There have been murmurings that the traditional heating industry could be under threat as smart technology changes the HVAC landscape (and we have touched on this issue in our previous article How the heating sector is bracing for change). So, should boiler and heating manufacturers be worried or is the age of the Google boiler merely a fantasy?
A significant proportion of the UK’s energy use can be attributed to heating our homes and workplaces, which is why smart technology is having a positive impact on efficiency by making it easier to monitor and control appliances. Often referred to as “plug and play” solutions, all sorts of gadgets are now becoming commonplace, using wifi, bluetooth and voice activation. Amazon’s Alexa, GOOGLE home lighting and Nest are just some of the brands that are now everyday names.
Henry Lawson of the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) was recently interviewed by Heating and Ventilation News and asked for his views on the impact of smart technology on the heating industry. He made the point that smart systems could have a positive impact on maintenance. If a system can highlight which parts of a boiler need replacing, a technician will be able to arrive with the correct part and full knowledge of the issue without having to examine the boiler first.
Organisations such as City and Guilds are already looking at ways to introduce smart technology training into their plumbing and heating programmes. Not only will this mean that future engineers will have the right skills for our changing systems and products, it also has the potential to make jobs in HVAC more appealing to a new generation. This is an issue we have talked about before when we have examined how employers are taking steps to inspire interest in engineering careers.
Henry Lawson made the point in his interview with H&V News that although the likes of Google and Amazon have the distinct advantage of understanding data better than anyone, as well as having the marketing capabilities to push any new innovation they choose to launch, there is no substitute for knowledge. Established heating manufacturers understand their industry inside out. They may not have the same level of knowledge when it comes to online connectivity and smart technology but they really understand how heating systems work, how the engineering can be applied to buildings and the people in them and how different systems work together.
Well, that’s a question none of us can answer with confidence but many people think the most likely scenario will be a collaboration between the big tech giants who are driving change and the heating manufacturers whose knowledge and expertise can help these innovators apply their technology to an ever-changing and increasingly energy efficient world.