A little history
30 years ago, we used typewriters to create invoices, copies were made using carbon paper, we didn’t have fax machines at the time, let alone personal computers. Customers left messages with our answering service, and messages were pushed to pagers. Nobody at the time was concerned about saving energy.
Some things shouldn’t ever change
While times have changed, some things remain the same. Our dedication to our clients. Our passion to solve complex challenges. Technology has and will continue to change at unprecedented speeds, affecting our clients’ businesses as well as the value we bring. From occupancy sensors and electric vehicle chargers, to the installation of solar panels and Tesla Power Walls, our clients trust us to stay on top of technology trends and opportunities.
The rise of condominiums
Most of our customers were manufacturers. They produced all kinds of products, line marking paint, mattresses, glue and furniture, just to name a few. Condominiums were nearly unheard of at the time. Over the last decade many of the products that these manufacturers produced are now made overseas. As many of you know much of the Ontario manufacturing base has disappeared. But interestingly we were providing service for a growing number of condominium managers in the GTA who became great customers with lots of potential for interesting and challenging projects.
So we shifted our focus, with absolutely no regrets. We joined ACMO and CCI and are successfully servicing many of the condominiums in the GTA.
Tides of change
Of course the changes were not only the shift in our customer base. As the price of electricity continued to rise, so did conversations about efficiency, and environment. Signature Electric was one of the first contractors in Canada to install Watt Stopper occupancy sensors. These were used to control the general office lighting for a three story building on Eglinton Ave.in Toronto. Before the sensors were installed one switch turned on all the lights on each floor.
Today we use sensors for everything from parking garages (see video), to small garbage chute rooms. Even the lights in my office and warehouse are controlled by sensors. The beauty of the occupancy sensor was that it saved energy automatically. They simply respond to your presence, turning lights on as needed.
It was hard to imagine back then the number of items that we would be able to automate today. The real key was the advent of wireless internet or IOT (internet of things). While turning your lights on and off from your smartphone might seem like a nice parlour trick, it’s hard to see that this was a great improvement over the occupancy sensor or even turning the switch on when you got home.
However if your car was able to tell your Nest thermostat that you were coming home and automatically turned up (or down) the temperature of your home, that might be a perfect combination of energy savings and comfort. This technology is here.
IOT, EV, and Condos
Signature Electric is using IOT to address the advent of electric vehicles in condominiums. In short the condominiums want a simple and scalable system to meter and control residents’ electric vehicle chargers that are installed in the garage.
We’ve developed and installed dedicated electric vehicle panels that can control and meter up to 12 chargers without a physical meter. Owners and managers simply log on to a dashboard to see their consumption. This provides the EV owner with live information on how much energy their car is consuming and make the billing process very easy for the manager.
As we peek in the the future, we won’t just be reducing our energy consumption, but actually become energy producers. A few of us have already installed solar panels and are sending this energy back into the grid. What if you could store that energy at your home or business. Elon Musk is envisioning that exact scenario with the new Tesla Powerwall.
Imagine charging your car and home batteries from your own solar panels. Would this mean that one day we won’t need power plants and a giant complex power distribution system? While this might seem a bit far fetched at the moment, so was the idea of a free video call with my friend Steve in Athens Greece. Or a car that can drive itself.
In whatever way the future unfolds we’ll continue to find ways to help our customers make use of the emerging technologies. In part because it makes business sense and in part because it’s fun and exciting to be involved.