (IA No: DECC0009) from the Government for the Smart Meter roll out suggests that the installation and use of this new product will create a saving of up to £5.69bn through reduced energy consumption. The roll out is scheduled to be complete in 2020—not so far away. Ignore global warning and the smart meter roll out at your peril. Google’s acquisition of Nest was notably very high profile and British Gas has been spending vast sums on advertising Hive—further evidence of the commoditisation of the market place; as the big players get involved so prices tumble. I’m sure in many a custom install house there has been much chuntering about these products and how they are just the tips of their respective company’s battering rams as they prepare to smash through, en masse, in to our world. Ready or not a change is coming. Threat or opportunity? I can’t see much by way of a threat but I can certainly see an opportunity and it comes in the shape of an RJ45 socket. All of these devices have one somewhere on their ecosystem, at some point they all need to communicate over TCP/IP to bridge wireless issues or to provide data back to their servers and then on to your smart phone or tablet.  These devices are further evidence of the Internet of Things’ and how every device is becoming connected; by 2020 it is projected that there may be as many as 50 billion connected devices. Those 50 billion devices will need networks in some form or another and, most important, they’ll need experts who can setup, configure, secure, fault find, integrate and manage them. The previously mentioned IA No: DECC0009 states, In line with the design of the end-to-end solution and technical specifications, delivery of real time information is assumed to be through a standalone display, the IHD (in home display), which is connected to the metering system via a HAN (home are network).’ Choice As we move forward with a new generation of energy management consumers are being offered the chance to save money on their bills. Schemes such as the Peak Energy Savings Credit in the USA and Apps from Singaporean start-ups Intraix are putting choices in to the hands of consumers on how and when they use their energy with a direct link to their bill and credits for not using energy at certain times. We are warned (albeit by the mongers of doom and gloom) that we may suffer electrical brown outs’ at peak times this winter. If you were given the choice, at that time, to turn something(s) off and receive a credit on your bill that would, I’m sure, be of value to you. The important point here, of course, is choice. The CI industry is to a large extent the enablers of this choice mechanism in the residential market place. We are the guys who can stitch the cable infrastructure, wireless connectivity, remote access, and myriad of devices together to provide the customer with the ability to choose. Conclusion Love it or loathe it these products aren’t going away. Companies such as Crestron, Control 4, Dropcam, RTI and URC have all partnered with Nest and the Work with Nest’ developer program will provide access for many more. Energy management is centre stage globally. Nationally, the smart meter roll out puts us in a prime position to provide robust networks backed up with good service and maintenance. We may not be able to charge the usual fees for this type of work but given the right amount of work (and the potential looks significant) then the economies of scale will come in to play. The opportunity is too good to miss. Simon Buddle is a consultant for Future Ready Homes, a specialist in BMS and ELV services system design. Simon is also a regular contributor to HiddenWires magazine, and Education Director for CEDIA EMEA.

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