Episode 119: Automated Home Energy Control Systems with Amazing Controls
GreenTalk Radio Host Sean Daily talks about using technological components to remotely manage every aspect of your home’s energy and security systems with Raj Marya, President and CEO of Amazing Controls!
Sean Daily: Hi, and welcome to GreenTalk, a podcast series from GreenLivingIdeas.com. GreenTalk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors, and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products, and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Sean Daily: Hey, everyone, this is Sean Daily. Thanks as always for listening in today on GreenTalk radio from GreenLivingIdeas.com and Personal Life Media. This is Sean Daily, Editor in Chief, and I have with me Raj Marya today to talk with me about the topic of home automation and control, as well as for businesses, and we'll get into what that means in a minute. Raj is the president and CEO of a company called Amazing Controls Technology. So first of all, Raj, welcome to the program.
Raj Marya: Thank you very much.
Sean Daily: So, I understand that you met Tim Bratton, who is a mutual contact of ours. Tim actually is the co-founder, with his wife Susan, of Personal Life Media, which is now the network host for the GreenTalk radio show. And Tim's a big visionary, he's a guy who's been in the industry for a long time, and actually founded Rhapsody, the music service, if anybody out there has heard of that, and I understand that he met you, you guys were at a friend's birthday party, and you were talking about how your company is basically doing green control systems for homes and corporations, and he was sufficiently impressed by the conversation so as to tell me that I needed to talk to you. So, I'd love to hear more about, why don't we start with just the story of yourself and how Amazing Controls came to be.
Raj Marya: Well, we basically started over ten years ago with the concept of building smart homes and smart buildings, and as we got into the practice of really putting intelligence into these structures, we came across the idea of wanting to make the buildings more efficient in how they operate, and then also it became very interesting and important to us to make the buildings coexist with the environment more symbiotically. We noticed that there was a lot of efficiency that could be achieved in terms of how energy was being used, how water was being used throughout irrigation systems and so on and so forth. It was an exciting opportunity to really try and change the way that buildings were operating.
Sean Daily: Now I understand, my previous conversations along these lines with regards to automation and control technologies as they relate to sustainable living and green building and such has been limited to really the idea of – the very important idea, however – of, the fact that in order to really regulate, properly regulate and optimize the energy usage in a home, you have to, well, you really need to employ these kinds of technologies, because it's very difficult in a manual way to monitor, for example, every room in the home or building. Or even things like turning lights on an off; those types of automations are, you see them a lot in commercial buildings, you don't see them in the home as much, but they make enormous differences. So is that pretty much the root of it, or does it go beyond that?
Raj Marya: It goes even beyond that. What you were just saying reminded me of my childhood when my father would always remind me that money doesn't grown on trees and to turn the lights off as I'm leaving the room. Unfortunately, many parents are familiar with that problem, and the children don't always respond as ideally as we would like. So, where the automation side of things comes into play, with doing things like occupancy detection and rolling back temperatures based on occupancy of the property, we can achieve significant reductions in energy usage to the tune of roughly 30-40% energy reductions just through adding intelligence on how things are being kept 'on' and 'off' and potentially even rolling back, not to completely 'off', but rolling back to a set point where it's reduced significantly.
Sean Daily: And so is it – what I was mentioning about, is it dynamic allocation, like automatic detection of where people are in a certain building?
Raj Marya: That can be done as well. It depends on how intrigued someone is with making their building efficient. So, there's basic levels that things can be done and implemented in a building all the way to very sophisticated levels, which are being done more in the corporate side of things. We have seen in the commercial buildings people have taken things a little bit further with occupancy detection. In a home it's not been done as extensively as yet, rather than, well, in the high-end home construction it's been experimented with quite a little, quite a bit.
Sean Daily: Yeah, and that's one of the things that I'm wondering if it's still there where it's only in the high-end commercial and residential structures that you get to have these sorts of technologies, or are they coming down where sort of, you know, it's becoming an everyman's technology that's in the grasp of more people.
