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A Few Screws Loose
on the desk … and elsewhere?
As I type this
column I have a couple of two inch screws rolling around my desk.
Yesterday they were buried in the bones of my left ankle.
Needless to say, between then and now I’ve experienced a little
“hardware removal surgery” and a couple doses of really good Percocet
pain pills. I mention this up front in case what follows leaves
you wondering if I not only have a few screws loose on my desk, but
perhaps a few screws loose in my head, too.
In this 15th anniversary year of AutomatedBuildings.com I could reflect on highlights of the past but what fun is there in that? Far more interesting (at least to me) is considering the possibilities that might be waiting for us in the next fifteen years. Prognosticating is not for the faint of heart but bolstered by my temporary freedom from surgical pain I’m inclined to offer the following list of intriguing predictions for our industry over the next fifteen years.
The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall
At least one
long-established, multi-billion dollar player in this industry will
disappear in a cloud of failed attempts at generating “recurring
revenue” with business models customers do not want and/or becoming a
“solutions provider” without enough understanding of the customer’s
business to solve their real problem. Now, I know some of you are
already thinking that this is an easy call to make because it’s obvious
some companies are so focused creating new business models that they
are losing their focus on customers. And we all know that road
leads to nowhere but ruin.
Efficiency per se Becomes Passé
Energy efficiency in equipment and controls solutions will decline to
insignificance as a basis for competition. Increasing regulatory
requirements (think Title 24 et al) and voluntary sustainability
standards (e.g. LEED) will drive the whole industry to a common
reference point. At the same time, the industry’s ability to
increase efficiency through equipment improvements and controls
approaches will plateau leaving most suppliers with comparable
solutions. As a result, the important competitive weapons that
will rise to the top in controls, automation and energy information
systems will be speed of implementation, simplicity of the user
interaction and cost.
Lighting is the Point … the Focal Point, that is
The time is coming when a building’s lighting system will be the
building’s focal point of sensor data generation and controls
intelligence. In fact, virtually all sensors and much of the
on-site intelligence for building automation and energy management will
be embedded in lighting components. This shift will be driven by
the broad distribution of lighting components in a building and the
rush to retrofit buildings with LED lighting. It will create a
compelling case for using lighting components as a platform for
low-cost distributed sensor networks that are far more robust and
capable than traditional solutions. Coupled with the natural
linking of LED lighting installation and advanced controls it will
drive a complete re-shaping of the automation industry (elsewhere
referred to Automation Armageddon).
Kiss Programming “Goodbye!”
Controls and energy information system programming will become little
more than an interesting anachronism. There simply will not be
time or money enough to develop custom controls programming or software
for every building, much less for every subsystem in a building.
Instead, building components that currently require controls will
evolve to the point where they can simply be assembled and then
configured at a high level – by people who know buildings and
equipment, not programming. Data streams from those systems will
flow seamlessly into applications that know how to interpret them and
what to do with them. Controls configuration will become much
like selecting apps for your smart phone and getting access to your
controls and energy data steams for analysis and display will be like
using the Netflix and Pandora app on your smart TV to access video and
audio data streams.
Rags to Riches
Another really easy call is that we will see at least one billion
dollar company rise up from the ranks of the innovative “little
guys.” It’s hard to predict where they will get their start
because there is such a wealth of opportunity for new businesses in our
industry. LED and wireless technologies are enabling new
solutions and the “cloud” along with analytics engines are enabling new
business models. There is little doubt that you will look back in
fifteen years and wish you could have known now what you will know
IN THE END …
At the end of our next fifteen years, little of the industry as we know
it will remain. I know that we operate in an industry that is
historically rather slow moving (and I’m being generous at that).
But the reality is that our industry is being infused by people,
technologies and concepts that have been historically fast
moving. Will they slow down for us? I think not. We
are going to see the industry speed up and those who are a little slow
will be left behind. Which brings me all the way back to where I
started this article … the loose screws on my desk. As long as
they were in my ankle my speed was limited to a slow walk. Taking
them out opens up the possibility that with some work I could get back
to running at full speed. And that raises an interesting
question: Do you know of any companies that have a couple of
screws in the ankle that slow them down? In this time of rapid
change, unless they are willing to suffer the pain of removing the
screws and working to regain full speed, the industry will pass them
by. Don’t let your company be one of them.
As always, the views expressed in this column are mine and do not necessarily reflect the position of BACnet International, ASHRAE, or any other organization. If you want to send comments to me directly, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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