Home Automation Podcast Episode #179: An Industry Q&A With Troy Morgan
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Troy Morgan, Founder and CEO at PanTech Design shares the impact of home automation and energy management in the home.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Troy Morgan. Recorded live on Wednesday, July 21st, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Troy Morgan
Troy is an innovator dedicated to elevating the quality of software and service for audio, video, and environmental automation. He has achieved many accomplishments throughout his 23 years in the custom integration industry, such as becoming a Crestron Master Programmer and founding his own integration firm, PanTech Design, in 2005. Under Troy's leadership, PanTech Design quickly became one of the leading firms of its kind to develop groundbreaking products like the Adapt for Crestron software suite and Adapt Energy home energy automation ecosystem. Today, Troy focuses on tackling the world's energy challenges with his revolutionary Adapt Energy solution that helps homeowners better monitor and manage their energy usage.
- The impact of home automation and energy management in the home
- Understanding the power of a watt
- An overview of energy integration and why it matters
- The concept of a virtual power plant
Ron: Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Wednesday, July 21st. This is an unusual time for us to go live. It is a little bit before 12:00 PM Eastern Time. Troy and I both had some scheduling conflicts, but we wanted to make sure we got this show in. We don't have too many returning guests. There's maybe only a couple a year. Troy is one of those returning guests. Troy and I were having some fun just before we went live and reminiscing. Troy was last on the show. He was on show number seven. We're going back into the data vault here to bring one of our OGs from Automation Unplugged. Troy was on the show in the summer. I forget the date, but it's on our website. If you go, go to the Automation Unplugged page and search for Troy. But Troy was on the show in approximately. I want to say, June 2017.
We're going to have a lot of fun catching up with Troy. Troy has been busy the last four years, and we're going to see what Troy has going on. He is the Founder and CEO of Pantech Designs there out of Dallas, Texas. Troy's been in the industry for 23 years. I actually worked with Troy there for an instant in the early 2000s when we were both at Creston. Troy has gone on to grow an impressive, diversified business. I know many of you are listening or watching, probably know Troy, and probably know Troy's work and his team's work because they're one of the best out there. Without further ado, let me bring him on, and let's get him introduced. Troy, how are you, sir?
Troy: Doing good. This is kind of fun. It's been a while.
Ron: You and I were chatting. I can't believe it's been four years since. I can't believe the show's been around that long. I'm feeling old.
Troy: You and me both.
Ron: I went back and watched the video and anyone listening or watching this. Troy's original interview does not exist yet in the podcast form. If you only listen, you're not going to grab it. But if you do go to our website, onefirefly.com, and find the Automation page, you can look at Troy's name, and you can find the original interview. This was actually before using the software platform we are on now and before podcasting, but it's there if you want to listen to the older show. Troy, for our audience, why don't you let them know maybe what is Pantech Design and what your role is in the company?
Troy: Pantech Design has been around a long time. We started in '05, and we're a software and hardware engineering company really by our core. A lot of people don't know this about the name. The Pantech name really came from "pan," being a Greek God to keep it simple, all-encompassing everything. The idea is that we can design everything technical. We've been doing it a long time, and we've touched many different projects and a lot of different situations and built a lot of neat pieces of hardware and software and whatnot. My role is to help provide that vision, help generate opportunities in business. But also I touch every part of our business, the software, the design, engineering, being a small company with many hats. You can see a title that says CEO and President. But if the trash needs to be taken out, they're doing that to just depends on what's chief cook, bottle washer, salesperson, whatever. You've got to be in that moment. That's who you are.
Ron: That's awesome. And I see you're wearing a shirt for our listeners. They don't see their shirt, but your shirt says Adapt Energy. Clarify. Within the Pantech design company umbrella, what is Adapt, what is Adapt Energy? I want to say there's another arm where you're doing just pure custom design and engineering and programming of systems.
Troy: Of course. We'll start sort of chronologically or historically, I guess. Pantech Design developed a software platform that makes the programming of Crestron systems a lot more efficient and a lot more flexible. There's pretty much nothing Adapt can't do when it comes to the programming of a Crestron system using our Adapt framework. That framework is available to all the restaurant integrators out there. We developed a spin-off product, but it's also hardware. It's not just software. It's hardware and software that makes a sort of time the energy management of a home into the home automation. Although Adapt Energy is really a standalone product, it can definitely be blended. We've evolved to create this hardware solution that manages monitors and controls energy in a home.
Ron: Alright. We're going to dissect those different business units to help our audience understand all the creative solutions you and your team have impressively put together. We do have a question here live that just came in. And Hasheesh says, "Why is Crestron-based UI unable to reach the UI finesse of apps like Savant?" Let's just start it out with a controversial question.
