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Why Is There A Need For Marketing?
Integration and Convergence
As published in the
Much has been written in recent months of convergence in building systems, specifically the convergence of environmental control, security and IT network infrastructures and technologies. In technical circles, buzzwords such as XML, SOAP, TCP/IP and Web Services are thrown around like they are going out of style. These are in addition to the now familiar terms of open systems, LonWorks, BACnet and DALI.
None of these terms are products per se; they are technologies or elements of an eventual solution that will deliver the dream of integrated and intelligent buildings. Surely there is no need to market the convergence of these technologies. Manufacturers using these technologies are doing their own marketing, thank you very much!
But some kind of mass communication must occur in order for convergence in the building systems industry to gain a stronger foothold and industry-wide acceptance. Building owners are aware that this convergence is happening, and they're out there looking for answers. And convergence is certainly talked about and written about, but for the most part the message of the remarkable benefits of truly integrated systems is still missing its target. So what does the building systems industry need to do to be heard?
Marketing is pretty simple. It's the process of understanding the needs of the market and communicating the benefits of some product, technology or offering in such a way that the market understands the benefit and sees the value it can bring to them. The ultimate goal in marketing is for the market to desire the product, technology or offering that has been marketed.
The CEO of Toyota once explained marketing as the profession and discipline that makes the buying public go into a Toyota dealership with a desire to own a Toyota. But once they walk into the dealership marketing's job is complete, and now it's up to sales to close the deal and operations to ensure a satisfactory ownership experience.
Marketing convergence is something that we as an industry need to do to create an understanding and desire for the convergence of HVAC, security and IT. It must be done in such a way that the market (building owners) understands convergence, and more importantly, sees the benefit and value causing them to say, "Yes, convergence is valuable for me, and I know what to do!"
Let's first identify the needs of building owners and operators. The first three have been with us for decades, and it is worth repeating them as without satisfying these there is no value in a converged future.
Safety: Buildings must provide the appropriate level of security and safety for their occupants including human, physical and logical (information). The word "appropriate" is vital in this description. Something that was appropriate prior to 9/11 may not be appropriate today.
Comfort: It is a fact that we humans are very sensitive about the temperature, lighting and air quality in which we live and work. We see people migrate to areas that are not naturally conducive for human habitation - we therefore have to create comfortable indoor environmental quality.
Cost Control: The two most fundamental needs listed above have to be balanced with a reasonable cost for satisfying them. Regardless of the facility type-commercial, hospital, airport, government or military base-the cost of the systems that provide comfort and safety must be known and controllable.
In order for the industry to deliver the basic needs listed above, these additional needs must be fulfilled:
Information Management: We humans seem to have an insatiable appetite for more and more data! As we are able to monitor more aspects of a building in our quest of satisfying the three basic needs, we find information that we don't have and therefore need. Managing all this information is not trivial; there has to be a way to manage and use it for human and non-human consumption. More importantly, there is a need for the components of a converged building system to share information with other devices.
Automation: The task of managing and making decisions based on the availability of information is daunting, and there is only one solution to this: automation. Automation is no longer optional in buildings. Human beings simply cannot manage the entire system anymore; their role should revolve around exception handling and tasks that require true intelligence.
Flexibility: If you compare buildings in the 20th century with buildings of today, you will see one significant difference-the need for buildings to be more flexible in their usage throughout their lifecycles. Flexibility in its crudest form is the ability to change an office layout as tenants change their space requirements. Flexibility can be more significant such as the change in airport security needs in the past two years.
Leveraging the Infrastructure: One of the most intriguing needs today is for building systems to leverage the infrastructure that now exists in almost all buildings around the world. Aside from life-critical systems such as fire detection, there is absolutely no reason for other building systems not to leverage this pervasive infrastructure, one that is commonly tied to the Internet.
ELEMENTS OF CONVERGENCE
If one looks five to ten years into the future, what will building systems look like then? What will be the critical elements that make integration possible for all the systems that go into buildings? How does the industry need to behave now to deliver such buildings tomorrow?
