Wireless sensors have become very attractive products in the HVAC controls market over the past few years as architects and building owners have begun to work more closely together in order to preserve the structure of older buildings and improve aesthetics. These two mentalities, in addition to increasing efficiency and reliability, are expected to lead to growth of wireless sensors into the future.
In 2015, IHS has forecast that 18.8 percent of sensors shipped worldwide for HVAC controls in commercial buildings will primarily use wireless connectivity to transfer data to controllers. This will represent a 5.7 percent unit growth over 2014.
The majority of these sensors were shipped in the American and EMEA [Europe, the Middle East, and Africa] regions where wireless protocols such as EnOcean and Zigbee PRO continue to make great strides in reliability with energy harvesting technology. This energy harvesting technology allows sensors to be completely wireless as it draws energy from environmental factors such as pressure, light, and temperature changes, rather than drawing power from an outlet. As this technology becomes more dependable, integrators and end users will be more willing to adopt the technology as there will be fewer problems with connectivity issues that would make a HVAC controls system inefficient. For example, improved energy harvesting will allow for more regular transmission of data, which, in turn, makes the system more efficient as there is less time between the point of change in the environment and the point when the data is measured, transmitted, and acted upon.
In comparison to the American and EMEA regions, Asia has lagged behind in the adoption of wireless sensors as the technology represents only 5.6 percent of units in 2015. The lack of wireless sensors in Asia can be attributed to a far fewer amount of retrofit opportunities in the region. As a result, IHS expects regions with a high-rate of new construction to have less demand for wireless sensors, since wiring and installation can occur during the construction of a building and, therefore, can be hidden and installed without issue.
Additionally, cultural differences exist between regions that accentuate the preference of sensor type. For example, in Western European countries preservation of buildings remains important, since cities are often densely populated. As a result, demolition and construction of new buildings is a costly task, both in monetary value and the effect on the neighboring buildings. This drives developers to make decisions that will extend the life of a building far into the future, such as using wireless sensors instead of drilling holes, tearing down walls, and pulling wires. Conversely, building owners in China make decisions with a short-term outlook as buildings are only expected to last 10-15 years rather than the 50 years expected in Western Europe, which allows for drilling and restructuring of a building after completion. As new construction growth in the Asian region slows down, integrators expect a more conservational mentality to take root, which will lead to faster growth of wireless sensors.