Future trends with IoT
The Internet of Things is becoming a bigger part of our day-to-day lives. Brian Seymour writes about what it means for electrical contractors in the world of estimating.
Too many times during my years of teaching electrical estimating, have I come across people who believed if they can count and measure, they were estimators. There is a world of difference between an estimator and a count and measure clerk.
Whether you are training to be an estimator in an existing company or staring up as an REC, the required estimating skills are the same. One of the prime reasons so many new electrical contractors (ECs) go broke because while they may be good electricians, they might be poor estimators and businessmen.
Adding to the dilemma of failed businesses in 2020, has been the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen a considerable increase in applications for REC licenses. Just because you can write an invoice, does not necessarily make you a good businessman and, with no experience in operating any sort of business, it will put you at a disadvantage when trying to make a profit.
Without a basic business plan and with limited capital, it will be an uphill battle to make ends meet in a depressed market. In a one-person business, you have all the duties and responsibilities of the job. From the managing director, through all the non-productive tasks and apprentice duties, to emptying the bins and cleaning up the junk mail. As one well known contractor remarked; “It is a total change of life, evenings and weekends will become merely annoying breaks”.
Continuing my ‘Due Diligence’ theme from the past issue, this article concerns the estimator’s role in the company including promotion, marketing and being aware of new technology.
Even though the core power installation business will be around for some time to come, both home and workplace automation are on the rise. Your business plan must include exploring new markets and the estimator is uniquely placed for this task.
With more and more buildings becoming ‘smart buildings’ and Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining momentum. ECs are in a prime position to advise their customers on the installation of IoT hardware to build their networks. There is still limited knowledge in the general community of the capability of IoT and the trained contractor will become a partner and trusted advisor.
The one-man EC will need to study this technology and be prepared to recommend devices that can maximise benefits to customers. The medium-to-large electricians, regardless of their core business, can expand the business and initiate a specialised IoT division and market these services.
The possibilities are infinite and now is the time to learn and promote the value of IoT devices.
Therefore, education is the answer, whether it be formal or informal, it needs to be continuous in such a rapidly evolving industry such as this. You cannot sit back and believe that the skills you have learnt throughout your occupation in this trade will last forever. Systems and processes are progressing at an alarming rate and it is easy to become complacent and do nothing about ‘keeping up’.
Although the IoT has been around for a couple of decades, the application of the technology has increased, and it’s being used in wireless communication, embedded systems and micro-electromechanical systems. Even a lighting circuit that can be switched on using a smartphone app is an IoT device, as is a motion sensor or a smart thermostat in your spa.
Virtual reality applications are becoming more common for such applications as tracking carbon emissions and tracking energy use. IoT is already all around us, online devices have become essential in industries from manufacturing and healthcare to agriculture, bushfire environmental management and everyday living.
Cities around the world are labelling themselves ‘smart cities’ and are already well into their planning phases. What opportunities will this offer for the EC and what planning will they need to put in place to benefit from this new technology.
Digital consulting firm Ovum estimates that by 2022 Australian homes will host more than 47 million IoT devices, and the value of the global market will exceed US$1 trillion.
Unfortunately, Australia has been late to react. Even moves by the federal government to make IoT devices more secure have lagged international developments.
Increasingly, technology is incorporated in every aspect of our lives and ECs are in a unique position to embrace this massive development. We have seen our industry progress from basic light and power installations, through building automation, telecommunication and Ethernet installations, to fully computerised buildings.
Both home and workplace automation are on the rise, and now is the time to incorporate IoT into your scope of works. The consequences of IoT are also becoming common in new homes and apartments. Smart home IoT appliances, including refrigerators, cooking ranges, washing and drying machines, integrated security systems and air-conditioning systems will become standard for new homes.
The IoT in commercial and industrial projects will have opportunities that will potentially rationalise the way electricians can win work. Many building owners are being forced to update their services to attract or keep tenants, who expect IoT facilities as standard. LEDs paired with sensors that turn on when people enter a room and sync with natural surrounding light and programmed to respond to expectant occupancy can have a significant effect on power consumption.
Today new buildings will need more space for tele-data and infrastructure to ensure they are futureproofed.
With the knowledge to offer value-added services, the EC can often secure a tender from a position greater than the lowest price. Contractors who work with small-to-medium businesses such as restaurants, offices, apartment buildings and retail businesses, usually contend in a competitive and price-sensitive market. Consequently, the tender proposal needs to offer more than just a price.
However, someone will still need to install these devices and maintain them when faults occur.
If you are not up with the technology, you will be left behind. Customer demands and expectations are changing, while traditional electrical operating systems are moving from low voltage to ELV and other technologies. Electricians are well placed to take advantage of this change, but many lack the skills required to do so. NECA Education & Careers has developed a new innovative training course – The Application of the Internet of Things for Electricians.
Smart buildings and intelligent energy efficiency, and connected components, is the future. The more connected everything becomes, the easier, smarter and user-friendly the solutions become and the more mainstream the IoT,
If you wish to be a leader in this technology, you need to pick up the cudgel now. Be proactive, grasp this evolution and not be overtaken by it and learn these new systems while they are still in their infancy. Future Building Management Systems (BMS) will all incorporate IoT devices. Understanding your unique value proposals will not just help marketing and offer more benefit, it will also help you win more profitable work.