Factors Affecting Adoption
Electronic control systems represent a new technological approach for performing familiar functions. Turning on a light with an electromechanical toggle switch is currently the most common method; pressing a button on a keychain fob to accomplish the same task is new. There are several key factors, as specified in two primary sources , that affect the adoption of new technological approaches:
* Absolute price
* Assurance it will work
* Intensity of Need
* New learning required
* Perceived benefit/cost
One must consider all of these factors in determining whether electronic controls will replace electromechanical toggle switches. Wireless and powerline controls effectively address two factors in a positive way: absolute price and infrastructure. First, the cost of products based on these technologies is significantly less than traditional control systems installed by home systems integrators. Second, the infrastructure is already in place, so no new wires are needed.
Wireless and powerline controls are not as strong on the other adoption factors, however. Will the light switch work? Those familiar with the advancements in both powerline and wireless technology conclude that the switch will work. Some who have been frustrated with earlier generations of X10 technology might not reach the same conclusion.
One factor stands out above all others as gating adoption of electronic controls, including those based on wireless and powerline technologies: awareness. Most consumers are not aware that many of these systems even exist. If they hire an electrical contractor to fix an electrical problem or add wiring to a new room, will the contractor suggest a Z-Wave switch or UPB lighting control system? Not likely. Will consumers learn about the convenience and capabilities of electronic controls in a TV ad? Not likely. How are consumers learning about electronic controls? Unfortunately for manufacturers of electronic controls, the learning process is going slowly.
Several manufacturers and industry consortiums are working hard to build consumer awareness. They are working with consumer electronics and home improvement retailers to generate awareness by establishing dedicated sections in their stores to demonstrate control systems. They are participating in local home improvement shows to spread the word to contractors, interior designers, and consumers. These and similar activities are beginning to pay off; however, the most effective method for building awareness is by demonstrating benefits and capabilities as part of a process familiar to consumers.
One example is entertainment controls. Consumers are familiar with remote controls to turn on a TV, stereo, or DVD player. Add to these the capability to dim the lights, lower the shades, or lock the front door, and a typical consumer will understand the benefits. And there are other applications could drive adoption of wireless and powerline controls.
Applications Driving Adoption
Programmable thermostats may not be sophisticated, but they are a potential gateway for energy management systems. Similarly, security systems may be stand-alone alarm systems or connected to garage doors, lighting controls, and the HVAC system. With this kind of interconnected system, a home owner, by opening the garage door, could trigger a preset lighting scenario and switch the HVAC system to an occupied setting.
As installers of garage doors, security systems, and HVAC systems learn about these additional revenue opportunities, many will offer these systems to their customers. Educating various installers, electrical contractors, and other technicians who come in contact with consumers on a regular basis should be a priority for all home controls manufacturers.
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