As an HVAC manufacturer, are there any special issues I should be aware of when developing connected HVAC products?
While there’s no such thing as a “typical” Internet of Things (IoT) product, we most often associate connected or smart products with consumer appliances or electronics gadgets. Compared to these products, the biggest difference for connected heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) products is one of manufacturers’ mindset and approach.
Heating and air conditioning product designs are usually the result of slowly evolving processes, where designs are tweaked slightly over the years to allow for improvements and new features. This has resulted in legacy classes of products that stay relatively constant for a long time. Most heating and air conditioning designs don’t look much different from their predecessors 10 or 20 years ago.
In fact, they might be the very same systems. That’s the other thing about HVAC products: Once installed, they can remain in place for years, even decades. They’re not refreshed or replaced every few years, like consumer gadgets.
As a result, HVAC manufacturers aren’t used to rethinking their basic product designs from scratch. More often, HVAC product design can be described as a game to figure out how many new features can be squeezed into an existing product design without breaking it.
That approach doesn’t work for the IoT. The IoT is a complex interconnection of device, cloud, and mobile or web app technologies that all have to work together flawlessly. You can’t just introduce even a seemingly simple feature without considering all the ripple effects throughout the whole system.
To be successful with their connected products, HVAC manufacturers need to shift to an IoT perspective. At that point, they become more like every other manufacturer—facing the decision of whether to build all the IoT expertise they’ll need in-house, or to rely on an IoT platform instead.
There are also a number of best practices that HVAC manufacturers can consider when designing their connected systems.
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