Managing a hotel’s heating and cooling equipment is integral to keeping costs and energy consumption down. As technology progresses, it’s become more and more apparent that machines are much better at managing energy than people. Smart thermostats have become de rigueur in many hotels (not to mention in people’s homes), and the tech just keeps getting better.
James McPhail is the CEO of Zen Ecosystems, a company that provides energy management solutions to businesses and consumers. Last year, the company launched Zen HQ, a cloud-based energy management platform that gives hoteliers with a dedicated facility manager an opportunity to reap the benefits of smart devices. McPhail spoke to LODGING about the value of smart systems in today’s hotel environment.
What made you want to launch smart devices in the hotel space?
Well, a lot of companies working on smart equipment have been focused on the residential segment. We made the conscious decision to go for the commercial space, rather than try to fight the big companies elbowing for shelf space in Home Depot. And while we can use some of the breakthroughs that lead to the rise of smart home thermostats, using this technology in a commercial space is much different. You can’t expect smart technology developed for a residence to be able to control the major HVAC systems in a hotel.
Why don’t smart thermostats designed for homes work in a hotel space?
The smart thermostats that people use in their homes aren’t able to customize temperature by room, and that just doesn’t work in the hotel space. Each space, each room, has its own thermostat. You need to be able to group your smart devices to make them effective. If you have to change each thermostat individually, even if you’re doing it remotely, it’s not much better than running around and changing them by hand. Therefore, you need a system that gives you the ability to name an area of your hotel and give it its own schedule or to make adjustments by floor.
What are the advantages of a platform that puts control of a hotel’s smart systems in one place?
So, a lot of the systems that already exist are kind of cobbled together, which means they aren’t very effective. There’s a lot of trial and error trying to figure out what works. You want to find something that is comprehensive because that way you ensure everything works the way that it’s supposed to. There are so many disparate systems where the platform and the thermostats are not communicating with each other, and they’re very complicated to learn. So, even if they work and save money, for something to be cost effective but difficult to manage isn’t really a win. A system that’s cost effective with a very simple platform, that’s the secret sauce.