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Published on July 8th, 2008 | by Guest Contributor

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GTR: Automated Home Energy Control Systems with Amazing Controls

Amazing ControlsGreenTalk Radio Host Sean Daily discusses using technological components to remotely control every aspect of your home’s energy and security systems with Raj Marya, President and CEO of Amazing Controls.

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Transcript

Sean Daily: Hi, and welcome to GreenTalk, a podcast series from
GreenLivingIdeas.com. GreenTalk helps listeners in their efforts to
lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors,
authors, and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical
issues facing the global environment today, as well as the
technologies, products, and practices that you can employ to go greener
in every area of your life.

Sean Daily: Hey, everyone, this is Sean Daily. Thanks as always for
listening in today on GreenTalk radio from GreenLivingIdeas.com and
Personal Life Media. This is Sean Daily, Editor in Chief, and I have
with me Raj Marya today to talk with me about the topic of home
automation and control, as well as for businesses, and we’ll get into
what that means in a minute. Raj is the president and CEO of a company
called Amazing Controls Technology. So first of all, Raj, welcome to
the program.

Raj Marya: Thank you very much.

Sean Daily: So, I understand that you met Tim Bratton, who is a
mutual contact of ours. Tim actually is the co-founder, with his wife
Susan, of Personal Life Media, which is now the network host for the
GreenTalk radio show. And Tim’s a big visionary, he’s a guy who’s been
in the industry for a long time, and actually founded Rhapsody, the
music service, if anybody out there has heard of that, and I understand
that he met you, you guys were at a friend’s birthday party, and you
were talking about how your company is basically doing green control
systems for homes and corporations, and he was sufficiently impressed
by the conversation so as to tell me that I needed to talk to you. So,
I’d love to hear more about, why don’t we start with just the story of
yourself and how Amazing Controls came to be.

Raj Marya: Well, we basically started over ten years ago with the
concept of building smart homes and smart buildings, and as we got into
the practice of really putting intelligence into these structures, we
came across the idea of wanting to make the buildings more efficient in
how they operate, and then also it became very interesting and
important to us to make the buildings coexist with the environment more
symbiotically. We noticed that there was a lot of efficiency that could
be achieved in terms of how energy was being used, how water was being
used throughout irrigation systems and so on and so forth. It was an
exciting opportunity to really try and change the way that buildings
were operating.

Sean Daily: Now I understand, my previous conversations along these
lines with regards to automation and control technologies as they
relate to sustainable living and green building and such has been
limited to really the idea of – the very important idea, however – of,
the fact that in order to really regulate, properly regulate and
optimize the energy usage in a home, you have to, well, you really need
to employ these kinds of technologies, because it’s very difficult in a
manual way to monitor, for example, every room in the home or building.
Or even things like turning lights on an off; those types of
automations are, you see them a lot in commercial buildings, you don’t
see them in the home as much, but they make enormous differences. So is
that pretty much the root of it, or does it go beyond that?

Raj Marya: It goes even beyond that. What you were just saying
reminded me of my childhood when my father would always remind me that
money doesn’t grown on trees and to turn the lights off as I’m leaving
the room. Unfortunately, many parents are familiar with that problem,
and the children don’t always respond as ideally as we would like. So,
where the automation side of things comes into play, with doing things
like occupancy detection and rolling back temperatures based on
occupancy of the property, we can achieve significant reductions in
energy usage to the tune of roughly 30-40% energy reductions just
through adding intelligence on how things are being kept ‘on’ and ‘off’
and potentially even rolling back, not to completely ‘off’, but rolling
back to a set point where it’s reduced significantly.

Sean Daily: And so is it – what I was mentioning about, is it
dynamic allocation, like automatic detection of where people are in a
certain building?

Raj Marya: That can be done as well. It depends on how intrigued
someone is with making their building efficient. So, there’s basic
levels that things can be done and implemented in a building all the
way to very sophisticated levels, which are being done more in the
corporate side of things. We have seen in the commercial buildings
people have taken things a little bit further with occupancy detection.
In a home it’s not been done as extensively as yet, rather than, well,
in the high-end home construction it’s been experimented with quite a
little, quite a bit.

Sean Daily: Yeah, and that’s one of the things that I’m wondering if
it’s still there where it’s only in the high-end commercial and
residential structures that you get to have these sorts of
technologies, or are they coming down where sort of, you know, it’s
becoming an everyman’s technology that’s in the grasp of more people.

