170,000 Attendees Witness the Future of HVAC

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By Paul Baccaro

Paul Baccaro Coolfront VP, Operations & Product Development

This was our second year attending CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. Like last year, we couldn’t possibly take in everything at the show. Over 3800 exhibitors covered 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space, with 170,000 attendees crowding the booths. It is a HUGE event.

We did spend an entire day at the Smart Home Marketplace visiting with IoT providers, including several from the HVAC industry like Honeywell, Carrier, Bosch, and more.

There were 192 Exhibitors in the Smart Home Marketplace plus another 587 exhibiting in Eureka Park, where startups come to show their goods. Not many of the startups were HVAC focused, but there were a handful.

One startup, Breezi, showed us AirPulse, a smart sensor for air flow. They bill it as “The Check Engine light for your HVAC,” which they plan to roll out Summer 2017.

We also spoke to MistBox, a smart device that uses sensors to detect the operation of an AC unit. They claim the control, which installs on an outdoor AC unit, monitors and adapts to an AC unit’s health, and thereby can conserve energy and save homeowners money.

We spoke to XpertEye, who offer wearable smart glasses that connect field techs to an expert for immediate expertise in the field. They showed us a live demo which was impressive. With a large number of the older techs retiring and taking with them years of knowledge, this product seeks to provide less experienced techs with access to that knowledge base before it disappears.

Of course we visited Honeywell. They are dedicated to the IoT space and had a large presence in the Smart Home market. Their Lyric Family of products connect the home for comfort and safety. We’ve been happy to promote their T6 Pro WiFi thermostat within our Coolfront app. We think every home should have a smart thermostat. 

My big takeaway... the Smart Home/IoT space remains chaotic. There are several competing protocols: 

  1. Z-wave
  2. Zigbee
  3. Thread
  4. Bluetooth
  5. Wifi
  6. Insteon

There are also many Smart Home hubs vying for dominance. The biggest players are: 

  1. Amazon Echo
  2. Google Home
  3. Apple HomeKit
  4. Samsung SmartThings

But they are joined by Wink, Carrier Cor, Lenovo, Insteon, Lutron, Revolv and many more. 

Compounding things further is that every smart device (lights, thermostats, doorbells, flood sensors, etc.) have their own app. So many apps. 

Right now the Smart Home market feels like the Wild West — it’s an exciting, confusing, risky adventure with possible riches awaiting. If IoT follows a typical market pattern (I expect it will), the chaos will give way to organization, then standardization, and finally consolidation. That’s a few years off I think. 

So what does this mean for the future of HVAC? With so much money dedicated to the IoT space, I think it’s inevitable that home comfort systems will get “smart.” As a contractor you have time to acclimate before the tsunami hits. Don’t sit back and rest on your laurels. Start familiarizing yourself with the devices, technologies and standards that will impact your future. Research, dabble, sell. Do anything that  prepares you for what’s here and what’s coming. 

Who knows, maybe I’ll even see some of you next year at CES?

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