BlueBOLT Heads for Expansion
In 2010, CustomRetailer followed the launch of Panamax/Furman’s Cloud-based power and management technology, BlueBOLT. We reported on what it took to get a product from concept into the hands of the end user: the design; the rigorous lab testing; the UL compliancy; the Alpha and Beta testing. And that’s just a small portion of what needs to occur prior to the electronic systems integrator being able to spec the product into a system, and provide a solution for their customer.
Well, it’s 2012, and the Panamax/Furman team is now ready to expand the BlueBOLT technology.
Says Panamax/Furman director of marketing, John Benz: “Since its launch, we’ve seen exponential growth and adoption of our BlueBOLT-hosted remote power and energy management platform. We have thousands of certified dealers, and on average, each dealer has three to five active BlueBOLT locations they’re managing—some have many more. For these dealers, our latest update included location sorting and filtering, allowing them to easily manage a large number of locations to quickly navigate to the one they want to control. We’re seeing hundreds of new device activations every month. To give you an idea of the adoption rate, the number of new device activations in May and June of 2012 exceeded the total number of activations in [BlueBOLT’s] inaugural year of 2010.”
Interestingly, according to Benz, integrators are primarily using the platform for real-time outlet control, as opposed to energy monitoring and management. About 80 percent of the traffic on the site goes directly to the device control screen. This screen is typically used to execute a hard remote reboot, and a visit usually indicates that a system has been serviced immediately and remotely without a physical service call. While a smaller percentage of integrators are using the energy management features—budgeting, alerts, scheduled conservation, etc.—the overwhelming usage of BlueBOLT is for remote system monitoring and maintenance.
“Where we’ve seen a higher adoption of the energy management features is in commercial installations,” Benz said. “This isn’t terribly surprising when you think about it—many of these installations are in light commercial facilities such as small businesses, houses of worship or educational campuses that are on a tight budget. These facilities can make a significant impact on their utility bills by managing their energy usage through scheduled power commands, shedding power loads during non-use hours and eliminating waste. The ability to provide this service is giving system designers and installers a competitive edge.”
With the upcoming MD2-ZB smart plug, integrators will be able to expand the benefits of BlueBOLT outside of the system rack, opening up a wide range of new applications for the platform. Panamax/Furman expects to see more installers providing their clients with control permissions so they can use the platform, in addition to a higher adoption of the energy management features in residential installations.
“The monitoring features alone—being able to see how much energy different electronics and appliances around the house are using, and how much it costs—will be an attractive feature for many homeowners,” Benz added. Add to that the ability to schedule conservation commands, and there’s a great value-add for the installer.
“Or perhaps the homeowner isn’t concerned about their utility bills,” he continued. “They just want to monitor when their kids are watching TV, keep the PlayStation from turning on during homework hours, or have some lamps turn on and off when they’re away from home to simulate occupancy. Maybe they’d like to receive alerts from their vacation home or rental when power is being used when it shouldn’t be. Maybe the client just wants to be able to reach over to their smartphone and turn off the lamp they left on downstairs when they went to bed. There are all kinds of applications that go beyond system monitoring and maintenance, beyond energy management, and into peace of mind and lifestyle improvement. This is where we get very excited about the potential of the platform.”
Currently, the company is in active alpha testing with the new products and is prepping for a dealer beta, much as it did with the launch of the M4315-PRO and M4320-PRO. The web development team is working on the cloud/GUI side of things to provide more information on the control and monitoring screens, while keeping it simple so it’s not overwhelming to end-users. They’ve added new development resources, and have over 100 new features that are currently being built. The company is providing incremental updates to the platform at a more aggressive pace than ever before.
“The key for us during all of this activity,” Benz suggested, “is to continue to listen to our dealers. Too many developers and manufacturers seem to silo themselves because they think they know their audience better than their audience does. Some of the strongest feature ideas we get come from our dealer community. We truly appreciate and value all of the feedback they provide.” CR
Next month, CustomRetailer talks to Panamax/Furman BlueBOLT dealers, and takes a closer look at the new products.