Raj Marya: It is definitely becoming more everyman’s technology. The
way we’ve seen it over our ten-year history is that today, people are
starting to realize, that there’s an awareness that’s really come about
that there’s a critical need to change the way that we’re impacting our
environment, and that carbon emissions matter. In my childhood, people
didn’t really know about carbon emissions; we didn’t have any concern,
or even awareness about them. Now, people are starting to build their
homes with a consciousness, and they’re starting to think about how
they can change their impact on the environment. So, there are
relatively inexpensive ways of impacting your energy usage that can be
implemented today.

Sean Daily: Great. Well, we’re going to take a pause right here to
get a quick word from our sponsors on the show, and then we’ll be right
back. We’re talking with Raj Marya, who’s the president and CEO of
Amazing Controls Technologies, and we’re talking about automation and
control systems for homes and businesses. Thanks everyone, and we’ll be
right back.

* * *

Sean Daily: Okay, and we are back with Raj Marya, president and CEO
of Amazing Controls Technologies, and we’re talking on automation and
control for homes and businesses. And Raj, I wanted to ask you about
the technologies that you’ve developed at Amazing Controls, and what
makes them so different than anything else that’s out there.

Raj Marya: Well, we have actually been taking the strategy of trying
to control the controllers. So, basically, there have been approaches
where many of the controller networks that have been integrated into
buildings so far have been very much standalone, and we’ve noticed that
if you actually integrate all of these systems that are going on in the
building, you can leverage intelligence within each of the systems and
make things operate more efficiently as a whole.

Sean Daily: What you just described sounds exactly like the
difference between a Mac and a PC. Now I can say that because I’m a
well-known Windows guru, or at least an ex-Windows guru, and we’ve
moved to Apple Macs, and I have to say it’s like all the programs talk
to each other and it works great, whereas in Windows, getting these
things to talk, programs or anything, is a total nightmare. And I know
I sound like the commercial, but it’s totally true. So you guys are
basically the Apple Macintosh of the home control industry.

Raj Marya: We find that to be a tremendous compliment. We actually
started our platform on the Mac OS when we started twelve years ago due
to the fact that networking on a Mac was much easier to achieve. We
look at Apple as being a company that looks at simplifying things, and
that’s really been a strategy we’ve tried to map out, because if you
cannot make it simple and as painless as possible, and, we’re also
noticing, as economical as possible, people will continue to live the
way they’re living, impacting the environment in a severe and very
negative way. But we believe that in the future, one’s carbon footprint
is going to potentially even be more important than their own financial
statements. So it is important that this information can be presented
simply to the user and they can make simple choices within how they
want to live their lives, that the system can then do all of the
tasking to figure out, how do I make this work the best and the most
efficiently with that, and reduce the carbon footprint most
significantly.

Sean Daily: Now I’m curious, I mean, sort of aggregating these
together and making them work, that must be quite a technological
challenge with the disparate amount of different types of controls and
technologies that exist. How do you guys really do that? Does it
require working with specific vendors only, or how do you achieve that?

Raj Marya: It literally is a difficult task. We’ve been working on
it for such a long period of time, and I think that the way that we’ve
learned how people build their systems, and how they develop their
protocols, and how to work with them and integrate them and to get the
best performance out of them is something that we’ve mastered over a
period of time doing such work. It’s interesting to see how you can
learn to take what someone else has done and optimize it and then
leverage that, but it is a work that we’ve had to do for a significant
amount of time.

Sean Daily: And so you say you’ve been, I think you had mentioned
you were in business for ten years? Where are you guys in your arc
right now, what’s going on, both in the industry and also with the
company that’s exciting, new and exciting and that people can really
look forward to in terms of tangible products and technologies?

Raj Marya: Well, what I’m really excited about is that the term
‘green’ has become so popular today, and I think it’s very much a
credit to Vice President Al Gore and his documentary An Inconvenient
Truth that people have started to realize that there are things that
are happening, and we are becoming more and more aware. So in our
industry, while people are still talking about the concept of ‘smart
homes’ and ‘smart buildings’, at Amazing Controls, we are focusing
specifically on ‘smart green buildings’. So, we believe that the terms
necessarily go together, and we don’t believe that it makes any sense
to build a smart building any more that is not green. It’s becoming
increasingly important for people to understand that a smart green
building is the practice of increasing efficiency with which all the
buildings use energy and resources and reducing the building’s impact
on human health and our environment.

