Keeping up with IoT
The electrical industry is growing with the technology around it. Brian Seymour writes about the Internet of Things and looks at what it means for the sparkie on the tools.
At the time of writing, Sir Richard Branson, launched his Virgin Galactic Spacecraft to the edge of space. He says he wants Virgin Orbit to transition from launching small satellites to building its own satellite constellation for Internet of Things (IoT) and Earth observation.
This got me thinking about my last IoT article twelve months ago encouraging Electrical Contractors (ECs) “you need to pick up the cudgel now”.
However, I am amazed at the number of residential ECs who don’t believe it will have any effect on their business. No matter whether it is residential, commercial or industrial installations, almost everything can be compatible with IoT.
The scope of IoT is extremely broad, and it often refers to a collection of technologies, and an entire range of research areas. Household devices such as home security cameras and baby monitors have become connected devices, while smart locks and even smart watering systems for gardens are becoming trendy. Wireless data transmission systems are being increasingly deployed in home automation and industrial applications. These systems are used to transmit sensor data and control information in smart buildings and are expected to have a positive impact on the future growth of the market.
The effects of the IoT are also evident inside new homes and apartments. Smart appliances include everything from connected washers and dryers to integrated security systems and smart energy systems – all of which need to be considered when planning the construction of a new home.
While so many of these systems are wirelessly operated, a reliable quality system needs to be hardwired. Consumers depending on 24/7 fully dependable systems do not want to be held to ransom by battery failure. With the speed of new electronic labour-saving systems hitting the market, electrical contractors generally have no shortage of work, however, acquiring it is a matter of vigilance and foresight. Contractors who take the time to learn and promote IoT-oriented devices can promote increased sales and recurring business as consumers embrace the IoT.
Creating value for customers means providing useful products and services that customers consider worthy of their time, energy and money. Electrical contractors have evolved from basic power wiring to telecommunication and Ethernet wiring for the computer-equipped office. Now with the rapid progression of next generation building management systems (BMS) supporting IoT devices ECs need to take a pro-active stance and learn this modern technology while it is still young. Those ECs who take the time to learn and promote IoT-oriented devices will cultivate increased sales as businesses and home consumers welcome the IoT.
The world has changed dramatically over the past 12 months due to the pandemic, and hopefully these tips will offer you refreshed ideas of upselling that you can implement within your estimating procedures by staying in touch with trends, understanding your customers’ needs and using new and appealing ways to connect with them will help you to stay ahead of the opposition and win more tenders.
These changes have made a difference in being able to approach the decision makers with proposals for tenders. Prior to lockdown, the estimator needed to get propositions through word-of-mouth, and was not always easy to book meetings without organisation and distance being an issue. Today, the decision makers are more likely to be far more accessible due to spending more time in front of their computer screen.
While a formal tender must be submitted in accordance with the issued tender documents, the progressive estimator will also submit an “alternative tender”. This submission, whilst primarily in accordance with the issued documents will include alternative installation methods and allowance for hard wiring all or many of the above-mentioned systems and equipment.
This alternative proposal must be presented as a “value added” scheme with the perceived benefits outweighing the cost. You need to explain the value of pre-wiring at the construction stage rather than after completion. Often the structural components of a building will prevent the transmission of wireless signals from one point to another without hard wiring.
The electrical estimator needs to make himself familiar with these systems and offer advice to the customer about the advantages of hard wiring for such equipment as:
- Security and surveillance – sensors, cameras, doors, windows etc.
- Network access points – standalone, multi-function and controlled access points
- Theatre and surround sound – speakers and sound bars
- Home audio – speakers
- TV and video – multiple TV/video outlets
- Touchscreens – from home thermostats and lights, to receiving a status report of electronic door locks or viewing the current weather forecast
- Lighting – smarter buildings and more connected
- Propriety systems (only works with their products and third-party integration) can be costly
- Non-Propriety Systems (works across multiple platforms)
- Utilities – touch screen control, garden sprinklers, intercom, CCTV, sauna control and a myriad of other applications.
Ethernet cable wiring becomes increasingly important in these constantly evolving technologies, especially because of IoT. Including the development of the internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. Segregation of different cabling is becoming the source of most faults. Professionally installed Ethernet network cable reduces outages and allows connecting your data systems and network devices such as routers, modems, adapters, or whatever ‘thing’ needs connecting throughout your facility.
Types of cable to be used for these systems are:
- Profinet: This industrial Ethernet cable uses foil and braid shielding to protect signals from the noise expected on plant floors.
- CAT6: These cables are backwards compatible with all previous CAT cables, have larger gauge wires, can be run up to 90m lengths, support up to 10Gbps and 250MHz bandwidth, and are longer-lasting.
- CAT6A: This Ethernet cable wiring doubles the capacity of the CAT6 by performing up to 500MHz and can accommodate distances – up to 100m.
- CAT7A: Ethernet wiring supports 10-Gigabit Ethernet, frequencies up to 1,000MHz, and is a viable alternative to fibre optic cabling.
There is a myriad of requirements and regulations (too many to comment on here) which need to be studied before launching into major installations. There are cabling training programs available in all States of Australia, including specialised IoT courses such as “Innovation in IoT” available at NECA Education & Careers.
Further avenues for increasing market share are using IoT to manage and maintain appliances and devices that both generate or receive electricity. Some of the most common uses of IoT in electrical maintenance are testing, monitoring and fixing and replacement of electrical equipment.
To establish state of the art techniques for fault-finding, I enlisted the aid of Craig Ross, owner of CR Electrics Pty Ltd, a KNX System Integrator. My thanks to Craig for contributing the following valuable information.
Today, ECs need a laptop to fault find the wireless lights that have been installed and to understand exactly how and where to inspect. They need to establish the Backbone and infrastructure installation method. Without these fault-finding skills, the untrained EC’s will need to engage their opposition or a sub-contractor to carry out these works.
An ACMA open licence (with endorsements) will be necessary in all day-to-day works as BMS, lighting and control systems are run with “bus cabling” and integration between lights, alarm, CCTV and audio visual are all connected in some way or form.
As increased industry sectors are adopting IoT for electrical maintenance, it is important that you keep up to date with this latest technology to gain benefits as well as stay ahead of the pack.