The Internet of Things (IoT) market is expected to explode in the coming years, according to a recent report that predicts it will grow from an installed base of 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to 30.7 billion devices in 2020 and 75.4 billion in 2025. In response to this trend, many HVAC manufacturers are introducing IoT-enabled products designed to benefit consumers and contractors alike.
“The technology behind the IoT is part of our lives today and will continue to be part of our lives going forward,” said Matt Gates, director of intelligent services, Trane North America. “The true promise is really how it will help customers be more productive and how it will make buildings last longer and be more comfortable and reliable.”
THE IOT AND HVAC
The IoT’s impact on the HVAC industry will be huge, especially as customers place greater emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation, said Jerry Huson, controls engineer, Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. “With the proliferation of smartphones and devices with Wi-Fi capabilities, it has become expedient for homeowners and building managers alike to remotely access and monitor units and buildings to maintain optimum efficiency and reduce cost and waste. Over the coming years, IoT technology will help bridge the information gap even further, allowing homeowners and building managers to attain and maintain a more comfortable and productive living environment.”
For contractors, the benefits of the IoT are innumerable, said Huson, as interconnected HVAC systems will allow the ability to quickly and accurately diagnose and resolve any issues. “For example, having remote monitoring at a job site will enable a contractor to more accurately troubleshoot an issue, and this information can then be shared with a technician who will be better equipped to quickly and efficiently resolve the situation.”
Predictive maintenance will also improve, said Brent Johnson, controls engineering manager, LG Electronics USA Inc. “I think the IoT will develop to the point where homeowners and business owners will be able to catch potential problems sooner through data, and those data will be able to get to people, even remotely, who can interpret it and react faster and more precisely.”
The IoT will also allow contractors to provide new services to customers, said Gates. “For example, energy monitoring will lead to even greater efficiency, which is a service that has not been easily available to contractors before. By offering this service, contractors can become more relevant to customers and help grow their businesses even further.”
At the moment, the residential market is driving the development and adoption of IoT technologies, because there are fewer barriers to entry in this market, fewer regulations, and it is more affordable, said Paul Rauker, vice president and general manager, systems and controls, Daikin Applied. “The consumer relationship with connected technologies is also more emotional, because they interact with these systems in their personal lives and at home. For example, a homeowner might invest in a residential system for peace of mind and convenience as well as the ability to remotely monitor and manage the temperature of the home.”
In the commercial market, the IoT will change what is currently accepted in building management systems (BMS) and automation, said Rauker. “As the commercial market matures, the IoT will help HVAC systems work together to provide a more effective building ecosystem that is easier to manage than today’s building automation systems. These systems are much less expensive and easier to implement. Daikin is already doing this with Intelligent Equipment. We expect that the residential and consumer IoT will be a major driving force for the commercial IoT, in part because communication standards in consumer IoT devices have already been tested, adopted, and proven.”
One of the main effects of the IoT is that it’s allowing everyday equipment and systems to interact with other systems in a space, said Terence Smith, controls engineer, LG Electronics USA Inc. “Over the next few years, we’re going to see more systems that you may never have thought about integrating working together. We’re also going to see more of the home automation from IoT; for example, when you turn on your DVD player, the lights will dim and the air conditioner will go into quiet mode.”
As its first foray into the IoT market, LG Electronics recently introduced the Smart AC module, which allows users to remotely control their LG duct-free air conditioning systems while away from their homes. “When paired with the free LG Smart AC mobile app, the module communicates with the indoor unit to control various functions, such as temperature, fan speed, and airflow,” said Smith. “The module is easy to install and provides convenience, personalized comfort, and potential energy savings for homeowners.”
Daikin Applied’s Intelligent Equipment technology platform currently harnesses the IoT for all of the company’s rooftop products. “The platform makes it possible for HVAC systems to communicate with facility managers and operators, providing them with information to take action and improve efficiencies and cost savings,” said Rauker. “HVAC systems can be monitored and controlled remotely using a mobile device, which helps speed an operator’s ability to change and control settings in real time. The platform also generates reports that capture historical operation data, recommends preventive maintenance needs, and displays energy usage, for example.”
All of Trane’s building automation systems are IoT-enabled, and the company offers cloud-based, device-level connectivity using its Tracer SC controls as a gateway, both on Trane equipment and other manufacturers’ equipment. “We offer the ability to extract all of that operating data with the products we have today,” said Gates.
Some of Trane’s larger pieces of equipment — such as applied equipment — are also IoT-enabled, said Dave Molin, vice president of controls, Trane. “All of our Intelligent Services offerings utilize a connection into a customer’s building to run advanced analytics in the cloud and to access data and systems remotely for advisory services. In the future, more and more of this connectivity will flow down into smaller components and systems.”
The Bosch Smart Control exemplifies the company’s Invented for Life foundation, said Huson. “Many smart Wi-Fi-enabled controls collect and distribute user data, but the Bosch Control stores the user’s information within the unit in the home, not on an external server or cloud. This helps ensure personal information is secure and won’t be shared. And when there’s a temporary loss of an internet connection, the thermostat will still function in manual mode by using the touchscreen.”
Making sure personal information is kept secure is one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers of IoT-enabled devices. “The technology is very beneficial in improving our lives as a whole; however, that same technology can be used against us,” said Huson. “The more things that get connected, the more likely someone will be able to obtain information by hacking into a home’s comfort system, for instance.”
Ensuring products are secure is a concern for all parties — the manufacturer, contractor and end user — when creating and installing IoT products, said Johnson. “At the end of the day, it’s a shared responsibility for all parties to keep the security updated and information secure.”
SIDEBAR: Sensor Technology Essential to the HVAC Industry
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing every aspect of how we live today, including significant and beneficial impacts in HVAC. For example, consumers now expect connectivity from not only their thermostats, but from other devices, as well, including lighting, shades, door-locking systems, security, and appliances.
IoT platforms collect and analyze that data so that real-time information and decision-making can happen on the consumer end. For instance, a refrigerator may send an alert when the last egg is used, or a washing machine may notify a consumer if a load of laundry is finished. This is all part of the future of the IoT where wireless sensors make data collection possible.
Beyond consumer and residential markets, there is impressive activity in the commercial HVAC industry. For example, wireless sensor technology can be used in refrigerated case coolers to monitor various data points, including temperature, pressure differential, and humidity. Temperature data can then be used to identify, respond to, and mitigate instances where temperatures go out of safety ranges, potentially leading to food waste or food-borne illness. These data are not only critical for on-site facilities staff, but they’re also extremely valuable to the manufacturer, which can offer a cloud-based, remote monitoring solution that provides visibility into the performance of their equipment.
HVAC manufacturers are also working to implement sensor nodes into HVAC-related appliances, like packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs), where data such as run times and other diagnostic information are collected. These data can then be used by the equipment manufacturers to minimize downtime and improve operational efficiencies, eliminate the need for physical site visits to check asset conditions, improve planning and logistics of ordering replacement parts, and monitor equipment remotely across multiple locations.
Advanced sensors and controls can be utilized on specific equipment as well as consumer devices. With building automation systems (BAS), for example, data collected from wireless sensors can include occupancy status, temperature, humidity, power consumption, and more. This information can be driven to a mobile app for consumers and into BACnet-based BAS in commercial building applications.
Information courtesy of Mike Giorgi, CEO of Magnum Energy Solutions.
Publication date: 8/8/2016