Why 250 Million KNX Devices Is More Than Just A Milestone

  • KNX announces 27 years’ growth has led to the manufacture of their 250 millionth device.
  • Longevity’s key reasons: trustworthiness, inter-operability, and backwards compatibility of all devices.
  • The growth of brand has led to regional technical standardisation in Australasia – the basis of further awareness and expansion towards a goal of becoming the accepted “foundation stone” of a good building.

When KNX President Franz Kammerl told the last KNX national group conference that there were now in the region of 250 million KNX devices installed throughout the world, the focus was less on the milestone figure and more on what that milestone says about the longevity and future for control protocol.
After 27 years and now with 420 manufacturers, KNX has grown to be the number one available communication protocol for smart buildings and, according to a recent study undertaken by the UK-based Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA), generally has the highest market share of all available communication protocols for the smart home and light commercial market in most countries surveyed.

And that’s a considerable feat considering that when device one was rolling off the production line in 1990, there were only five manufacturers looking for a common platform for use in the environmental control of commercial buildings.

Strength in Numbers and History

Colin Price, president of the KNX New Zealand National Group and director of multi-national distributor Ivory Egg, says the strength of KNX lies in its history and the fact that there are now 250 million devices able to communicate successfully with each other globally, builds confidence that KNX is absolutely the right protocol to choose to ensure it lasts the lifetime of a building.

“The president’s key message was that the figure of 250 million devices demonstrates the longevity of KNX but also the fact that the very first device that was installed using the very first copy of the ETS programming tool could still be reprogrammed to perform a different task today using the latest version of ETS and would integrate with a product that was only put on the market last week.”

Longevity, inter-operability and backwards compatibility are the keystones to KNX’s dominance of the market as they demonstrate to building owners that using KNX as the foundation of their electrical control means they’re buying into something that will last the lifetime of that building – something Colin calls “future-wiring”.

“They know they’ve got the right infrastructure so that even if they have to change some parts, they can trust that those devices will talk to another device that was installed years before.”

Evolution and Understanding of KNX

Among such rapidly advancing technology, it’s good to see how KNX has evolved over time to reflect the demands of building owners.

Milestones include manufacturers such as Gira and Basalte at the turn of the Millennium creating switch finishes appropriate for hospitality, hotel and residential applications allowing KNX to grow out of being a simply commercial-focused protocol. Then 10 years ago, more companies started connecting KNX not only to large building management systems, but also smaller independent protocols such as Control4 and Crestron’s AV control systems or Modbus and BACnet’s metering and management systems. In the past five years, the trend has been towards end-user visualisation for smart keypads and apps for mobile devices as well as a growth in awareness about security – something that will be dealt with in the rollout of KNX IP Secure which will ensure all transmitted data are completely encrypted.

This evolution of KNX proves both its adaptability and its robust foundations – something that’s vital as the Internet of Things starts to govern how smart buildings are designed, specified and built.

Colin says because people had seen the benefits of KNX long before the IoT appeared in the vernacular, it maintains a strong focus on providing a common, open platform.

“An often-misunderstood preconception of the Internet of Things is that because everything is connected to the internet, everything is connected to everything else,” he says. “In fact, you get a lot of manufacturers purposefully making devices that don’t talk to one another. But KNX’s key message is to get them all to talk together with the idea that the panacea to this issue is an ‘Interconnectivity of Things’ as opposed to an ‘Internet of Things’.”

Of course, the proliferation of KNX products and the growth of manufacturers has brought with it the need for controls and standardisation – something that has now arrived in Australasia thanks to the adoption of ISO/IEC 14543-3 as an Australian and New Zealand Technical Specification.

Because this Technical Specification is a direct text adoption of an ISO/IEC International Standard that has been successfully used since 2006, before that as a European ‘norm’ Standard, and even earlier as the KNX industry Standard introduced in 1991, this creates a landscape where the electrical industry, electrical engineers and installation businesses can trust that their specifications will create an unambiguous and successful automation control protocol.

Adoption of the Standard

Colin says there’s been a significant change of the past five years from electrical engineers being largely unaware of KNX to a large proportion now either using it or choosing it as either a definite or alternate part of their specifications.

“I think the localisation of the international standard will make it more obvious and a more accepted practice for electrical and mechanical engineers to specify the use of KNX because it’s underpinned by the authority of Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand,” he says. “And, of course, because it’s the right thing to do on behalf of their customers – the building owners, tenants, and those who live and work in these buildings.”

So where to now for KNX? How does the brand build on its 250 million devices? Two years ago as part of the 25th anniversary KNX President Franz Kammerl spoke about the importance of the KNX in relation to sustainable buildings, Demand Side Management and the KNX City concept, and how the growth of the IoT will “bring a boost to KNX because KNX is already included in all technological building applications”.

Colin adds that the KNX Association is also pushing for involvement in smaller and smaller projects.

“To gain involvement in the everyday technology of smaller projects means that KNX will become synonymous with building technology. In commercial buildings, yes, it’s expected now – but there’s still a revolution coming in residential buildings where people will accept it without really knowing what it is, when KNX becomes the foundation stone of a good building’s technical solution in the same way as, say, CAN bus is the foundation stone of a good car automation system.”

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