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Times & Trends: Some Bumps & Bruises in the Early Days of IoT

May 17, 2017
IoT-enabled electrical devices are still in the early days of mainstream adoption, but some distributors and their customers have already bought into the Internet of Things.

One of the most interesting parts of my job as an EW editor has always been researching those technologies “just over the next hill” — those products that have not yet hit a point of critical mass in the marketplace where the majority of distributors are stocking them in their warehouses.

LEDs got to that point rather quickly. The technology isn’t perfect and you hear about issues with glare, concerns with inventory obsolescence, and uneven product quality from some lesser known offshore manufacturers. But all-in-all, the reception has been positive.

The Internet of Things (IoT) may or may not have as big an impact on the electrical market as LEDs, but there’s little doubt that it’s being integrated into electrical products for real-world applications faster than many folks realize. In this month’s cover story, “Real Talk on IoT,” EW explores several applications where IoT is already being used. And in the 2017 Top 200 survey that’s underway right now, Electrical Wholesaling asked distributors about their thoughts on IoT, and several have already identified it as a sales opportunity.

Said Tim Berry, president and CEO, Kriz-Davis Co., Grand Island, NE, “It’s here. We continue to see these opportunities on a frequent basis.”

The senior executive of a lamp specialist also sees the potential in the IoT. “We want to be knowledgeable and understand the technology as it changes,” said Doug Root, president & CEO, Atlanta Lighting Bulbs, Tucker, GA. “We get IoT and know it will play a big part in our future.”

And one New York-based lighting specialist has already run a seminar with some heavyweights in the Big Apple’s construction, real estate and design community. Said Thomas Ike, president, Chelsea Lighting, New York, NY, “Chelsea Controls and Technology, a division of Chelsea Lighting,  has run an IoT seminar in conjunction with CB Richard Ellis for 80 clients including architects, lighting designers, building owners and general contractors.  This event was supported by speakers from the following companies:  Eaton, Acuity, Ketra, Lutron, Rudin Management Co. and Intelligent Buildings.”

Several end users who responded to a survey of subscribers to the Illumination Insider e-mail newsletter that EW publishes with Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) also had some interesting comments on where IoT fits in the lighting world. IoT is apparently not for everyone, and concerns over system security surfaced in the survey. An electrical engineer with a Boston-based engineering-consulting firm is getting a cool reception on IoT from many customers. “Most of my clients request that no wireless or IoT be used on their facilities since they are convinced that wired controls are more reliable and not subject to glitches from the data network or by being  hacked over the Internet,” he said.

The IoT is already having a major impact on the market, and it’s time to look where it touches your  product portfolio and operations. This month’s cover story  may provide a good starting point for that research.