Raj Marya: It is definitely becoming more everyman's technology. The way we've seen it over our ten-year history is that today, people are starting to realize, that there's an awareness that's really come about that there's a critical need to change the way that we're impacting our environment, and that carbon emissions matter. In my childhood, people didn't really know about carbon emissions; we didn't have any concern, or even awareness about them. Now, people are starting to build their homes with a consciousness, and they're starting to think about how they can change their impact on the environment. So, there are relatively inexpensive ways of impacting your energy usage that can be implemented today.
Sean Daily: Great. Well, we're going to take a pause right here to get a quick word from our sponsors on the show, and then we'll be right back. We're talking with Raj Marya, who's the president and CEO of Amazing Controls Technologies, and we're talking about automation and control systems for homes and businesses. Thanks everyone, and we'll be right back.
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Sean Daily: Okay, and we are back with Raj Marya, president and CEO of Amazing Controls Technologies, and we're talking on automation and control for homes and businesses. And Raj, I wanted to ask you about the technologies that you've developed at Amazing Controls, and what makes them so different than anything else that's out there.
Raj Marya: Well, we have actually been taking the strategy of trying to control the controllers. So, basically, there have been approaches where many of the controller networks that have been integrated into buildings so far have been very much standalone, and we've noticed that if you actually integrate all of these systems that are going on in the building, you can leverage intelligence within each of the systems and make things operate more efficiently as a whole.
Sean Daily: What you just described sounds exactly like the difference between a Mac and a PC. Now I can say that because I'm a well-known Windows guru, or at least an ex-Windows guru, and we've moved to Apple Macs, and I have to say it's like all the programs talk to each other and it works great, whereas in Windows, getting these things to talk, programs or anything, is a total nightmare. And I know I sound like the commercial, but it's totally true. So you guys are basically the Apple Macintosh of the home control industry.
Raj Marya: We find that to be a tremendous compliment. We actually started our platform on the Mac OS when we started twelve years ago due to the fact that networking on a Mac was much easier to achieve. We look at Apple as being a company that looks at simplifying things, and that's really been a strategy we've tried to map out, because if you cannot make it simple and as painless as possible, and, we're also noticing, as economical as possible, people will continue to live the way they're living, impacting the environment in a severe and very negative way. But we believe that in the future, one's carbon footprint is going to potentially even be more important than their own financial statements. So it is important that this information can be presented simply to the user and they can make simple choices within how they want to live their lives, that the system can then do all of the tasking to figure out, how do I make this work the best and the most efficiently with that, and reduce the carbon footprint most significantly.
Sean Daily: Now I'm curious, I mean, sort of aggregating these together and making them work, that must be quite a technological challenge with the disparate amount of different types of controls and technologies that exist. How do you guys really do that? Does it require working with specific vendors only, or how do you achieve that?
Raj Marya: It literally is a difficult task. We've been working on it for such a long period of time, and I think that the way that we've learned how people build their systems, and how they develop their protocols, and how to work with them and integrate them and to get the best performance out of them is something that we've mastered over a period of time doing such work. It's interesting to see how you can learn to take what someone else has done and optimize it and then leverage that, but it is a work that we've had to do for a significant amount of time.
Sean Daily: And so you say you've been, I think you had mentioned you were in business for ten years? Where are you guys in your arc right now, what's going on, both in the industry and also with the company that's exciting, new and exciting and that people can really look forward to in terms of tangible products and technologies?
Raj Marya: Well, what I'm really excited about is that the term 'green' has become so popular today, and I think it's very much a credit to Vice President Al Gore and his documentary An Inconvenient Truth that people have started to realize that there are things that are happening, and we are becoming more and more aware. So in our industry, while people are still talking about the concept of 'smart homes' and 'smart buildings', at Amazing Controls, we are focusing specifically on 'smart green buildings'. So, we believe that the terms necessarily go together, and we don't believe that it makes any sense to build a smart building any more that is not green. It's becoming increasingly important for people to understand that a smart green building is the practice of increasing efficiency with which all the buildings use energy and resources and reducing the building's impact on human health and our environment.
