In the next issue of Plumbing & HVAC Magazine there will be an article about the new electronic 'smart' equipment for residential bathrooms.
There are digital electronic shower valves that can be operated by a smart phone or, in a couple of cases, voice activated. One company has an interactive mirror that can serve as a 'nerve center' for the other electronics in the residential bathroom.
This is very different from commercial electronic lavatory equipment; it's all about comfort and convenience for the user rather than water conservation to save money for the building owner.
Well, I’m 63 years old and I look at all this stuff and wonder why anybody would want it. But then, when you understand how all the different components in the connected home function together, you must admit it's pretty neat and does offer significant comfort improvements.
The second thought that comes to mind is: what is a plumber supposed to do with a call along the lines of "I can't communicate with my shower"? Suddenly they go from tracing leaks to trying to solve wifi, software and internet issues. Much of this communicating equipment uses Amazon Alexa voice activation technology. Some will also use Apple Siri. Do you know how these programs work?
Apparently, the issue occurred to manufacturers too. They don't want to scare people away. So, the controllers provide digital fault codes that should pinpoint problems quickly and there are 1-800 help lines if the plumber – or homeowner – runs into trouble. But it's going to be a different world. It adds another skill set to the plumbing trade. The trade schools might want to look at this if they are not already doing so.
It's anyone's guess where this all leads. Will this level of electronics become commonplace or will it remain primarily a custom home feature? Marketing hype would have us believe that this is the way of the future because younger people will embrace it. And yet, among the young people I know, I detect a certain level of pushback against the intrusion of technology into every aspect of their lives. So, we shall see.
But, for the plumbing contractor, it's critical to keep abreast of the technology because there will be homeowners that do embrace it and some of them will be your customers!