Troy: It's a great question. Crestron is definitely moving in the right direction when it comes to solving this problem. But the reasoning is that they've also done something quite amazing and impressive, which is being backward compatible with products introduced in the early 2000s. They were able to do that by creating such a good software platform for development tools called BT Pro, which is their tool for user interfaces. That tool is so great that it's been able to evolve over a very long period of time. We're literally using the same tool for the user interfaces, Crestron user interfaces today that we were using in the early 2000s. Now it's obviously evolved and gone through some transitions, but it still is the same tool.
While that's a positive, it's also a little bit of a negative because it doesn't allow us to do the leapfrog in technology concerning some of the newer capabilities of user interface design and things like that. Case in point, HTML5, but Crestron mindful and years ago, I think three years ago at this point, they began development on their own sort of spin on HTML5 that they call CH5. A lot of the developers are beginning to learn those tools and adopt those tools. Their hardware today is fully capable of supporting the HDMI. For the most part, five initiatives are still a few others that aren't, but pretty much across the board, that's the direction. You're going to start to see a lot more of that. I totally understand. I'm with you, man. But it's going to happen. We're getting there.
Ron: Awesome. And I just want to give a quick shout to a few more people that popped in. Jessica G says, "Welcome, Troy. Excited to learn about Adapt." Tomas just tuned in from Panama, and he says, "Good morning, Ron and all." Thank you, Tomas. Appreciate you tuning in. Troy, I always love the history and the legacy of what brought you to the present. I want to say you, and I did a little bit of this in our 2017 show, but I'd like to thank our current audience might have expanded a little bit. Would you mind taking us to where did this begin? Did your interest in programming and tech was at a high school thing? A college thing? Where did all this begin, and how did it bring us to the present?
Troy: Going way, way back. I've always been in love with technology. I was that kid who took the things apart that his parents gave him and had a bunch of pieces lying on the floor. Right. That was me that turned into a car audio time period in my life where I did that at a very high level. I built competition vehicles. I was a sound judge. Again, still loving technology, playing around with that stuff. Then I got bored with the cars because they're small and tucked under a dashboard wasn't where I wanted to be anymore. I wanted to do this cool stuff, this high-end, cool stuff in homes. '96 is when I started to make a transition, but nobody was really doing that too much back then. Or if they were, I hadn't found them. I ended up going to work for a commercial integrator, and I was a wire monkey and just pulling the wire and so on. A month after being with the company, my boss, my immediate boss, left, and the big boss came to me and said, "Troy, you seem to pick up on this stuff, but you think you can program this stuff?" And I went, "I don't know, give me a computer, let me see what I can do." And I had a bunch of dead black boxes laying on the floor in front of me and had to pull off a project.
It was the Sherman Federal Courthouse building. Then a year later, I'd done many Crestron projects went. Where did you come from? You're not on any of our training lists, or how did you learn? I taught myself, and Fred said, "Man, you want a job ?" Sure. And so I started the Crestron Dallas office back in '99. I worked for them for six years. My natural progression would have been to move to New Jersey and go work at the Home Office. I'd lived on the East Coast, I loved it, but I left it, and I wanted to stay in Texas. I chose to go a different route. That was how Pantech Design got formed.
Ron: At what point did the Adapt solution? You mentioned these words, and I've forgotten some of the other words. You'll fill in the blanks. But there was software that was standard that everyone was programming Crestron with. And I know that because I worked for Crestron 03 to 07, VTPro and Simple Windows were there. You and your team innovated at some point along the way with a methodology around making it easier and less time to do as much or more than you could through the harder methods. Tell us that story. What was that, and what was the maybe the impetus, and where does that stuff sit now?
Troy: Yes, we can give you some statistics. We started in '05, and then right around 2010, 2011, we realized that the average programming price of a project was starting to go down. Why is that? Well, because the market is changing, right? You have new players in the market. You have Control4, you have Savant, you have even RTI, and some of these other guys are really putting together some pretty cool stuff. It was changing the landscape. We started looking at that in 2011. All right, what do we do about this situation? How do we remain relevant? How do we be competitive and just beat the pants off of any competition? Right around then, Crestron had introduced well, not really introduced this more something we got to see because of our relationship with Crestron. There were two products, one called Studio and one called Simple Sharp.
