September 2016

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EMAIL INTERVIEWAndy Mealor and Ken Sinclair

Andy Mealor, National Account Manager, WEMS Limited

Andy is national account manager for WEMS Limited, specialists in wireless BEMS technology. Andy has 38 years’ experience in building controls. Having previously worked for Johnson Controls and Siemens, Andy has been with WEMS for the last 16 years.

Using wireless IO for everyday BMS applications

To achieve 30-40% project savings it’s going to take a change in your approach to system design. If you’re used to working with hardwired alternatives, you’ll be moving from a highly centralised I/O installation to a distributed model.

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Sinclair:   Wireless IO has been around a while now and you guys specialise in it. Why do you think more systems integrators haven’t adopted wireless IO?

MealorThere are many misconceptions surrounding the use of wireless IO, namely that it’s too expensive and is only robust enough for use in niche applications.

We’re working to dispel the myths and explain why wireless I/O is not only affordable, but gaining in popularity is mainstream applications such as retail stores.

Most systems integrators have used wireless technology, but only sparingly for either niche applications or in small volumes – a room sensor here or there for example. These days, things are very different: Our wireless technology is now so robust, that it’s completely reliable for use in a 100% wireless capacity and is live in this capacity in over 5,500 buildings throughout the UK.
Sinclair:   What are the benefits of using wireless IO over more traditional hard-wired systems?

MealorOur wireless I/O is proven to deliver very significant additional profit margin to systems integration businesses. However, in order to achieve 30-40% project savings it’s going to take a change in your approach to system design. If you’re used to working with hardwired alternatives, you’ll be moving from a highly centralised I/O installation to a distributed model.
Sinclair:   What is the difference between centralised wired I/O and distributed wireless I/O?

MealorA highly centralised I/O system is characterised by concentrated I/O hardware in a single area, with network or hard-wired connections extending from that location to the controlled plant. In contrast, a highly distributed I/O system has the I/O hardware distributed across many operational and physical areas, often adjacent to the plant they’re controlling with localised network or hard-wired connections extending from these remote locations to the plant itself.
Sinclair:   Which route offers the best project outcome?

MealorIn reality, many systems are not completely centralised or distributed in terms of either I/O or control. While the control design imposes some limits on the degree in which it is possible to centralise or distribute I/O systems, expert system designers will be able to strike the right balance by combining the best of both worlds.

For many system designers, this will require a change in mindset when surveying sites. Rather than seeking to connect all plant centrally (which in turn impacts on increased labour costs), their priority is to identify labour savings made possible by using distributed I/O throughout the project. it’s only by combining the two, that you can achieve an optimum system for both the client and yourself.
Sinclair:   But isn’t wireless more expensive than wired I/O?

MealorAlthough the cost of the hardware for wireless I/O may be a little more expensive than their wired counterparts, the labour savings for installation are such that total job costs come in significantly cheaper. Once the number of cables runs become apparent and any difficult terrain or material (for example asbestos) have been overcome, the labour cost on the project could be cheaper. Typically, our wireless I/O can contribute to project savings of around 25-30% (in comparison to hardwired alternatives).

The cabling/labour cost isn’t the only benefit; wireless installation also causes less noise, less mess, less disruption, usually requires no out-of-hours working and greatly reduces the chance of running into asbestos.

Using wireless I/O to intelligently plan your projects could provide a huge competitive advantage to your business. Not only does it allow you to be more competitive on price, but due to a reduced install time you can complete more jobs in a calendar year. Across an estate of retail outlets, for example, this has the potential to deliver considerable savings for both client and integrator.
Sinclair:   Do you have a real life example of where this has worked?

MealorYeah, sure. At a mid-sized high street store in Essex, two quotes were provided by one of our systems integrators Aimteq, one based on a hard-wired system and another based on distributed wireless technology (WEMS wireless I/O) – both systems featured Tridium Niagara head-ends. Although the equipment costs were more expensive for the wireless system, this paled into insignificance when adding up the labour costs.

For the wireless system, third party installation along with labour costs for project management and engineering worked out to be some 52% less than the equivalent system based on hard-wired technology. The latter would demand around 10 days on site, as well two extra days for the engineering process, and longer commissioning time. Conversely, the wireless system would only necessitate five days on site. Clearly, this is a result of simpler system configuration in terms of wiring runs, connections and modifications to the fabric of the building.

As a result, the total cost of the wired system for this particular store amounted to 15,796.60, whereas the total cost of the wireless system was 11,505.90, giving the customer an impressive 27% saving. What’s more, as the store is part of a nationwide chain, the potential savings for the business as a whole are enormous.
Reliable Controls Sinclair:   Is wireless technology sufficiently robust?

MealorYes, the days of wireless I/O only being suitable for niche applications are long gone. Furthermore, even though modern wireless I/O modules are industrial grade, today’s robust wireless solutions are much more than the sum of their individual parts; they are the result of innovative integration with consideration given to every aspect of the overall system.

Sinclair:   Is wireless always the best option?

MealorNot always. There are times when mixing hard-wired systems with wireless solutions offers the best value. Understanding when this applies is a vital role of the technology supplier and system integrator.

Sinclair:   Does it integrate with other systems?

MealorYes, it does. The WEMS I/O system has been designed to work as a standalone BEMS or can be connected to other systems, including Trend, Niagara, Schneider, Cylon, Johnson Controls and Honeywell via BACnet.
Sinclair:   Are there any other advantages for end users?

MealorThe ease with which a wireless system can be installed means less disruption for both staff and customers at retail outlets, warehouses, depots, museums, historic buildings and so on. Furthermore, should the facility expand at any time in the future, ease of system scalability can be very beneficial. Likewise, if a customer chooses to change premises, our wireless I/O is completely portable. It can move with the client, be re-installed and re-commissioned to work within their new building.
Sinclair:   What are the advantages for system integrators?

MealorThe simplicity of wireless systems means that system integrators are able to complete around 30% more installations on average in comparison with installing hard-wired systems, thus enabling the business to take on more work, generate additional revenue and stimulate growth.

Further benefits include the potential to spend less time on site and reduce out-of-hours working. Needless to say, the ability to avoid any potential contact with asbestos is also highly desirable.
Sinclair:   If our readers have a project they’d like to use this on, can you provide some help and support?

MealorOf course we can. If you have a project that you would like some advice on (whether it’s UK or internationally), we’re more than happy to chat. We can provide a free telephone consultation or perhaps even a site visit in order to assess how our products could fit into your proposed system. To get in touch email or call us directly on +44(0)161 694 0115.


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