Chapter Corner

The IIOT and Me: How Connectivity Is Transforming the Electrical Contractor Role

Posted in: Features, September/October 2016

IIOT.gifThe rapid pace of technological change isn’t news to electrical contractors – who can’t go far without encountering such buzzwords as “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) and “digital transformation” – yet its full effect on the industry can be difficult to grasp.

This IIoT phenomenon is an evolution that has actually been underway for quite some time, and for electrical contractors the opportunities are endless. The old methods of doing work efficiently now seem dated and obsolete. Historically, they dealt exclusively with equipment that was neither connected nor smart. Today, connectivity has become inescapable because of the introduction of sensor- and communications-enabled equipment that can generate data.

As a result, the expectation is that all technology is interactive, digital, and connected. With more volume and variety in electrical spaces, there needs to be an increase in data-driven electrical equipment in these spaces. Many electrical devices are moving from simple, basic functionality to more advanced, connected functionality.

Here are the ways the electrical contractor’s role is being transformed:

The Need for Speed

Speed is the new currency of any action. The IIoT helps to analyze risk for a business in a way that proactively provides information back to the field team before an incident happens. Minimizing downtime and maximizing uptime are essential, and without communication and control through IIoT devices, electrical contractors are risking their business.

Visibility = Energy Efficiency

Connectivity creates visibility – and few areas are more essential for visibility than energy consumption. Data centers and other facilities measure power usage effectiveness (PUE), which calculates the ratio of total energy used by a data center to how much is used by the actual IT equipment in the data center. Total energy includes fundamental needs, like heating and cooling. Because the IIoT helps make energy usage visible in real time, electrical contractors can offer solutions that can better conserve heating and cooling in a way that is simple and connected.

Grooming the Next Generation of Talent

In the broad electrical services space, opportunities exist for contractors who understand the scope of what’s required to take advantage of the digitally-connected environment of the IIoT. Yet the key word is “understand”– as electrical contractors will need new skills to implement and master IIoT solutions. As they encounter more connected technologies, they should consider investing in their teams to expand skillsets and ensure employees will be able to handle a variety of system and IT-related assignments. 

The Electrical Contractor as IIoT Solutions Provider

Electrical contractors are increasingly expected to bring to the table a deeper understanding of how operational systems data is generated, collected, analyzed, and shared. Suppliers of products and services have the opportunity to envision and help deliver entirely new solutions, especially for those growing numbers of clients eager to dive deeper into IIoT applications. Service-oriented electrical contractors can stand out by presenting plug-and-play products to their customers and begin to position themselves as IIoT solutions providers.

Electrical contractors should continue to find ample demand in traditional application work, especially as power consumption, management, and reliability demands change to reflect the enhanced IT power needed for more data collection and analysis. They will be able to differentiate themselves from others by keeping up with changes in technology.

It’s no longer a question that technological connectivity and innovation will transform electrical contracting. The choice for contractors is simple: Evolve or get left behind.

Mohamed Shishani is the go-to-market strategy and launch manager for the low voltage products portfolio in Schneider Electric. In his 10 years with Schneider Electric, he has held positions such as senior low voltage product specialist- circuit breakers, OEM business development specialist, and project manager. In his current role, Mohamed introduced new technologies to the market in the area of electrical distribution systems and molded case circuit breakers.