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Guest Editorial: Crossing the Smart Device Frontier

HVAC contractor business owners and their field technicians are uniquely positioned to spearhead new waves of energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

General contractor, professional HVAC contractor or technician —whichever the preferred designation—these professionals are called upon during times of need and provide critically functional roles to daily operations in both homes and small businesses. Technicians are welcomed into buildings daily, as advisers on key devices and systems. However, the professional contractor’s business up until now has traditionally been a service offering: cleaning out a ventilation system, upgrading an air conditioning unit or repairing ductwork. Given the huge costs and opportunity for impact that HVAC systems present, often technicians have unprecedented access to the largest energy devices. As a result, they are uniquely positioned to spearhead new waves of energy efficiency in the home and small businesses because they are already there as trusted allies. The future of these professionals means adding smart technologies to their toolbelts.

The Rise of the Modern Contractor
Smart applications for hiring contractor professionals like Task Rabbit, Thumbtack and Home On Demand are signs that the modern contractor is connecting to more customers through layers of technology. However, this is just the beginning of a tech-enabled development for the contracting industry. By rolling more smart technology — like software platforms and IoT devices— into their business offerings, modern technicians can offer more impact and value to their customers—and their wallets.

Interconnectivity is becoming the norm for device management, and it also fosters strategies for preventative maintenance and optimization services. 

iPhone culture and the wider wireless explosion are establishing new norms where people want access to everything from their smart phones. Interconnectivity is becoming the norm for device management, and it also fosters strategies for preventative maintenance and optimization services that technicians can offer as a new value-add. For example, when servicing a building’s boiler after an issue, a technician can recommend monitoring technology that enables greater insight into the device’s operations before a problem occurs. Wireless-enabled technology can be a huge driver for customer adoption since techs don’t need to rewire the entire building to integrate new products—it can fit right in with their existing professional footprint.

Wireless-enabled technology can be a huge driver for customer adoption since techs don’t need to rewire the entire building to integrate new products—it can fit right in with their existing professional footprint.

 

Astute handymen can observe the best areas of opportunities for improved functionality by listening to clients and noticing details while on the job. For example, are HVAC issues arising from overuse or misuse? Automated technologies that optimize scheduling and offer remote control could be a helpful solution. This proactive mindset creates opportunities to incorporate smart technology products as an extension of service offerings in response to customer needs. With that direct access and insight, handymen can play an integral role in the rollout of surging home automation technologies, which is estimated to be worth $123 billion between now and 2021.

Is There an App for That? How to Build Smart Technology Packages
How the modern contractor rolls out smart technology hardware and software solutions will be unique to each business and customer. Technicians' proximity to and relationships with their customers are key tools for building effective product solutions. One easy steppingstone is the smart thermostat, which can answer questions like “how is my air conditioning working?” and offer conveniences like smart phone integration—all without new wiring. Then technicians can package other solutions onto that foundation, such as lighting control, energy load switch control, security features, cameras, door locks, window locks or sound detection.

Smart technology solutions creates a physical connection between customer and the contractor's brand and company. It reminds them of their value.

Ultimately, deciding which technologies to add to the toolbelt should be shaped by individual expertise, customer relationships and professional goals. An indirect yet compelling benefit for technicians and contracting businesses offering a smart hardware solution is that it creates a physical and positive connection for their customers to their brand and company—daily reminders of their value. Technicians have always been trusted with our most critical energy devices. With the rise of wireless technology, technicians are well positioned to capture that momentum and bring optimization and preventative maintenance to their customers and their most active energy devices.

James McPhail is CEO of Zen Ecosystems.

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