Sean Daily: And it's interesting, I've seen this in practice, it's pretty amazing, with I think more current technologies, and I was pretty blown away. A previous guest of this show, Wenny Chang, who is a green hotel developer for the Atman Hospitality Group. They have the only gold, I believe it's gold-certified, it could be platinum, but I think it's gold-certified hotel for LEED-certification in the United States, or it was the first one, in any case, and I had the opportunity to go and stay in the hotel for a night to check it out to observe the technologies and how they were running it. It was really amazing, I mean, the dials and controls that they actually were using to monitor water usage, power usage, and various other things throughout the hotel were actually shown in the lobby.
Raj Marya: Wow.
Sean Daily: They had these big LED screens where they were actually showing you, in real time, what the actual usage was in the facility. And I realize it's a little bit away from what you're doing, but it's just amazing to see what can be done with these technologies in both, again, commercial and residential installations. It's pretty amazing.
Raj Marya: Well, absolutely. In fact, we're actually leveraging some incredible technology today where we can calculate the real-time footprint of one's building or their home all the way from the entire structure down to each architectural room in the building, down to each device running in the room.
Sean Daily: So, what is your definition of a smart green building, in your world?
Raj Marya: A smart green building, to us, is something that gives human beings a symbiotic experience with the environment. So it's operating intelligently and efficiently. It's giving peace of mind in terms of how it's operating, how it's functioning within the environment, and it's very conscious and very aware. We've seen the era of unintelligent and inefficient buildings in the past. We believe that smart green buildings are intelligent and efficient buildings.
Sean Daily: You know, that's, for me, I think, the most frustrating thing about this, is the lack of general knowledge and availability of the products on the market. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I'll use myself as an example. So, I'm a guy who is definitely a technologist and obviously very much into green living, having founded this business and doing this show, and I will admit, mea culpa, I do not have systems like this in place in my home. It's a remodeled home, it's a thirty-something-year-old house, and it's something that I would love to do, but it's very, very difficult to. I'm very much afraid, coming from a technology background, of having these incompatible systems, or products that are outdated, or cheap products that are tailored towards the home market that don't quite work the way they're supposed to. It holds me back. As a technologist, I wait for standards to come that everyone rallies around, and sometimes that's, I mean, having watched the DVD wars with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, everybody knows how that can go, but you do, you wait, okay, Blu-Ray wins, then you jump in. And sometimes I feel like that about this particular part of the industry, is that we're all sort of waiting for something that we can rally around, not only from a technology standpoint, but from a, quite frankly, for people to be able to go over to Home Depot and just pick it up and it works, and it's easily installable, or maybe a little help from your local handyman or contractor. That's where the rubber meets the road and that is where mainstream momentum occurs where we can get that kind of – and I've found it frustrating to watch this industry from its early beginnings in the high-end to now to still not see that. Do you feel that you guys are making inroads in that direction?
Raj Marya: Definitely, we do. We think that just the fact that people are understanding that a vast majority of all energy usage in the world is coming from buildings; they're realizing that if we can just even affect a small number, as little as 10% of the world's buildings, there have been experts that have estimated that that would have the impact of removing hundreds of thousands of cars from the road per day. So when people are starting to see that it can literally translate, instead of, which we do believe is important that other technologies need to come about, but also, it's important to look at the existing technologies that are out there and optimize them to reduce carbon emissions. So, it's now coming to a point where people are understanding that there is a need to implement such systems, and I do believe standards are in the very, very near future, and we hope to be a part of making those standards come about.
Sean Daily: Okay, well great. We're going to take one more break, and then we're going to come back and I want to talk about the all-important concept of the money side of this, and so we'll discuss that. My guest is Raj Marya, he's the president and CEO of Amazing Controls Technologies. We're talking about automation and control systems for homes and businesses. This is Sean Daily, we'll be right back.
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Sean Daily: Okay, everybody. We're back. This is Sean Daily. I'm talking with Raj Marya, who is the president and CEO of Amazing Controls Technologies, and they do automation and control systems for homes and businesses, and we're talking about really greening your home, and your commercial building, with these types of technologies. And we were talking about what I would call 'green leverage' before, Raj, before the break, about, really, I think it's like an 80/20 principle, the 20% can affect 80% of the outcome if you really turn the right dials and pull the right levers –
Raj Marya: Definitely.
