I just got back from InfoComm down in Orlando, Fla. It was a very busy show with great traffic and a lot of talk about how business is rebounding in the commercial space. There were several key takeaways that I noted as I walked the floor, so let me share them with you.

Blurred Lines

It used to be when you bought a Blu-ray player, you were buying it to watch Blu-ray discs. Or when you bought a cell phone you bought it to make phone calls and talk to people, keep in touch with the home office. There has been a rapid transition away from single-purpose devices into complex, multi-featured devices that now integrate into all parts of our lives. I can now buy a Bluetooth heart-rate monitor for my cell phone or stream Internet radio from my Blu-ray player.

This convergence is starting to show up in more and more places, products and service offerings. Energy monitoring continues to be one of the hot trends; there are several manufacturers that are now looking at energy monitoring as part of their core offering. Some of these companies are in the “Power” segment of our industry and some are not. This slow blurring of the lines has left us with many opportunities, but we are once again left with the reality that profit is not just in selling a bunch of boxes but supporting these devices after they are installed.

Managers versus Monitors

Everyone still uses the term Monitoring when referring to energy-related products. It seems to me that this is a bit of a misnomer or misunderstanding of what the purpose of the product is. What everyone really wants is Management. Monitoring is a key aspect of Management but it is not an ends in itself. The ability to monitor power consumption is starting to find its way into more and more products, but capturing this data and doing something with it are really two different things entirely. It was encouraging to see several companies beginning to grasp this vital distinction.

In order to grow as an industry moving forward, we must be managers and not monitors. Anyone can provide data; what you do with that data is what will separate you from the pack.

True Home Automation

Intelligence is more than the known information; it is knowing how and when to use that information. This really strikes at the heart of what I am beginning to see within our industry. It is not enough to have your lights turn on and off during certain times of the day, to be able to show someone how much energy their system is consuming, or when their Internet is out. The future of our industry is about taking all of this information and intelligently applying automation to it. The lines between product and service have become blurred.

Walking the show floor, I was left with a great impression of where we are headed. Integrators who grasp some of the changes our industry is going through stand to do quite well in the future. The technology and supporting services we can offer our customers is more compelling than ever. CR