Technologies such as machine learning and the internet of things (IoT) are taking their place alongside more traditional products at AHR Expo in Orlando this week. Performance of the industry’s historic product mix continues to improve from the standpoint of efficiency and sustainability, and elements of the industry’s “digitization” are making it even better. The “smart building” has finally arrived in earnest.

Our world is changing,” said Jenny Stentz, Area Vice President, Building Solutions, North America, for Johnson Controls. “Our customers are talking about it everywhere we go. They are demanding more control over the environment they occupy, and that is driving change.”

Collaborating With Customers For Efficient Solutions 

In the case of Johnson Controls, the changes are being implemented in the context of a collaborative relationship with customers; in effect, they are working Changes are being implemented in the context of a collaborative relationship with customerstogether with customers in the co-development of solutions that deploy the latest technologies. The massive amount of data available from today’s systems, when analyzed using new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools, yields opportunities for more efficient systems for customers.

Johnson Controls offered a panel discussion on “Changing Customer Demands” to kick off the AHR Expo. The deployment of “digital assets” alongside JCI’s product mix can have a practical impact on energy usage, saving in the range of 20 to 40% of the costs of operating a system, says the company. “Together, they drive the outcomes our customers are looking for,” said George Oliver, Johnson Controls’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Oliver added: “We try to put the customer at the center of all that we do. We try to understand the questions and be ahead of the curve.

Pushing The Digital Message

JCI is continuing to invest to improve its product mix — in the range of $650 to $700 million in the last year. Investments include development of a state-of-the-art facility in Norman, Okla. There is also a training center, and the company continues to invest in the Navigator platform.

We have truly focused on being a products company, which really focuses our investment,” said Mike Ellis, Executive Vice President, Chief Customer and Digital Officer, Johnson Controls. “It all depends on our ability to leverage what is right in front of us.” JCI positions itself as a “pure-play” buildings company that is IoT-aware.

There were other companies pushing a digital message on the first day of AHR Expo, too. For example, Delta showcased a comprehensive suite of building automation technologies built around the theme “Smarter Buildings, Smarter Cities.” Their booth showcased the ability to improve operating efficiency and reduce energy usage by combining various Delta products, including building automation solutions from Delta Controls Inc. and LOYTEC.

Panasonic highlighted new technologies, including a system that suppresses pollutants and odors using nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles.


Delta’s O3 Sensor Hub combines multiple temperature and occupancy inputs with audio and detection accuracy enhanced by machine learning to provide more precise temperature reading and better control of other systems.

Digital-era Machine Learning 

Armstrong Fluid Technology highlighted Active Performance Management based on digital-era machine learning. The system optimizes the operation of equipment and makes recommendations about how operators can make the equipment work even better. The system operates on three levels. First, the Design Envelope intelligent devices (such as pumps and booster systems) send alerts and warnings about operation. Second, a systems optimization level considers data from a number of devices together; third, all the data is brought up into the cloud.

The suite of solutions ensures that equipment runs at optimal condition. It prevents performance drift; furthermore, from population learning, the system improves the performance of a building over time. The system continues to learn by analyzing data from the population of assets connected to the cloud, including the large installed base of Design Envelope products.

Exciting New Product Innovations

Panasonic is highlighting the ClimaPure XE wall-mounted heat pump for cold climates. The ductless system features “nanoeX,” a built-in air and surface purification There were many companies pushing a digital message on the first day of AHR Expotechnology that reduces pollutants and odors. Nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles are rich in hydroxyl (OH) radicals, which are effective at suppressing pollutants and odors.

Friedrich highlighted the VRP Variable Refrigerant Packaged Heat Pumps, which provide VRF performance with single package simplicity. The “VRF in a box” solves more design problems than complex systems like VRF and 4-pipe systems. The product offers best-in-class cooling performance, super-efficient heating, true humidity control, and conditioned fresh air to help building owners achieve ASHRAE 62.1 compliance for commercial buildings and 62.2 compliance for residential buildings.

Bradford White is showing the AeroTherm Series Heat Pump Water Heater that provides hot water more efficiently using technology to transfer heat from the air into the tank. The yearly energy savings is around $304 versus an electric tank. The pump can quickly pay for itself.

Read our review of Day Two of the show here.

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