Originally introduced in the early 90’s for professional purposes, building automation has since then become pretty common in the residential market as well. Surveys have recently shown that several factors, connected devices being one of those, will seriously boost this promising market over the next couple of years, making automation a discussion point for any future building project on a very short term.
Unfortunately, most people spending money in automation have a biased vision of what it really offers, disappointment and frustrations being often right around the corner after installation. People indeed usually believe that automation, often presented and sold this way, will make their building “smarter” when in the real world, it simply changes the way some processes are managed. Worse, in some cases, instead of improving processes, additional layers are created and people are getting mad because of the multiple control panels and/or applications they need to use to control their building.
Basically, having separate automation systems is as smart as hiring 5 employees and lock them in 5 rooms without any communication tool between them. Regardless of their individual competences, without communication and strong teamwork, those guys will never be able to conduct any constructive task for your company. The same principle applies to automation.
The only way to make your building smart, or smarter, is to choose the automation solutions addressing your needs, like hiring top employees, and ensure those are interconnected and working together, as a team of 5 employees under the lead of a supervisor which, in automation, is a unified process called “Total Integration”. Rocket science? Not really…
Nowadays, like in any booming business, brands and providers of any kind tend to surf on the “automation wave”, promising the moon at attractive prices but don’t be fooled, building automation can have multiple meanings and it is up to you to define what you really desire and want to achieve.
If your aim is to simplify your life by making your building smarter or more efficient, two factors should be taken into consideration, the products you are going to choose and who you will be partnering with to create the Total Integration you are dreaming about.
Regarding the products, you should first clearly define your need(s) which is, believe it or not, more difficult than one can imagine. Think out of the box, throw away your limiting thinking patterns when considering automation. Go all the way in your idea.
Once your needs are defined, one of the most important qualities any product needs to have is an open protocol. Open protocols enable you to buy the most appropriate products in each technique, depending on your budget and/or demanding needs, and mix everything to obtain the best total solution. Also, in case of company bankruptcy or product discontinuation after a strategy change, should you need to replace a defective product by another one, it will be a no brainer to repair, replace or even upgrade your hardware by choosing, again, the best component in due time.
Once you have chosen your products, always ensure the partner you are about to sign a contract with is capable of properly integrating all of those within a seamless Total Solution. Usually, such a seamless Total Solution imposes a supervising tool that can interconnect all open protocols and manage the various installed technologies out from a unique user interface – a kind of bandmaster that transforms the sounds from various instruments into wonderful melodies, accepting new instruments over time upon need.
When partnering with an integrator will enable you to take full advantage of your investment, it will also secure you that you are dealing with a professional, capable of servicing your installation and upgrade it over time.
Integration solutions do exist in various forms and budgets, some presenting serious technical limitations in one field or the other. Depending on the project you are dealing with, it would be extremely wise to ensure the solution you are about to sign for can address all your current needs, but also the ones you might have in the future, without any limitation.
Aside common techniques such as electricity, lighting, heating and shades, keep in mind others such as audio/video, electrical appliances, car charging stations or even digital signage should also be integrable to obtain a smart building; a wide open and scalable solution is therefore a must, knowing for sure that nobody can say today what tomorrow will bring us.
Sales speeches being what they are, it is rational not to blindly trust brochures and salesmen. Ask for live demo’s or better, talk to users, they are definitely the best persons to explain you the limitations of what they have invested in and how serious the partner you are about to hire really is.
Efficient solutions might of course seem expensive but if you think twice, paying for something that does not really address your needs, regardless of the price, is already way too expensive. Worse, if what you are buying today cannot be upgraded at a later stage, imagine what it will cost you to start again from scratch tomorrow…