as well as electrical and security systems are experiencing some bleed-
over between trades.
“The lines are getting very blurry, and the technology is providing that
blurriness,” LaNois said.
Because controls for electrical, HVAC and security systems are
merging, subcontractors must decide whether they will provide services
outside of their traditional sector. Not all ECs want to do so, but LaNois
encourages it. Modern homeowners already have expectations of their
home’s operations, but they may rely on a contractor to differentiate and
understand different home-automation products.
Nest focuses on providing a system that can scale—for an initial installation of, say, smoke alarms (that send data to a homeowner through
the Internet if smoke is detected)—up to a setup
that includes everything from HVAC and irrigation
to sound systems that would respond to sensor
data. Such a system could then, for instance, shut
off the thermostat if smoke was detected.
Going further, Nest also has a program underway with Mercedes- Benz in which sensors in the
cars send GPS data to the Nest software platform,
indicating where the car is and, therefore, when
the driver’s home thermostat should activate in
preparation of the user’s arrival.
The company also is working with Whirlpool
appliances. In this case, a dryer could detect that
a resident has left the house and reduce the level
at which it is drying clothes to a safer, slower rate.
With all of these choices, many builders are still unclear about what
technology they should offer homeowners, but LaNois said Nest is a good
option for high-value or middle-income housing. Nest also partners with
technology providers so that a sprinkler system, for example, could be
integrated with a smoke detector.
Other manufacturers offer their own sensor-based solutions that tie into
various home-management networks. For example, Honeywell provides a
suite of products and services, including Wi-Fi thermostats and professionally installed and monitored security systems with full home automation,
said Brad Paine, GM of Honeywell’s Lyric Platform, Connected Home.
“Honeywell is a leader in thermostats and security systems, and these
also happen to be the leading categories today,” Paine said. “Consumers
are quickly adopting the benefits of remote access to security systems
Connected products are being adopted in a bite-sized fashion, Honey-
well has found; as people replace their thermostats, many are upgrading
to connected products. With that said, the cost for a homeowner to replace
many things in their home at one time can add up quickly.
“We see our customers adding connected products to the system over
“The ‘gee-whiz’ factor may have been in the connectivity, but what
time,” Paine said. “Installers and integrators should be in touch with where
their customers are at regarding connected products. Some are ready to go
and others are in the informational gathering stage. With that, they should
have different level packages and/or the ability to customize packages to
Before Nest offered its solutions, the current devices “seemed kind
of gimmicky,” said Rod McLane, senior director of product marketing for
California startup Ayla Networks. Once Nest came onto the market, product
manufacturers—from appliance-makers to companies that provide boilers,
chillers and air conditioning units—started offering sensors and connectiv-
ity. Ayla provides the backbone that links that data to users.
we’ve found is that the value is in the data,” McLane said.
The information coming from the devices in a home is so vast it can
be too much to manage unless you have a filtering and managing system.
There is value in the data far beyond what homeowners can learn
about their appliances and devices. Residents can gain information
about how well their products are working. When they fail, the product
manufacturers can gain information about how an entire product line is
operating in all homes and make schedule changes and improvements
accordingly. That kind of information can benefit
contractors as well.
Some electrical and other subcontractors
have gotten into the business of managing the
data they collect from Ayla Network’s platform
to provide ongoing service to customers—a residential manager or homeowner.
“Connected devices extend the value chain
and give contractors more options,” McLane said.
Ayla provides manufacturers with analytics
and has the ability to parse data out to maintenance providers or contractors. The system also
enables rules-based access, which can give a
contractor temporary access to data while they
provide services in a customer’s home and then
rescind that access when it’s no longer needed. Even physical door locks
can be released at a specific time for a contractor with such connectivity and data.
Ayla also strives to create the interoperability that isn’t otherwise pos-
sible with various devices from different vendors.
“Our belief is, to be successful, you can’t have a closed environment,”
When it comes to home products, that’s not necessarily as easy as it
might be with the computer industry, where there are only a handful of products to interoperate. Therefore, the platform enables users to link one data
stream, such as sensor-based information from an appliance, with another,
which could even be weather-feed information. In doing so, weather data
could be collected, and an irrigation system in a homeowner’s yard could,
for example, turn off if rain is predicted in the next few hours.
Of course, in a world in which a hacker could potentially penetrate a
residence through a clothes dryer, a company such as Ayla is constantly
upgrading security and encryption to ensure a user’s home is protected.
“Because security is so important, we have engineers on our staff that
focus on nothing else,” McLane said.
For contractors that intend to be part of the Io T and smart-home wave,
McLane advised that they get engaged with the market now. Both Nest
and Apple’s Homekit are worth watching, but in this burgeoning market,
don’t discount the many other solutions. There’s plenty of room for growth,
especially for ECs.
S WEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at email@example.com.