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Changing channels

Julian Barkes, KNX UK board member and Director of electrical wholesaler group, BEMCO, explains why KNX is the right choice for the traditional electrical wholesale channel.

The wholesaler channel has always had the flexibility to take on new business opportunities and challenges. It’s embracing internet communication and online ordering, has adopted EDI technologies and, before too long, will interact with a new digital product database (ETIM). Wholesalers typically look to support customers on bigger projects, so they can call off products as needed, and increasingly try to get closer to key accounts by offering a better service and a better price than the next person. That is part and parcel of the cut-throat market we operate in; but how else can you differentiate, stand out and add value? The obvious way is to consider a new product line – but make sure it is smart and relevant.

Right now, smart control is a minefield. There are so many protocols claiming to be the best, and such a wide array of products, that it’s difficult to know which horse to back. None of us have a crystal ball, but we all need to take decisions to modernise our businesses and grow with the times. One thing is for certain, smart technology is here to stay. It will become more widespread, disrupting (and enhancing) the supply chain and providing opportunities for the wholesaler, installer and electrical industry alike. The traditional wholesaler with an ‘old school’ customer base is in a great position to meet this growing demand, even if they don’t know it!

Building controls

AT BEMCO we took a decision in 2014 to develop a new ‘Building Controls’ division focusing on the open KNX communications protocol. We felt that since KNX is a hard-wired solution unlike zigbee, z-wave Bluetooth, LiFi, etc., that it would play to the strengths of our existing customers. In other words, it is clearly differentiated from the DIY market that is based on an internet connection – as is the case for Nest, Alexa, Sonos, etc. KNX is a proven system, with a long history (28 years) and stands up to close scrutiny. In an age when proprietary systems come and go, KNX is here to stay – for new build or retrofit, whether projects are residential or commercial.

KNX is the world’s only open standard that enables smart installers to pick compatible controls from different manufacturers to build as big or small a system as they want, integrating and controlling lighting, heating, ventilation AV systems, security and more. All KNX-certified products speak the same language and can operate in harmony across the same network, which means much higher functionality can be delivered with less cabling. Compatibility is built in and guaranteed using a simple manufacturer-independent software tool (called ETS), which is centrally maintained and managed by the international and independent KNX Association.

Open protocol

Industry visionaries have long recognised the benefits of an open protocol. In fact, over 470 manufacturers, including the big names like ABB, BEG, Hager, Jung, Legrand, Schneider, Steinel, Theben, Wago, and Wieland, continue to invest in developing and certifying KNX compatible products; over 8,000 devices that talk to each other. All KNX products are required to be “backwards compatible” so that they can be used as a replacement or upgrade for existing installations, no matter how old. It’s an attractive, low-risk and flexible option. It’s no surprise then that there are some 83,000 KNX qualified installers around the globe.

Electrician opportunity

KNX offers a professional electrician a stepping stone to the smart home and buildings market and the opportunity to significantly increase their day rate and earnings potential. KNX applications span high end residential dwellings, Multi-Dwelling Units (apartments), commercial building Facilities Management, student accommodation, hotels and more.

It goes much further than just lighting control. The added value of KNX is that can bring in heating, audio, shading and security, enabling all functions to be controlled on the same switch, without having multiple apps or remotes.

Wholesaler opportunity

Is there room for more electrical wholesaler entrants to this market? Undoubtedly. Currently there are 5 KNX wholesalers in the UK (Bemco, Home of Technologies, IMP, Ivory Egg MyKNXStore). Yet there are approx. 2,500 branches of traditional electrical wholesalers in the UK. Clearly KNX is a long way from being mainstream but it’s the direction of travel that is key. According to BSRIA (Building Service Research and Information Association), KNX already accounted for 27% of the UK’s whole home smart systems market in 2017. Globally, that’s a fast-growing market, expected to double between 2017 and 2021 to reach $29.8 billion (from $15.8 billion in 2017).

So, if you’re looking for a product range or technology that is here to stay, that plays to the strengths of your existing customer base, that is poised for incremental growth, then you owe it to yourself to take a closer look at KNX.


If you would like to speak to any of the manufacturers – you’ll find their details by visiting: www.rdr.link/WH020



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