Sean Daily: – and that's important, but the question that ultimately comes up, both on the residential and commercial fronts, is how is this actually going to save me money. So let's talk about, we've talked a little about the residential side, let's talk about the commercial side. How do these technologies actually save companies money, or do they?
Raj Marya: They absolutely do. So that's actually the interesting thing to me, is it's now becoming economically reasonable for companies to pay attention to going green and to monitoring their energy usage. We were recently talking to a company who was spending over a million dollars a month in their energy usage, and to reduce their energy usage by 30-40% means they're literally saving $300,000-400,000 a month.
Sean Daily: Wow.
Raj Marya: So, it can become quite significant. And the neat thing to me is that if you can present those kinds of financial savings to companies, all of a sudden, they have a financial incentive to go green. And it's starting to become a movement that people are understanding that great, I can save green, in my wallet, with American dollars, and I can start to go green and be environmentally friendly and very conscious and aware of how I'm changing my carbon footprint.
Sean Daily: And that's, I mean, for me, personally, I don't care how these companies get into things. I don't care if it's intrinsic motivation from a higher spiritual calling, or if it's from, they started with finance, but, I mean, the point is that it gets done at this point, as a planet –
Raj Marya: Exactly.
Sean Daily: – as a species, and for the sake of the planet, I think it's important that those who have the greatest usage, who have the greatest resources, are getting on board and making these decisions. Who cares how they get there.
Raj Marya: Exactly, and the neat thing is there, is I've had debates with certain facility managers where they've literally told me that they don't believe that the green movement is necessary, and I said okay, well, let's take that topic aside for a moment: are you interested in saving your company this type of money? And that answer is always 'yes'.
Sean Daily: Yeah, that'll be a universal and permanent truth, that companies will always be interested in saving money, and also staying competitive. I mean, one of the other things is public perception, which has luckily swung in the direction of needing to be green. I think 'green' has gotten really watered down. We use it when we have to use it on this show and on the website because of brand name recognition, right, the color green means something? But unfortunately it's also lost almost all definition. It's become very ambiguous as a term. What's 'green', right? So I think it always bears definition within whatever topic is being discussed, but the important thing is, too, is that these companies, the companies that are the laggards, that are the sort of green Luddites if you will, are being, I don't want to say shamed into it, but they are getting a lot of peer pressure and market pressure to, in a real way, and not in a greenwashing way, get on board both internally as well as with their products and their services and technologies. So that's all a very positive thing.
Raj Marya: Definitely.
Sean Daily: Well, I think – oh, I have one more question for you before we sign off, and again on the money theme, is, how much more do you see this costing? I mean, you gave me a case study a second ago that clearly there was a pretty quick ROI, I imagine. Maybe we can talk about a smaller business, or a home scenario. What is the price premium that one should expect to pay for these types of technologies over, say, just a normal building installation, and what's a typical ROI window, return on investment window, for someone investing in these types of control technologies?
Raj Marya: On the house side of things, we still have a lot more research to be done in terms of giving specific figures, but we do believe that energy savings can reach that 30% type figure. We have seen systems cost as little as around $10,000, and they are hopefully going to become more and more affordable as we go forward.
Sean Daily: Good to know. Well, Raj, thank you so much for being on the program with us today, it's been a pleasure.
Raj Marya: Thank you for having me.
Sean Daily: Yeah, definitely our pleasure. Good information, and we wish you much success with Amazing Controls Technologies, and certainly keep us posted as things move on.
Raj Marya: Thank you, and we hope to take a look at your house and see about doing an investigation about making your home into a smart green home.
Sean Daily: Well, we need help. (laughs) We're by no means at the pinnacle of it. Great, my guest today has been Raj Marya, president and CEO of Amazing Controls Technologies. They're online at www.amazingcontrols.com.
Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today. Remember, for more free, on-demand podcasts, articles, videos, and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com. We'd also love to hear your comments, feedback, and questions. Send us an email at [email protected]