Simple Sharp is a C-sharp version of doing Crestron, which expanded the toolset capability vastly as we could do so much more. When we started to see that, it was like, you know what, guys? We can now build a real framework that can do some really cool stuff with a configuration tool. This is how we will beat the pants off our competition. We started the development of this in late 2012. We developed all of the 2013 shows for Crestron at CEDIA. They were pretty blown away, but we weren't done with it. We still have a long way to go. All of 2014, we developed, and by that time, CEDIA 2014, we had done a few homes with it, mine and a few projects, and we were wildly successful. We were getting things done in like 80 percent of the time was was was saved like 10 to 20 percent is all we had to spend relative to what we used to have to spend. Obviously, that changes your profitability because of that efficiency. We're like, this is great. We're going to be in great shape. Then in 2015, Fred Bargetzi, who loves the guy, is no longer with us. He passed away just recently. He came to me, and he said, "Troy, how would you feel about making this wonderful thing you've developed available to all the programmers out there ?" And I was like, "Fred, no.".
Ron: There's always a price, right? Yeah, well, there's always a price. Right?
Troy: Actually, one of the other things I said was, "Fred, are you asking to buy this ?" Crestron hasn't bought anybody, to my knowledge. They've partnered, but it's not the way they do things.
Ron: They don't go through acquisition.
Troy: No, they really don't. They've tried. Even Fred's own admission, "We don't like doing that." But anyway, his point was, no, that doesn't make sense. That wouldn't be right for you guys. It wouldn't be right for us. We want to get behind you guys. In fact, you can even go on Crestron's website right now, and you can look up partners and go to residential and go-to software. You're only going to see one name there. We're the only company they've ever given this special distinction to that makes software that goes into their box. I say to Fred, "Fred, you're asking me to give away the keys to the kingdom here, man." And he looks at me with this beautiful stern look like, "No, I'm not asking you to create a new kingdom." Oh, OK. We did that. That was how ADAPT was formed. Really, our code name for what we were building was a very creative tool.
Ron: That was your skunkworks R&D name.
Troy: You working on the tool today? Yeah, working on the tool. Anyway, that evolved to now we're going to CTO, we're introducing a software product. We had to learn a lot. How do we manage that? What do we do with our customers?
Ron: You had a big booth that I remember that you had. I went and visited you. You guys were slammed.
Troy: We were both years 15 and '16. And luckily for us, it was in Dallas. That was convenient. But yeah, it was, it was awesome. Today, some statistics on Adapt. Adapt has saved 130 different integrators, a ton of programming time. There are probably close to 2,000 Adapt homes out there where they've used our software to be fast and efficient and still going strong. It's a different model than Crestron Home because they are a bit of a sandbox. We're like the ocean on the beach. You can just see for miles and miles and miles what you can do with the depth.
Ron: There are much fewer restrictions on what's possible when using Adapt compared to Crestron Home.
Troy: Oh, yeah, anything's possible. In fact, you see that crazy robot back there? Well, that was actually built to prove that very thing. We've built that so that when we introduced our current software, he was an Adapt device. The idea is it doesn't matter what your device is. Adapt can integrate with it and control it.
Ron: I understand, Adapt. I think our audience understands you positioned it quite well. What is Adapt Energy?
Troy: Adapt Energy is a hardware platform, first of all, that we put together to control and monitor energy. When I say control, I'm talking about literally controlling a circuit breaker inside of a load center. Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to have some control over a circuit breaker? There are actually many different reasons, but one fundamental reason is to shut it down when and if you lose grid power. Why would you be shutting something down when you lose great power? Well, because you have a home battery and your home battery can only power so much unless you're just a zillionaire that wants to spend a bunch of money, which even the billionaires are looking at it going, "No, I don't need a battery that can power my whole house for days and days.".
Ron: The billionaires, their homes are often very big and more money, more problems. There's just more stuff that needs to be packed up.
Troy: Yeah. Adapt Energy looks at the home and says OK, I have this much battery available, and I can only power this much stuff. Let's turn off certain things that will make sure that the battery continues to work right. The inverter in the battery, everything's happy and good, but B maybe helps the battery last even longer. There are different conditions, right. Case in point with our crazy storm that we had here in Texas in February. How do you prepare for something like that?
Ron: Remind our audience, Troy, what that was because it was all over the news. But it may be out of sight, out of mind for people at this point. But what happened in Texas in February?
Troy: Yes. We call that snowmageddon because it was no joke, and we weren't prepared. We had a few days of freezing temperatures. 20 and below that froze the ground, froze everything for a little bit of an extended period of time. Then we got dumped over a foot of snow in some places. Well, for Texas, when the ground's that cold, and the snow's going to stick like that, it changed a lot. Mainly, many of the generation plants that generate our power failed, whether they were renewable or not, and it was mostly a failure in transmission and distribution. The landside of things for the utility was affected dramatically. Your demand also is going up because everybody's home and everybody's heating their home. Right. As this demand is going up, we broke records with demand during that period. The generation plants are dropping off. Guys, it's simple economics, right? Supply and demand. The supply wasn't there, and the demand was. Before you knew it, the utility had to go, "We're going to institute rolling blackouts." Well, those rolling blackouts actually turned into total blackouts. And rather than bringing people's power back on, they were leaving people's power off indefinitely for days.