Sean Daily: And it’s interesting, I’ve seen this in practice, it’s
pretty amazing, with I think more current technologies, and I was
pretty blown away. A previous guest of this show, Wenny Chang, who is a
green hotel developer for the Atman Hospitality Group. They have the
only gold, I believe it’s gold-certified, it could be platinum, but I
think it’s gold-certified hotel for LEED-certification in the United
States, or it was the first one, in any case, and I had the opportunity
to go and stay in the hotel for a night to check it out to observe the
technologies and how they were running it. It was really amazing, I
mean, the dials and controls that they actually were using to monitor
water usage, power usage, and various other things throughout the hotel
were actually shown in the lobby.

Raj Marya: Wow.

Sean Daily: They had these big LED screens where they were actually
showing you, in real time, what the actual usage was in the facility.
And I realize it’s a little bit away from what you’re doing, but it’s
just amazing to see what can be done with these technologies in both,
again, commercial and residential installations. It’s pretty amazing.

Raj Marya: Well, absolutely. In fact, we’re actually leveraging some
incredible technology today where we can calculate the real-time
footprint of one’s building or their home all the way from the entire
structure down to each architectural room in the building, down to each
device running in the room.

Sean Daily: So, what is your definition of a smart green building, in your world?

Raj Marya: A smart green building, to us, is something that gives
human beings a symbiotic experience with the environment. So it’s
operating intelligently and efficiently. It’s giving peace of mind in
terms of how it’s operating, how it’s functioning within the
environment, and it’s very conscious and very aware. We’ve seen the era
of unintelligent and inefficient buildings in the past. We believe that
smart green buildings are intelligent and efficient buildings.

Sean Daily: You know, that’s, for me, I think, the most frustrating
thing about this, is the lack of general knowledge and availability of
the products on the market. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I’ll use
myself as an example. So, I’m a guy who is definitely a technologist
and obviously very much into green living, having founded this business
and doing this show, and I will admit, mea culpa, I do not have systems
like this in place in my home. It’s a remodeled home, it’s a
thirty-something-year-old house, and it’s something that I would love
to do, but it’s very, very difficult to. I’m very much afraid, coming
from a technology background, of having these incompatible systems, or
products that are outdated, or cheap products that are tailored towards
the home market that don’t quite work the way they’re supposed to. It
holds me back. As a technologist, I wait for standards to come that
everyone rallies around, and sometimes that’s, I mean, having watched
the DVD wars with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, everybody knows how that can go,
but you do, you wait, okay, Blu-Ray wins, then you jump in. And
sometimes I feel like that about this particular part of the industry,
is that we’re all sort of waiting for something that we can rally
around, not only from a technology standpoint, but from a, quite
frankly, for people to be able to go over to Home Depot and just pick
it up and it works, and it’s easily installable, or maybe a little help
from your local handyman or contractor. That’s where the rubber meets
the road and that is where mainstream momentum occurs where we can get
that kind of – and I’ve found it frustrating to watch this industry
from its early beginnings in the high-end to now to still not see that.
Do you feel that you guys are making inroads in that direction?

Raj Marya: Definitely, we do. We think that just the fact that
people are understanding that a vast majority of all energy usage in
the world is coming from buildings; they’re realizing that if we can
just even affect a small number, as little as 10% of the world’s
buildings, there have been experts that have estimated that that would
have the impact of removing hundreds of thousands of cars from the road
per day. So when people are starting to see that it can literally
translate, instead of, which we do believe is important that other
technologies need to come about, but also, it’s important to look at
the existing technologies that are out there and optimize them to
reduce carbon emissions. So, it’s now coming to a point where people
are understanding that there is a need to implement such systems, and I
do believe standards are in the very, very near future, and we hope to
be a part of making those standards come about.

Sean Daily: Okay, well great. We’re going to take one more break,
and then we’re going to come back and I want to talk about the
all-important concept of the money side of this, and so we’ll discuss
that. My guest is Raj Marya, he’s the president and CEO of Amazing
Controls Technologies. We’re talking about automation and control
systems for homes and businesses. This is Sean Daily, we’ll be right
back.

* * *

Sean Daily: Okay, everybody. We’re back. This is Sean Daily. I’m
talking with Raj Marya, who is the president and CEO of Amazing
Controls Technologies, and they do automation and control systems for
homes and businesses, and we’re talking about really greening your
home, and your commercial building, with these types of technologies.
And we were talking about what I would call ‘green leverage’ before,
Raj, before the break, about, really, I think it’s like an 80/20
principle, the 20% can affect 80% of the outcome if you really turn the
right dials and pull the right levers –

Raj Marya: Definitely.

