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Interview: Henk Hazeleger, Leertouwer

Henk HazeleggerHenk Hazeleger is an electrotechnical engineer and one of the earliest adopters of EIB (pre-KNX) in Holland. He works for Leertouwer in Barneveld, the Netherlands.

Leertouwer is a systems integrator which has been using KNX for the past 15 years. With 150 employees across the Netherlands, the company specialises in security, ICT solutions and telephony systems for the residential and commercial property market. It also works in the industrial and healthcare markets.

Leertouwer’s efforts have been recognised by the KNX Association. The company has won the ‘Most Innovative Home Automation’ award twice: once in 2005 for one of the earliest projects based on EIB/KNX, and again in 2010.

In this exclusive interview with KNXtoday, Hazeleger gives his views on the opportunities and challenges facing the KNX market.

Q: Why did you join the KNX Association?
A: I bought my EIB license in 1995 – it was the 29th license in the Netherlands! Since I am one of the first EIB-certified engineers in the country, and Leertouwer has been working with KNX systems for over 15 years, we decided that the best way to share our knowledge with KNX vendors was by becoming a member of the KNX Association.

Q: What is your perspective on the KNX market at the moment, what trends do you see?
A: As system integrators, KNX gives us the power of combining different technologies and solutions. We use KNX technology to create a stable backbone on a central system that will result in an integrated solution with maximum intelligence.

In the Netherlands KNX is the leading system for home and building automation systems, but you often see that KNX is supplemented by other systems such DALI or BACnet. There are still a few vendor-locked systems (not open like KNX). These systems have fewer opportunities and are not futureproof and often not expandable.

The need to integrate everything into one central place is growing. Today, clients ask for access to the AV, alarms, lighting and climate controls, from one entry point. They also want to be able to access it in a variety of ways, such as via mobile, from touchscreens, etc.

Q: What excites you at the moment, what opportunities do you see?
A: A very interesting area that we are working in at the moment is ‘care projects’. This is intelligent living accommodation for senior citizens. The project allows people to live independently for longer, helped by the house being automated and having a very efficient security system.

Also of great interest are energy optimisation and healthcare, and their integration with KNX; and whole subject of the user interface is very important to me. Our ethos is that user interfaces for KNX products should be as simple as possible and intuitive, hence our slogan ‘See it, understand it, use it.’

Q: What are the challenges KNX is facing, what are its weaknesses?
A: I would like to see a larger family of KNX products; this will make seamless integration and future proofing more achievable.

Projects requiring wireless solutions are a challenge. Yes, there are some KNX interoperable solutions such as the ones from ZigBee and EnOcean, but we think that the technology is not stable enough for many applications, and KNX RF is rarely used owing to insufficient security.

Wireless systems can be used for small areas, but installers should always be careful with the coverage range. Also, one should never forget that the solution does not work without batteries!

In our installations we try to stay clear of wireless applications. We prefer cables.

Another weakness in the market is the number of DIY products, which are cheaper than professional KNX products, but offer only a partial solution. The trouble is, consumers aren’t really aware of the difference , so sometimes, when these less-efficient products are installed, the customer gets used to the comfort options but then some things start to fail. This is when they tend to seek professional systems such as KNX.

Q: What do you recommend as a strategy in helping the market to develop?
A: I would recommend not just focussing on products, but looking into finding applications with ’emotion’. By this I mean applications that make life more pleasant and enjoyable.

Q: How do you keep in touch with the market, which trade events or resources are helpful/of interest to you?
A: We stay in touch with the market by participating in exhibitions and expert meetings. Face-to-face is always a good way to stay connected. We also rely on PR, social media and our website.

Q: Where do you see the industry being in a year’s time?
A: We are going to see more KNX-enabled multimedia and communication solutions.
I also believe that ‘eco-cabling’ will soon have its day. By this I mean an IP cabling system where more KNX components can be connected.

Q: What is your advice to the industry?
A: Continue to develop!

Henk Hazeleger, Electrotechnical Engineer and Manager of Domotica Solutions for Leertouwer, a Netherlands-based system integrator.

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