Toronto, Canada, and Greenville, S.C., are two places with major smart cities in the works.
These ultraconnected destinations will reportedly have technology in place that tracks resident living conditions in the city, then responds accordingly to keep the city as pleasant as possible.
They’ll also be extremely energy efficient, and that typically requires installing LED lighting or other options that are brighter and use less electricity than older lamps.
With smart cities already deep in the planning phases, how will that change the daily work performed by electrical contractors? How can they plan for what’s ahead in the not-so-distant future?
Contractors will need to diversify their skill sets
To name just a few, some of the skill sets electrical contractors are likely to need most will be an understanding of smart electrical grids, new lighting technologies and power backup installations.
“With the growth of smart cities, the applications where generators are needed are increasing, creating opportunities for EC’s to expand their business and specialize,” said Roy Reuveni, CEO of Woodstock Power. “Losing electricity costs more money now than it ever did, and backup power systems are becoming a necessity more than a luxury. Generator installation is an important part of an EC’s job and can be a lucrative one as well."
Additionally, the lighting technology used in the smart cities of the future wasn’t even thought about when many electricians were receiving training for their occupations decades ago. That’s why analysts believe staying competitive and receiving steady streams of work requires electrical contractors to upgrade their skills and learn about concepts related to the internet of things (IoT).
Forecasted statistics from June 2017 indicate smart electrical grids and smart buildings are two of the most likely use cases for IoT technologies. If electrical contractors can learn the essentials of both, they’ll remain marketable in an evolving sector.
Schneider Electric is helping contractors prepare for the future by offering its EcoXpert badge program. Enrolled individuals learn about connected power, power metering, building-management systems and more. People who complete the training could easily command higher prices for their services because they possess the in-demand knowledge and are still in the minority.
Electrical contractors could sign on to other profitable projects
Some of the plans for smart cities envision a mixture of building types in them. There will be some that are purely residential, along with mixed-use buildings combining commercial and residential projects. When contractors complete projects related to smart cities, they could position themselves as experts ready to tackle other kinds of work.
The lighting costs in commercial buildings are particularly high. They can total as much as $38 billion annually, but a smart office building in Amsterdam uses up to 70 percent less energy than a conventional property of similar dimensions.
In addition to working on office buildings outside of smart cities, electrical contractors with up-to-date skills could approach the people responsible for other kinds of money-making ventures, such as property managers who oversee huge apartment buildings and are ready to cut costs.
“The more electrical contractors can offer their client, the more chance they have of retaining that client for a long time,” Reuveni said.
Electrical contractors can double as IT service installers
Today’s electrical experts are accustomed to communicating with plumbers or people who handle other types of utilities for a building. People who are following the impact of smart buildings and entire smart cities on the construction industry say IT services will be considered another type of essential utility, and it could be electrical contractors handling the installations.
ECs already install cables and power conduits in buildings, and connectivity for the lights, climate-control systems and data-collection devices will be just as important, because Wi-Fi is an essential component of most smart buildings.
The additional workload required for ECs may mean they have to reassess the demands placed on their time. They will also need to accommodate for the fact that electrical necessities associated with smart buildings might take more time to complete than those related to nonintelligent structures.
It will be necessary to stay familiar with advancements in LED lighting
LED lamps offer unmatched lumens per watt ratings. That is why they’re so popular for smart building applications. Forward-thinking ECs should stay abreast of the newest developments in LED lighting and start thinking about how those offerings could become part of future smart cities.
For example, LEDs can be paired sensors that turn them on as people enter a room. They can sync with surrounding light sources and turn on or off in harmony. With the possibility of programming lights to respond to expected occupancy levels and make a room brighter as more individuals fill it, controls matched with LEDs make for smart lighting.
Calculations also indicate full returns on investments for LEDs typically occur in a time span ranging from three months to three years. If the lighting strategies used in pioneering smart cities is as cost-effective as expected, there could be an influx of customers wanting to install the high-tech lighting in schools, hospitals and other buildings usually associated with high power outputs.
These are just some of the likely scenarios associated with the electrical needs of the future and the contractors that fulfill them.
If contractors start enhancing their skills now and anticipating what’s next, they can conquer the upcoming evolution instead of getting overtaken by it.