Unlocking the value of automation

Clipsal by Schneider Electric

By Ben Green, Director, Smart Space
Tuesday, 04 April, 2017


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Thanks to the proliferation of IoT in recent years, automation today is part and parcel of an electrical contractor’s toolkit. Indeed, an electrician’s role is so much more than lights, switches and power points.

Contractors today are in the business of creating smart spaces: intricate and intuitive ecosystems that respond to the wants and needs of occupants. Awareness is growing and with good reason: there’s an endless list of benefits to using the technology, whether in residential, commercial or industrial settings. As we continue to ride the wave of digital disruption in 2017, the uptake of automation technology by Australian businesses, organisations and home owners will reach new heights.

Getting the most out of technology

So how can today’s contractors take advantage of this increased interest in smart technology? To get the most out of automation technology, transitioning to a smart space mentality is crucial. The first step in this process is to educate oneself on the many types of solutions on offer and how these work in sync with one another. Whether it’s BMS (building management system), energy management software or straight-up smart lighting management, getting your head around how these technologies work, what objectives they serve, the kinds of insights they provide and how they interact with each other will give you a grounded and holistic understanding. By realising when, where and how to utilise these automation technologies, you’ll be in the best position to speak about the automation with authority.

Educate the customer

Second to this is, of course, having the ability to articulate this technology and how it operates. Being able to explain to potential customers what the Internet of Things really is, in layman’s terms, is something that’s often overlooked but is fundamental to our capacity to sell (and upsell!). While many of us in the ‘tech circles’ have known of IoT for years, it’s important to remember the common consumer is only new to the game and they’re craving someone that can lay out the pros and cons of one solution over another. After all, making a foray into the world of automation can be daunting for Joe Blow down the street and he wants to ensure his investment will be worthwhile.

To help educate my customers — especially those that have a minimal understanding of automation — I usually begin by illustrating what differentiates a smart device from an ordinary device. Put simply, a smart  device, which leverages the IoT, is able to communicate with other devices and respond accordingly. While many smart devices can be standalone and work independently from others, the best ROI is seen when multiple smart devices work in conjunction with one another. For example, a lighting control system such as Clipsal SILC enables control of individual lights, groups of lights or groups of groups. When paired with C-Bus, however, this lighting can be programmed to work in unison with other smart devices — like audiovisual systems and air conditioning — to create a ‘scene’ at the touch of a button. This essentially allows users to create a specific mood or atmosphere with ease and is something we’re beginning to see growing demand for among home owners as we head into 2017.

Automation advantages

Indeed, the advantages of automation are diverse so being to recognise the needs of your client is crucial in being able to convince them of a particular product or solution. One of the biggest benefits — whether in commercial or residential environments — is that it gives users unprecedented control over their surroundings by enabling easy regulation of things like lighting, heating and cooling from a mobile or tablet. With increased control and greater visibility of energy consumption, users can not only enjoy the convenience of automation solutions but utilise them to be more environ-conscious.

In my experience, home owners love things like being able to disable home security, turn lights on and regulate air conditioning directly from an iPhone, as can be done with Push Controls. What we’re seeing recently, however, is an increasing push towards sustainability. Facility managers and operators have already begun to cotton on and now it’s time for the contractors to make themselves a key player in the conversation.

The implementation of sustainable business solutions has been felt in boardrooms across Australia, and the electrical contractor has a large role in educating their customers. Of course, the impact of the environment of a sustainable business option cannot be underestimated. We are living in a world where the butterfly effect has never been more acutely felt. Our actions in energy management within Australia need to be considered carefully. By installing environmentally sound automated technology, home and business owners can be reassured that their carbon footprint is significantly diminished. Hearing this from their electrical contractor only makes the case more compelling.

Create an impact

Automated technology installed in a building has the potential to create significant impact, not simply to the environment, but to a home or business owner's financial bottom line. An electrical contractor has the potential to educate clients on the increased control they will have, which will ultimately save money on energy expenditure. Regardless of where the building owner is, they will have the gift of control, managing their energy output.

An electrical contractor is in a position of trust. You are valued by your customer not simply for your technical excellence in your craft, but also for your advocacy on products. It is essential that you stay on top of industry trends that allow you to share personal experiences and information with your customers to make your pitch more compelling.

By working with Schneider Electric, electrical contractors have access to our EcoXpert program. EcoXpert contractors are not only endorsed by Schneider Electric, they have access to endless marketing resources and tech support to help them get all-important deals across the line. In addition, members have access to coaching, training and specialist tools they need to deliver on energy-efficient and renewable solutions that facility managers are hungry for. By referencing the program, contractors have expertise at their fingertips that can create an even more positive case for sustainable automation.

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