It appears in the last few years that HAI has branched out into other markets such as expanding your International Business and getting into the Smart Grid business. Can you elaborate on this?
Correct. HAI has a long term plan to expand by entering new markets and businesses that are related to our core automation business. We have a remarkably capable product line and a desire to tailor products to specific International markets with languages and products that are familiar to the market. When considering new lines of business, we take stock of our engineering expertise and make sure that we can be a technical leader in the field, as is the case with Smart Grid.
What advice would you pass to other companies planning on International expansion?
Have Patience! It doesn’t happen overnight.
Where is the hottest overseas market at this time?
All of our markets are doing well, helped by a more favorable currency exchange rate, yet hindered in some markets by trade restrictions.
What new products has HAI announced this year or will be announcing specifically for the International markets?
Our most prominent introductions have been user interfaces in international languages: The OmniTouch touchscreens, PCAccess and Automation Studio software packages, apps for Apple and Android mobile devices and all documentation for controllers. Next is our Omni-Bus 220V lighting control system, a hybrid hardwire and wireless lighting control system using DIN-rail components, a high speed bus with simplified wiring and wireless components that can mix and match as the installation requires. It is fully integrated with HAI controllers yet is also a stand-alone lighting system. The next-generation HiFi 2 has international language support and a universal power supply for use worldwide. We support advanced variable air conditioners from Daikin, Toshiba, Sanyo and Mitsubishi. And there is more to come.
What products does HAI offer for the Smart Grid industry and are these products also available through your dealers?
HAI offers a family of products under the name HAI Smart Grid Solutions. This family of products is designed for consumers with smart meters installed by their electric utility, and are designed to keep customers informed of their energy usage and also to allow them to participate in incentive programs offered by utilities to shift usage to off peak times. They are the In-Home Display (IHD), Programmable Communicating Thermostat (PCT) and several Load Control Modules (LCM). HAI is very advanced in its use of ZigBee Pro Smart Energy Profile, and has deployed with two major meter manufacturers and tested extensively with all others. These products are currently being sold directly to utilities or their subcontractors, however, we have gateways to bridge the smart grid information (cost of energy, current usage, peak, etc.) to an HAI home automation system for our dealers.
Is the Smart Grid business active yet or is there some ramping up yet to come?
Utilities, being large regulated entities, move at glacial speeds. When they make the decision to do something, they move at flank glacial speeds. However, conservation, demand response and energy management are every bit as important as finding new sources of energy and reducing dependence on and pollution from fossil fuels. Consumers are just beginning to understand how they can help without sacrificing comfort and convenience. Utilities are learning how to incentivize consumers to help them lower their costs without hurting the bottom line. There is lots of ramping up to come.
Do your Smart Grid products communicate and interact with your Home Automation products?
They do. Today, our radio equipped Omnistat2 thermostat can communicate with a smart meter using ZigBee Smart Energy Profile, and also send that information to an Omni or Lumina controller using the wired connection. We are working on gateways and other products that do this differently as the market and technology progress.
What is HAI’s plan for expanding sales in your core Home Automation markets here in the US?
Our strategy for core markets is twofold. One: Easier installation and retrofit (for example, our wireless thermostats, load control modules and remote displays); and Two: HAI is offering Product Line “verticals”, such as Energy Management and Multi Room Audio that can be sold as stand alone systems as well as connecting to a central controller. This makes it easier for an HAI Dealer to offer exactly what a customer wants.
As a recognized industry leader with over 25 years experience what do you feel will be the driving force for the automation industry in the next 5 to 10 years?
We are firmly convinced that every premise should have automated control for comfort, convenience and safety along with remote access. Security and energy management are a natural fit, since one system provides information (occupancy, mode, etc) to the other, and both are things that we want remote access on our smart phones and mobile devices. This helps with energy savings. That’s the practical side of the business. The fun side of the business is the built-in audio, music servers and colorful touch-screens. So the driving force will be all of the above especially as we are increasingly connected in this world.