Sean Daily: – and that’s important, but the question that ultimately
comes up, both on the residential and commercial fronts, is how is this
actually going to save me money. So let’s talk about, we’ve talked a
little about the residential side, let’s talk about the commercial
side. How do these technologies actually save companies money, or do
they?

Raj Marya: They absolutely do. So that’s actually the interesting
thing to me, is it’s now becoming economically reasonable for companies
to pay attention to going green and to monitoring their energy usage.
We were recently talking to a company who was spending over a million
dollars a month in their energy usage, and to reduce their energy usage
by 30-40% means they’re literally saving $300,000-400,000 a month.

Sean Daily: Wow.

Raj Marya: So, it can become quite significant. And the neat thing
to me is that if you can present those kinds of financial savings to
companies, all of a sudden, they have a financial incentive to go
green. And it’s starting to become a movement that people are
understanding that great, I can save green, in my wallet, with American
dollars, and I can start to go green and be environmentally friendly
and very conscious and aware of how I’m changing my carbon footprint.

Sean Daily: And that’s, I mean, for me, personally, I don’t care how
these companies get into things. I don’t care if it’s intrinsic
motivation from a higher spiritual calling, or if it’s from, they
started with finance, but, I mean, the point is that it gets done at
this point, as a planet –

Raj Marya: Exactly.

Sean Daily: – as a species, and for the sake of the planet, I think
it’s important that those who have the greatest usage, who have the
greatest resources, are getting on board and making these decisions.
Who cares how they get there.

Raj Marya: Exactly, and the neat thing is there, is I’ve had debates
with certain facility managers where they’ve literally told me that
they don’t believe that the green movement is necessary, and I said
okay, well, let’s take that topic aside for a moment: are you
interested in saving your company this type of money? And that answer
is always ‘yes’.

Sean Daily: Yeah, that’ll be a universal and permanent truth, that
companies will always be interested in saving money, and also staying
competitive. I mean, one of the other things is public perception,
which has luckily swung in the direction of needing to be green. I
think ‘green’ has gotten really watered down. We use it when we have to
use it on this show and on the website because of brand name
recognition, right, the color green means something? But unfortunately
it’s also lost almost all definition. It’s become very ambiguous as a
term. What’s ‘green’, right? So I think it always bears definition
within whatever topic is being discussed, but the important thing is,
too, is that these companies, the companies that are the laggards, that
are the sort of green Luddites if you will, are being, I don’t want to
say shamed into it, but they are getting a lot of peer pressure and
market pressure to, in a real way, and not in a greenwashing way, get
on board both internally as well as with their products and their
services and technologies. So that’s all a very positive thing.

Raj Marya: Definitely.

Sean Daily: Well, I think – oh, I have one more question for you
before we sign off, and again on the money theme, is, how much more do
you see this costing? I mean, you gave me a case study a second ago
that clearly there was a pretty quick ROI, I imagine. Maybe we can talk
about a smaller business, or a home scenario. What is the price premium
that one should expect to pay for these types of technologies over,
say, just a normal building installation, and what’s a typical ROI
window, return on investment window, for someone investing in these
types of control technologies?

Raj Marya: On the house side of things, we still have a lot more
research to be done in terms of giving specific figures, but we do
believe that energy savings can reach that 30% type figure. We have
seen systems cost as little as around $10,000, and they are hopefully
going to become more and more affordable as we go forward.

Sean Daily: Good to know. Well, Raj, thank you so much for being on the program with us today, it’s been a pleasure.

Raj Marya: Thank you for having me.

Sean Daily: Yeah, definitely our pleasure. Good information, and we
wish you much success with Amazing Controls Technologies, and certainly
keep us posted as things move on.

Raj Marya: Thank you, and we hope to take a look at your house and
see about doing an investigation about making your home into a smart
green home.

Sean Daily: Well, we need help. (laughs) We’re by no means at the
pinnacle of it. Great, my guest today has been Raj Marya, president and
CEO of Amazing Controls Technologies. They’re online at www.amazingcontrols.com.

Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today.
Remember, for more free, on-demand podcasts, articles, videos, and
other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our
website at www.greenlivingideas.com. We’d also love to hear your comments, feedback, and questions. Send us an email at editors@greenlivingideas.com.





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