Connectivity: Without a doubt much attention today is focused on networking technologies. It is by far the most critical enabler for the vision of tomorrow's integrated and intelligent buildings. Without the pervasive connectivity of devices in buildings there cannot be true convergence. Openness is important, but having competing "open" technologies cannot work! Something else has to be there to glue (the operative word) all the systems together including; legacy, current and the unknown technologies of the future - a tall order!
Products: Products are required for convergence to happen - but only products that are smart and have been designed for connectivity. There are basically three categories of products: functional devices (sensors, controllers and actuators), infrastructure (routers and gateways) and tools (configuration, trouble shooting, etc.).
Human Interface: Human interface is much more than just the computer screen. In the future this category will include wall temperature adjustments, voice commands, phones/PDAs and more automated sensors that detect the presence of people as well as interfaces to other interaction methods not yet known to us.
Services: As building systems get more complex and specialized, there will be a tendency for building owners to sub-contract much of the work. This trend will present numerous outsourcing service opportunities targeted at the intelligent buildings of tomorrow. Services will be a key part of how the convergence occurs especially since convergence will bring forth new service elements that are currently non-existent.
User Experience: We must never forget that the fundamental purpose of buildings is (in most cases) to provide shelter for the occupants. In addition to the fundamental needs of comfort and security, humans of today and tomorrow look for an experience when they occupy a building.
The Enterprise: One emerging element of buildings is the stronger ties it will have with the corporate enterprise. Buildings, and the humans who occupy them, are a very significant component of today's corporate business.
Neither the HVAC, security, lighting or IT industries alone can provide the solutions described. So, who can provide the solution? It will be a new industry that has to promote and deliver the components and the solution. And it will be a new breed of integrators or solution providers who have a deep understanding of the needs of individual building owners.
CONVERGENCE AS A SOLUTION
Now back to marketing. Remember marketing is about understanding needs and communicating how those needs can only be satisfied with what we are marketing - convergence.
The industry has to accept that the needs outlined above are real. If you do not agree, you should spend some time outside your selling mode and ask building owners, tenants, operators, occupiers and corporate executives with financial and information responsibilities what they think their problems are. They may not spell it out quite the same, but if you put it all together and imagine their needs converging in years to come you will draw the same conclusions- guaranteed!
So the million dollar question is: Can the needs be satisfied with the solutions of today?
Neither the HVAC, security, lighting or IT industries alone can provide the solutions described.
So, who can provide the solution?
The answer to this simple question is twofold. First, it will be a new industry that has to promote and deliver the components and the solution. And second, it will be a new breed of integrators or solution providers who have a deep understanding of the needs of individual building owners.
Now what do we need to do to market convergence?
We often joke about the crudeness of infomercials we see on TV. I particularly like the one selling the special pasta pot whose perforated lid can lock into place so you can simply tip the pot over to drain the water. Those ads work because they do three things: 1) identify the problem (need), 2) show how the problem can be overcome (the product), and 3) tell the audience what action to take (the 1-800 phone call).
Therefore, stakeholders in this new converged industry need to do three things:
Understand the problem and needs. Not just the needs of the plant engineer or energy manager. The higher level holistic problems of the building owner or operator must be understood. Once understood, the industry must convince building owners that they really do understand their needs.
Understand the limitations of existing technologies and the promises of future technologies. Don't be blinkered by a specific vendor's product range; demand an explanation of how a vendor's solution can address the future needs of building owners (the needs you now understand). Communicate this understanding to customers not by making a sale, but by checking if the technologies and solutions you are aware of can actually solve their problems.
Ensure that you and your organization can deliver the solution. This will involve having the right resources in-house, maybe by way of partnerships, appropriate education and access to the necessary products and technology components. Finally, the industry (you as a stakeholder) must communicate that you can deliver.
Also, become active in the numerous industry organizations that offer continuing
education and information on convergence. Attend a conference such as BuilConn
whose main focus is convergence; this event delivers unbiased information while
providing invaluable networking opportunities where you can learn from your
peers and industry experts.
Every time I awkwardly drain pasta I think of that infomercial. I know that if I just call that 1-800 number then I can solve my problem. Just like the effective Toyota advertisement that led me to the dealership, I am drawn to solve my problem in the manner that those marketing campaigns propose to me. That is marketing!
Convergence in buildings is a certainty; Marketing Convergence can be as easy as 1-2-3.
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