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Big things need to happen to force a revolution; what we are witnessing right now with the economic woes, climate change, and the change that the new Obama administration will bring about will drive things forward.
Talk is cheap they say. There has been a great deal of talk around the future of BAS, and some action moving forward, but the magnitude of activity does not seem to be in relation to the challenge we all face. Now we have a new U.S. administration with an anticipated range of bold initiatives driven by a combination of a need to recover from recession with a need to fix the infrastructure and energy challenges. This combination seems to be a magic-bullet combo that would not only take the U.S. out of its decade-long decline, but also renew enormous opportunities for the BAS industry.
We need a revolution
So you think we are going through a revolution now? The so called green revolution and the revolution in the BAS world related to new issues from open systems, IP and energy? Well, as Thomas Friedman lays out in his new book Hot, Flat and Crowded, you canít have a revolution unless people get hurt. In my honest opinion, there has not been enough pain to call what we are going through a real revolution.
People enjoying the status quo of archaic building systems coupled with those who still stand to gain from fossil-based energy clearly do not want a revolution since itís likely that they will get hurt. So we seem to have been talking about a revolution without actually making it happen. What needs to change?
The answer is: big things. Big things need to happen to force a revolution; what we are witnessing right now with the economic woes, climate change, and the change that the new Obama administration will bring about will drive things forward, of that there is no doubt.
We need pain
During the first Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the birth of machines was great for the overall good of society, but for those owners and workers in the old non-mechanized factories, the change was painful as they were quickly put out of business by the more efficient machines.
In the second Industrial Revolution in the late part of the 19th century, the birth of electricity and the internal combustion engine proved painful to industries relying on horse and carriage and older technologies. Over time industries changed for the good, but Iím sure there were a lot of debates if those new technologies would actually work!
And again in the Information Revolution that was the dot-com and Internet era of the past decade, there have been many painful changes. Remember companies like Digital, Wang, Boroughs and many others? Their worlds were turned upside down, as were many traditional mediums. Remember the phone book? Now replaced by Google.
The world needs a revolution now. There is too much at stake and too many components of a perfect storm now in place. Sorry to say, but pain is just one of those side effects of a Real Revolution.
Breaking down this revolution
While neither I nor anyone out there can accurately lay out a map to navigate this revolution, here are my thoughts about the issues that you need to consider in 2009:
Energy Era: The 20th century was best characterized as the period of cheap energy, where automobiles and manufacturing and energy for living were cheap, while mostly unknowingly damaging our environment. The 21st century will be characterized as the century of a new Energy Era, where the focus is on how enough sustainable energy can be generated so that prosperity of the 20th century can be continued. If you are not working toward being involved in this new Energy Era, chances are that you will see pain.
Buildings, Buildings, Buildings: With nearly half of harmful greenhouse gasses being generated by buildings, all those involved with buildings will be front and center on the fight against carbon and addressing climate change. If your activities in buildings are not geared towards this goal, you will likely see a lot of pain.
Electrification: Electricity is the only energy transportation that is 100% environmentally friendly in transportation and at the point of consumption. Even the future of Hydrogen is basically a mechanism to transport electricity. From building systems to transportation, the world will be much more electrified in the future, using electricity initially generated from old fossil fuels, but over time moving to sustainable sources. If you do not have a good understanding of how electrification will affect buildings, itís likely that you will see pain in this revolution.
Big Picture: The old way of the world (the 20th Century view) is that the buildings industry stands alone (as are many other industries). The BAS world has had little reason to see itself as an integral part of anything largeófrom a systems point of view anyway. The reality of the next decade is that buildings WILL BE an integral part of the new energy system. From being a consumer of energy to being a generator of energy (virtual or real) to being the facility that houses much of energy systems, it will be difficult to uncouple building systems from the rest of the future of smart new energy.
Efficiency: Many of our systems, from HVAC, manufacturing and transportation, have an incredible low efficiency of energy usage. In many cases the efficiency of many energy consuming machines is in the low single digits, meaning that over 90% of energy is wasted! Part of the Energy Revolution is to DRAMATICALLY increase efficiency; if you do not have efficiency as part of your M.O., I guarantee that you will feel pain.
Smarts: Unless youíve been on Mars in the past decade, you have witnessed how IT has made many parts of our world ultra-efficient. From supply chain to enterprise resource management to marketing and finance, the IT industry has evolved techniques, products and solutions to squeeze out wastage. All of this has been done by making these systems smart. From a technology point of view, smarts involve connectivity and information processing along with development of standards so that complex systems and devices can work with each other. There is no doubt that Smart Energy will be the mantra of the 21st Century. If youíre not thinking smarts, youíd better watch-out; it will be painful.
Change: This is probably the most difficult, as we humans really donít like change thrust upon us. As the saying goes, you can either resist change (in which case be prepared for a LOT of pain), you can accept change (in which case you should be able to ride this storm), or you can be a change agent to lead the charge (in which case you stand a chance of doing very well indeed). Itís your choice!
2009 New Yearís Resolution
All the components of this perfect storm are in place for 2009 to be a very critical year for building automation and controls, itself a part of this powerful trend towards sustainable energy.
I highly recommend that you make sure to create a New Yearís Resolution that at least keeps an open eye on this, but better still, be part of this exciting change that is happening around us.
Happy New Year to all and wishing you the best for 2009.
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