Eco Technology a huge opportunity for CI

posted on Monday, 29th October 2012 by Cliff Stammers

Crestron  Home automation  Eco 

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How integrated is your view of custom integration? Where does it begin and where does it end? In other words, how many of us think outside the audio visual box? To my mind, if your control system processor is used for AV purposes only, then it's being massively wasted. For many, custom install remains focussed on AV, but surely true custom integration can be a lot more than that? And if it can be more than that, then aren't a lot of us missing a trick here when it comes to generating revenue and delivering a good service? Surely there's so much more we can be doing?

As a long-standing control system programmer, I've been asked to provide quotes to integrate all sorts of non-AV things over the last decade and a half. And do you know what? A lot of them were accepted! You'd be surprised at the things we've been asked to control that neither issue a video signal nor emit any discernible audio: Christmas tree lights, glass dance floors, disco mirror balls, popcorn machines, robotic lawn mowers,to name but a few.

Most recently we've been asked to integrate a telescope, quite possibly one of the most unusual requests to pass through the hallowed halls of Oxberry towers - although we were once asked by a client once if we could boil his kettle for him by using his old non-smart Nokia 3310 mobile as a trigger (the answer was 'yes' by the way).

However, what I'm most interested about at the moment is revisiting an old idea we first got enthusiastic about during the summer of 2008 but seems to be largely glossed over these days: the environment.

Think green to make green
Before the recession came along, we were all becoming obsessive about the state of Mother Earth. From forward thinking politicians to obsequious corporate posturing, everyone was at it. And our industry, too, was hooked. Energy monitoring became a bit of a buzz, as did water metering and daylight harvesting; green issues were very definitely in the ascendency. But this all stopped almost overnight as right across the horizon banks began to tumble down from east to west, and we were no longer as concerned about green issues as we thought we were.

But time has passed and, I feel, a great realisation will dawn very soon that the two greatest issues of our time here in the west - economy and ecology - are, in actual fact, inexorably linked. I say this because although the concern remains the same, the motive has shifted. We still fret about wasting energy, not because of any lofty or ideological misgivings we may have, but because these days we'd like to find a way to save a few quid. And judging by how large the bills are that the energy companies seem to be shaping us up for in the not too distant future, then I'd suggest this is a fact that's only going to gather pace in the coming years.

It's certainly something we've been looking into for quite some time now and have devised all kinds of systems and gizmos that enable us to action responses from third party energy monitoring software providers. Pictured above is a proposed Home Energy Management Platform, demonstrated by Samsung at this year's IFA show.

Power issues
Lighting and heating are, from a CI perspective, the two central pillars of this debate. Adding PIR sensors to areas to turn lights off really should be as standard now as any lighting system can get. It's obvious. If no-one's in the room, why are the lights on? Ultimate success will only be achieved with this approach when the city nightscape of the future is totally black; when all the lights in those office blocks from across Lower Manhattan to Canary Wharf have all been extinguished. The day the City switches off, is the night by which success should be measured.

Now, I understand, of course, and fully appreciate that the onus for this does not rest solely with the CI community. But we do, at minimum, have a semblance of influence over these sorts of events. Looking solely at AV kit itself then, how many of us insist that if a device is not fully switched off when not in use - and I mean powered down, not just left in standby - is this considered to be an unfinished project? Hardly any, I suspect. But if we could show clients what benefit they are getting by shutting down all of their kit when it's not being used, and we could put a figure on it, I reckon the take up for such a service would pique some interest. Same applies of course to lights, and then the big one: heating.

How many CI projects these days incorporate BEMS and/or HVAC control integration? Are we designing systems that look after environmental factors? Do we even know how to go about affecting heating controls, or are we running shy from having anything to do with it? Certainly, it was widespread opinion in the past that incorporating heating control in to bespoke CI software was more trouble than it's worth. Reason being, if the heat starts to rise and some aesthetic damage is done - buckling up floorboards, or spoiling delicate artworks for example - then we'd be making ourselves liable to a certain degree. But is that still the case?

At Oxberry we can do a lot for AV companies who want to look in to this sort of thing. We have confirmed and developed practices in place to suit a variety of circumstances and situations. It's another revenue stream for all of us to explore together. I guess the question then is this: can we be bothered to go to all this effort? Is it going to make any difference? Is it worth it? Well, I'd certainly welcome your views on this if you've got a spare moment or two.

Cliff Stammers is the owner of Crestron programming specialists Oxberry Limited. For more visit www.oxberry.net. Follow them on Twitter  @OxberryLimited.

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Posted by Darren Shear on 5th November 2012, 9:26 PM
A very interesting article Cliff, it's not always about controlling cinema rooms

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