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A Solid Power Foundation

It’s one of the only things that you’ll install that will never make a client smile in amazement; in fact, it’s something they will ideally never even see or think about.

It’s one of the only things that you’ll install that will never make a client smile in amazement; in fact, it’s something they will ideally never even see or think about. But to not include power management in a high-end installation is borderline irresponsible, for all parties involved.

Middle Atlantic’s Select Series PDU with RackLink is designed as a value-oriented solution to bring smart power to more applications.

“Power management isn’t always the sexiest or most exciting category, but when there is real expertise providing protection, and optimal performance, it’s hard to overstate remote power management’s importance in an installed system,” said John Benz, director, product management at Core Brands. “We’re seeing exponential growth in technology; the abilities and performance of systems expand by leaps and bounds constantly, but the power that our devices need to operate isn’t getting any better. In fact, all of this great technology brings with it more susceptibility to problems from surges, voltage fluctuations, and noise on the AC line.”

Beyond issues arising from the supply of power, Scott Lowder, senior product manager for power at Middle Atlantic Products said that the increasing sophistication of all the devices in a system furthers the chance of failure, which could result in a truck roll for the integrator. “Modems, switches, cameras, extenders, networked-attached storage (NAS), TVs, VoIP systems, and other IP-enabled devices all have the potential to freeze or become unresponsive at any time, which can compromise the system, and more importantly, the enduser experience,” he said.

The VT4315 from Panamax features BlueBOLT technology for remote monitoring and preventative maintenance.

To make addressing these headaches easier, Middle Atlantic recently introduced the Select Series PDU with RackLink, a value-priced solution to bring smart power to more applications. According to Lowder, the Select Series features individual IP outlet control of up to eight outlets in a simple, commercial-grade product, and its RackLink technology provides preemptive problem notification, automatic problem resolution, and can be controlled local or virtually via third-party control system or from the cloud.

Similarly, Core Brands’ power management brands, Panamax and Furman, have been exploring innovation in providing smart power management products in novel form factors, to cover a wider range of scenarios that integrators face. “We want to cut down the amount of time it takes for integrators to deliver the correct power solutions in a clean and code-compliant manner and to mitigate time spent on mounting, cable management, moving plugs around to make sure there are enough open outlets, navigating plugs and cables around tight spaces, and so forth,” Benz said. “These and other time-consuming and often-frustrating tasks can create a time suck when trying to get things right.”

Like Middle Atlantic’s RackLink, the Core Brands solutions feature BlueBOLT remote management technology to help prevent problems, and to respond quickly should issues arise. “Along with protection and performance, remote management has become the third pillar we are building our solutions on–not only enabling installers to keep systems running without a rolling a truck, but also preventative maintenance to eliminate the service call in the first place,” Benz said, mentioning that “major updates” to the BlueBOLT platform are in the works.

According to SnapAV product director for power and amplifiers, Matt Kamp, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the proliferation of connected devices has been a boon for sales of its WattBox line of smart power conditioning products. These products, with Snap’s OvrC remote monitoring capability, are a “big focus area for SnapAV in 2017,” he said. “Today we have over 100,000 WattBox units connected on OvrC, and the growth is accelerating. These products offer dealers more control, allowing them to more easily support their customers every day.”

In 2017, Torus Power will bring its Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) technology to its popular All-In-One panel.

Kamp said that the company has numerous WattBox developments forthcoming, to cover installation areas that dealers had been asking for. A new UPS is shipping as of January, and will be followed by products like smart plugs, vertical power strips, small-factor UPS units, and more. “WattBox products allow our dealers to control outlets from anywhere, create schedules, auto-heal devices that drop off the network, monitor power consumption, provide battery backup, and much more,” Kamp said. “Dealers who have adopted WattBox/OvrC are able to significantly reduce the number of unnecessary truck rolls, as well as get fewer support calls. This ultimately improves profitability and allows them to provide responsive support to customers.”

Ametek Electronic Systems Protection is another brand pursuing innovations in power management to make integrators’ lives easier. For 2017, director of marketing, Tanya Flores, said that a big focus is on integrators on the go. “We’re developing a mobile app that enables our integrators to access our power management solutions such as enVision and Expert Manager, to make it easier than ever for dealers to have insight into their clients’ power conditions and potential issues,” she said. “By using this data, dealers can determine whether or not the root cause is unstable power conditions or faulty gear.”

AMETEK Electronic Systems Protection is in the process of developing a mobile app that provides access to power management products like the evVision, to give integrators greater insight into power issues.

For larger-scale projects, Flores said that the company will offer additional online dual-conversion UPS solutions to deliver clean, stable, and backed-up power to the most critical and sensitive gear. “Networking and IoT devices are often the foundation of an entertainment, automation or security system, but to run reliably they need clean power,” she said. “Without protection, these systems can suffer frequent malfunctions, reboots, or the need for product replacement–and a single router being damaged could bring a whole system down.”

Torus Power has been focusing its efforts on making whole systems–even very large ones such as larger theaters, media rooms, and recording studios– more streamlined and quicker to install from the power side. The company’s All-In-One panel is popular for these applications, according to Kevin Main, president and COO, as it combines a high-performance isolation transformer with a commercial grade surge suppressor module and an electrical distribution panel into one unit.

This year, Main said the company will be adding its Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) technology into the All-In-One panel. “The Torus Power AVR technology uses multiple input taps on the transformer to regulate the output voltage to the system,” he said. “Torus Power AVR technology ensures that the complete system is being fed with a stable 120V electrical supply, even when the power grid is fluctuating. This not only ensures that the system performs at is best all the time, it also ensures that all the microprocessors inside the sensitive audio video and control equipment will function smoothly and never fail because of surges and brownouts that are so common today.”

IoT and the growing number of connected devices has been a boon for SnapAV, which has more than 100,000 of its WattBox products connected with OvrC for remote management.

While the benefits of spec’ing a power management system into every installation should be all but obvious to a home tech pro, they can be seen as an unnecessary add-on to end users, and a corner they’re tempted to cut. For such clients, Main offers an analogy: “Power is the foundation of everything that we do, and using reliable, clean power is the right starting point. When you build a house you want the foundation to be strong so that the house is solid and built to last. It is the same with audio/video systems. You have to start with power.”

If all of the above benefits weren’t enough, the remote capabilities of today’s power solutions are also one of the easiest ways of adding a source of recurring revenue into your books–something that nearly everyone is looking to establish these days. “Along with protection and performance benefits, use of remote power management technology adds a very tangible benefit for both the client and installer in reducing service calls and system downtime, to the extent that many integrators use BlueBOLT as a basis for recurring revenue service contracts,” Core Brands’ Benz said. “No matter if you are looking at it from a technical, customer satisfaction, or profitability standpoint, including power management in every system is a winning bet that simply makes sense.”

Matt Pruznick is managing editor of digital content for Residential Systems and Systems Contractor News. Follow him on Twitter @Pruznick.