Digitalization, defined here as the use of digital information and technologies to transform business processes, affects all industries. At its deepest, digitalization and the broader digital transformation that it produces even changes the nature of business. For several years now, BSRIA has followed its ramifications in the HVAC-R sector’s offering in the US and globally, specifically for BACS, controllers and field devices. Whether structural or simply bolt-on, we see these changes accelerated by the current pandemic, and likely even more so with the return to growth.
From the field up, it is first about digitizing and connecting signal inputs, although there are still a lot of legacy systems out there today with connected (or unconnected!) analogue sensors. Even among connected sensors, about two-thirds of sales in value in the US commercial sector are analogue wired sensors (with significant variations across the building stock). Yet, there is a movement towards more connectivity this year, particularly on Bus-connected devices, aided both by a market shift in commercial construction towards the higher end and by increased demand for IAQ overall. IoT sensors start from a very low base, but with a broader product offering, are poised for double-digit growth.
In terms of end uses, those sensors will collect a wider range of physical characteristics, notably IAQ, occupancy, lighting or safety-related ones, converging into the same BACS system. This convergence is naturally facilitated with connected systems, wired or wireless, overlayed or integrated. CO2 detectors, which already grew at close to a two-digit rate pre-pandemic, saw peak growth rates this year, and this will be continuing. This is particularly true in some verticals like schools, with US federal and state funding targeted for improved ventilation. Other digital sensors are geared more towards equipment performance per se, energy efficiency, reliability and resilience (all O&M, with remote capabilities).