Smart technology – what pathways are available? | KNX UK

Smart technology – what pathways are available? | KNX UK

The experts at KNX look at the training pathways available to electricians that want to take advantage of the growing requirement for skilled smart installers.

There’s such a wide choice of smart technology in the market that becoming a smart installer and benefitting from the boom should be easy, right?

Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll find it’s not easy to work out the skill-set you need nor is plotting a road map to succcess straightforward. It’s more than likely going to be a never-ending process as you’ll need to keep up with the new trend and innovations that are hitting the market.

Of course, manufacturers of proprietary systems can offer quick and easy courses, often for free, promising that you can become a smart installer in a day using their systems. That’s fair enough.

However, just as the DIY and IoT market has massively driven awareness of smart home ‘connected’ devices and increased consumer demand, so too has the B2B professional electrician woken up to the opportunity that a hard-wired, properly networked, smart installation can bring. Smart technology needs to be viewed in this way and installers have a great chance to exploit the opportunity.

This means committing to training and investing in your business and your future.

There are a plenty of courses on smart home technology automation at college/apprentice level (City & Guilds) and for continuing professional development (via CEDIA etc), with many offering online and distanced learning routes.

Looking at all the options available will soon make you realise that scheduling the right matrix of courses to develop the solid skills base you’ll need is a major undertaking in itself. Budgeting for the fees and losss of earnings while you train is another hurdle to cross. You know you need to do this, but you can’t afford to get it wrong. Take a step back, look at the options and be sure to invest wisely in your future.

Where do you need to get to?
Way back in 2003, the Department for Trade & Industry commisisoned a report* that defined a smart home as “A dwelling incorporating a communications network that connects the key electrical appliances and services, and allows them to be remotely controlled, monitored or accessed.” That’s as true today as it was then.

The report went on to define the six main areas of automation which are again still broadly true:

1. Environmental (heating/water, lighting, energy management, metering)
2. Security (alarms, motions detectors, environmental detectors)
3. Home entertainment (audio visual, Internet)
4. Domestic appliances (cooking, cleaning, maintenance alerts)
5. Information and communication (phone, Internet)
6. Health (telecare, home assistance)

It further noted that standalone products already existed for many of the functions and looked forward to manufacturers providing the devices, hubs and gateways to incorporate them. In other words, it was already looking towards interworking between all these areas.

Of course, even then the DTI would have known that industry pioneers were already stepping up to the plate and providing the option of combining all of the automation functions in one system.

Now, nearly 500 manufacturers subscribe to the concept of an open protocol, a common language that their products can use to speak to each other and work together seamlessly. The idea evolved from the EIB (European Installation Bus) and is now used globally by over 90,000 partners and integrators. It’s called KNX and it is 30 years old this year.

Setting standards
The KNX standard ensures that all certified products – from power supplies to wall switches and panels – work alongside each other, i.e. to talk to each other, irrespective of brand. Furthermore, new products will always talk to old products i.e. products are backwards compatible so that an installation will never become defunct as a manufacturer decides to discontinue products. In return for the R&D commitment, the companies have a guarantee that the software used to programme installations is under continuous development and improvement.

KNX is scalable from a house to a high-rise block of flats or offices. It will fit your customer base and will enable you to bring more functions into play – HVAC, lighting, audio, shading, security etc.

If you haven’t heard of it before, now’s probably a good time to check it out!

Iain Gordon of GES Digital, who is also President of the national KNX UK Association, is encouraging installers to take part in free tester sessions offered by his members before making any decisions on the direction they’re looking to take.

He says: “Whichever route to smart installation you take, KNX or otherwise, plan beyond the training. Training providers offer a menu of courses that enable you to add to your skills incrementally, but what happens outside of the classroom can be just as important. Who are you going to call when you want to sound out a new idea, for example? The whole KNX ethos plugs the gap and the KNX UK Association membership of like-minded people are particularly supportive of each other.”

Julian Barkes of BEMCO, which runs a busy training centre in London, adds: “We remind professional electricians that take part in our taster sessions that they already have the basic planning and cabling skills required. As such, they’re more than half way there! It tends to be the software that they need to learn, so we’ll take them through it step-by-step”.

Courses range from KNX Certified Partner (Basic) through to specialist HVAC modules and KNX Advanced courses. KNX product training and ongoing technical support is often free.

A recent new concept is the Boot Camp, run by MyKNXStore, which offers a mix of refresher and troubleshooting that fits in exactly with the way integrators evolve and improve.

Get more details  from the the KNX UK site by clicking here

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