Making Cents With Automation


More than likely you and/or your customers have been hit with higher energy rates. These measures and other “green” initiatives are popping up everywhere these days. This may be just the impetus to stimulate customers to seek additional products and services from their security systems and monitoring providers. While you may have heard considerable talk and typically seen minimal action in the past regarding home automation, the tempo and emphasis on applying a variety of these technologies is rapidly changing.

This means the savvy technology dealer and integrator will have many opportunities now and in the very near future. This month we will look at some of the things happening not only in home automation, but also home entertainment. Both are running hand-in-hand, and this has the attention of your customers and prospects. Are you on board yet?

Changing Customer Perceptions

According to Dallas-based research firm Parks Associates, penetration into the home control systems market is led by programmable thermostats (42 percent), home theater systems (36 percent), home security systems (24 percent) and monitored home security systems (18 percent). In other words, nearly one-fourth of all homes with control systems include security. How many of your security customers are you tapping into with home control offerings?

Next time your customer comes to you looking to discontinue monitoring services in order to cut expenses, wouldn’t it be nice to tell that customer, “What if I could show you a way, with some new technology, to save as much as 10 percent [The manufacturer states 20 percent, but I always like to underpromise and overdeliver) on your ever-rising electric bill?” Do you think that might get their attention? You betcha.

Hydro One, Ontario, Canada’s largest utility, recently conducted a study based on 500 homes that indicated the presence of real-time feedback devices has a measurable and positive impact on energy conservation. Vendors such as Cent-a-Meter ( estimate that the average household uses about 15,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year. Depending on where you live that can be between $900 and $1,700 per year.

A 15-percent energy savings could pay for Cent-a-Meter’s technology offering in as little as one year. The company’s real-time feedback device lets customers know how much energy they are using. This will make the positive advantages of the automation devices you of course will be selling them evident (see photo).

Smarter Appliances Are on the Way

We have all seen how appliances from manufacturers like Whirlpool and GE now include internal energy-saving features such as more efficient motors and compressors. I am beginning to see such manufacturers offer dates for when devices will start communicating with other support systems. They are vowing to make appliances electronically-controlled and smart-grid compatible by 2015.

When smart appliances become part of this new generation smart grid they will be able to automatically do things like wash clothes at night when electricity is more plentiful and less expensive.

Bracken Darrell, president of Whirlpool Europe, and executive vice president of Whirlpool Corp., recently stated, “There needs to be global development of an open communications standard for appliances to send and receive signals by the end of 2010.” This is just a year away people. Bracken also said, “There must be policies in place to reward consumers, manufacturers and utilities for using and adding new peak demand reduction capabilities.” (Podcasts of Darrell and others who attended the 2009 Energy Efficiency (EE) Global Expo in Paris are available at

Challenges of New Digital Media

The new digital alternative to analog standards is the high-definition multimedia interface, commonly known as HDMI. This interface is designed for the transmission of uncompressed digital data. HDMI can support virtually any type of digital media device and what is known as the consumer electronics control (CEC) connection.

There are four HDMI connector types that range from HDMI 1.0 to HDMI 1.4. Each version has specifications for an increase in bandwidth. They all use the same type of cable; however, the cable is defined in two categories. Category 1 is certified to 1,080i/720p and Category 2 has been tested to 340MHz (1,600p).

As with any new technologies, the public is getting a lot of marketing tech spin with HDTV. One of the latest I have seen is HDMI cabling for the 120Hz video displays. Customers are made to believe they need to buy 120Hz HDMI cables for the best performance. Actually, the faster display refresh rate is used to address display latency issues. Simply put, the 120Hz is related to the video display and has nothing to do with the HDMI cable, period. The HDMI cable needs to handle the frame rate as it passes through the cable, which at the most is 60Hz for progressive formats.

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