Be a Systems Integration Hero! or The Rhombus Issue

The AV community is full of amazing people with whom you can share ideas and from whom you can learn an incredible amount.  I sat down with two just a few weeks ago who are not only AV geeks (I say that with nothing but love and respect) but who also challenge my way of thinking with regard to anything from AV and technology to business and food.  I welcome the challenge with open arms.  It means I get to expand my viewpoints and relate to others on different levels…AWESOME!

So when I found myself engaged in a discussion about energy management, I was all in.  It’s something I am passionate about.  I feel a there is a great need to educate our AV industry about the importance of sustainable and responsible practices.  But the challenge was (in this conversation, anyway) that energy management doesn’t mean energy conservation.  HUH!?! Come on, we are having a discussion about semantics?  Diving in further, I realize that the differences between energy management and energy savings go beyond the meaning of the words.  It challenges the assumptions in our industry about what your end users are getting from a project- and how they are using your intelligent system. And you know where assuming gets you.

Energy management can be the ability to shut down power from a very general sense (entire buildings) right down to devices (Boardroom 4’s projector).  You may even be able to control energy remotely, reducing the need for travel and allowing for immediate responses to requirement modifications.  It may allow you schedule on/off times with regard to lights, HVAC, security, communication and AV.  But when you think about it, turning items on isn’t saving energy.  Leaving devices on all day and then scheduling them to shut off at 9pm for 6 hours, may not be conserving the most electricity.  Energy management is simply being able to control energy usage.

Energy conservation, however, goes beyond energy management.  Simply defined, it is the ability to monitor, control and save energy.  There is a level of efficiency that energy management doesn’t always allow for.  That is, optimizing systems to perform when necessary at required levels based on scheduling, historic use, and manual operation.  Energy conservation is the conscious decision to run and manage systems most resourcefully, when necessary and while still being effective and not affecting or inhibiting productivity.

Audiovisual integrators and programmers are able to provide intuitive systems that allow the end user an endless combination of control functions for almost all energy sucking component in the AV world.  End- users can manage energy consumption from almost anywhere using many different controls (desktops, laptops, Ipads, touch screens, etc.)  The technology is amazing.  But taking management to the next level (easily and still intuitively) and reporting on trends/ history, turning reports into schedules, tweaking those schedules so they are the most efficient and useful  to the end user.  This saves energy and money too.

In educating our colleagues and clients, we have to remember: the concept of energy management can include energy conservation, but doesn’t always.  Like in High School math; a rhombus is always a quadrilateral but not all quadrilaterals are a rhombus (thanks Mr.Cardon)! (BTW- what is the plural of rhombus?)  Don’t assume that because you have designed and programmed an energy management system, that it will be used to save energy.  We have to help inform and train the end user about utilizing energy management capabilities to the fullest extent. They will save on energy cost, reduce energy consumption and all the while, be super impressed that you have created such an intelligent, intuitive and valuable system. You’ll be the hero!