The Head of Air Conditioning at Samsung, Andrew Faulkner, is someone who needs to keep abreast of new developments in the industry as a whole and he recently spoke about where HVAC is heading in the next few years.
He emphasised that growth in the HVAC market is being driven by product innovation and newly developing technology. However, he also pointed to the fact that what people want changes rapidly, so the industry needs to keep research and innovation at the forefront, so that it can provide solutions to meet new consumer demands.
Smart technology and home automation
Phone apps and home systems that are connected now allow consumers to control everything in their home, from lighting to heating to home entertainment. The Internet of Things is reaching into the home and boosting demand for smartphones and TVs. HVAC has been very much in involved in this change to “smart” everything.
New types of air conditioning units allow remote user control via smartphone apps and Mr. Faulkner pointed to the popularity of voice activated units (for example, Alexa and Google Home). He sees voice activation becoming key for domestic air conditioning systems, with simple voice commands letting people control their environment without the use of controls and switches.
Samsung is also expecting a further rise in the use of chatbots to conduct interactions between potential customers, dealers and suppliers, particularly when it comes to questions about new products.
Air con isn’t top of most people’s list of designer products. Until now, business and domestic customers have almost expected air conditioning to be ugly – or at least they’ve been unconcerned about what it looks like. But Mr. Faulkner says that the air con industry has now started to take on board the design concerns of customers.
This has resulted in smaller, lighter products that are more attractive. Consumers and designers have more choice of shapes and colours, so that they can choose air conditioning units that blend in with the design of their building. For businesses, this can be part of an important design statement that embodies their branding look and feel.
It seems that HVAC businesses and engineers are going to have to get used to a different kind of discussion with customers – one that revolves around designs, colours and aesthetics. It will be the HVAC professionals’ job to balance this with the traditional concerns around efficiency and cost.
Finally, Mr. Faulkner wound up with a prediction that 3D printing might be used to produce air conditioning units in the future. Printed parts might become common and these could greatly reduce the costs and time taken to make repairs – presumably because parts would be “printed” on demand, as needed.
As you might expect, he then showcased a new Samsung air conditioning unit. It sounds – there’s no other way of describing it – cool – with the ability for users to switch on cooling mode, then move to draught-free mode, where the temperature is maintained without any blowing or draughts. Samsung has used 3D printing during the research process for this new unit, which shows that the hype about 3D printing is finally bearing fruit.