Ron: When it was freezing. And no one's home or persons are prepared for those freezing temperatures.
Troy: Oh, yeah. And everybody's home at this point, actually, because you couldn't go anywhere. After all, people don't know how to drive in that stuff in Texas. You're just home. But if you're home and you have no power, you have no heat, and people die. Stupid mistakes just because they're trying to survive. People putting generators in their homes, right. Gas generators, just not thinking about the carbon monoxide and just the craziest things. Let's tie that in for a minute to what Adapt Energy does, right? If everybody had Adapt Energy in their home. We could have done some of this load shedding and rolling blackouts to maintain a grid that would have saved lives. It would have saved a lot of people from what they dealt with. People were freezing literally in their own homes. It was sad.
Ron: I'm curious, has there. This is more just you're a local on the ground in Texas, has the demand for solutions at the residential level, has it grown or changed in the last six months, i.e., solar, solar to battery or maybe just generators and or obviously for you, the tie in is to energy automation. Has there been a change in the trend or the rate of requests or inquiries for that type of tech?
Troy: Absolutely, all the way around. It woke a lot of people up locally, but you look at everywhere in our nation. Geographically it looks like everybody is dealing with some degree of power or something. You look at California and the rolling blackouts they deal with because of fires. Oregon is dealing with some of that right now. A lot of people don't understand that our great infrastructure, in many cases, is really old, sometimes upwards of 80 years old. A lot of the utilities have been upgrading. But it's hard to keep up with all of that as you look at upgrading your old infrastructure, but also having to build new because we're building new homes and we're building new places. It's tough.
Ron: I might be going down a path that you may or may not have actually been curious about. Are you prepared to tell our audience why America's electrical infrastructure is so old compared to Europe?
Troy: Look, anything I say is speculative and just my opinion, but I think it's because of two things. First thing, lack of education on the need. There's a transition of people coming in and out, and they're only in there in this space may be of management for a period of time. They're not looking at the future. That's one thing.
Ron: Politics or politicians. That's a problem. And by the way, I think I know the answer to this. I was curious if where your head was on this.
Troy: That's part of it right there. Can you market that? Is it something that touches everybody? You can say you're doing something great. This is that whole green kind of thinking. To me, it's a little bit of a sham at times.
Ron: The green thing is a bit of a sham at times?
Troy: Yeah. If you look at EVs, people don't understand how much fossil fuel is burned to create one of those things. Wow.
Ron: We will pull on that thread in a minute, but I'm just going to throw out there this. I think I know this, but maybe I'm just misremembering. But I want to say that because of World War 2, most of Europe was blown up. So they had to rebuild their infrastructure in the 40s, 50s, 60s America, the mainland, was primarily unaffected, so our infrastructure has never had that major purposeful rebuilding.
Troy: Ron, that's a really good point. I could totally see how that would be the case. Why do it if you don't have to? IT's also where's the money going to go that you have? Well. The adage, if it ain't broke, don't fix it kind of thing.
Ron: Yeah, right. Pull on that thread, and I think that's a fun one to pull, and I'm going to challenge that. Last year, we in our household were looking to replace a car lease. Usually, we are a one-car household. My wife and son had their eyes set on a Tesla and I, fortunately, convinced them into a BMW. So sorry for all my Tesla lovers love Tesla, but I love BMW more. But in the research, my son, who was 11 at the time, is now 12. He researched to prove to my wife and me that Tesla's argument was no greener than the BMW when you looked at the energy costs. I'm sure I'm offending lots of Tesla lovers by saying this. There's nothing personal here but the cost of producing the car, the cost of producing the battery. But then where do you think the electricity's coming from that's powering that battery when you go to the charging station? It often depends on where you live in the country or the world. It's often coming from a dirty power plant right now. Do you agree with that, or do I have it wrong?
Troy: No, you're spot on. It's changing, and let's be fair to the evolution and the energy transition, right because we are getting smarter. Let's pick on or pick on the federal government for a minute. They got all excited and said, "Hey, we're going to give you guys a 30 percent tax credit. You put solar on your roof." Right. And the utility companies went, "No, we don't want that." What many people don't realize is that solar is actually hurtful to the grid. Right? Because if you start seeing all the solar getting put on roofs because people got all excited and have their tax credit, they buy all the solar. Then during the day, we'll talk a little pre covid because it changed a little bit during covid. During the day, you're at your office. You're over here. You're over there. You're doing whatever.
You're not in the home. Well, when is the sun most abundant? Right during the middle of the day. What was happening there is that we're not using as much power during the day. We're generating all this solar. All the excess solar gets dumped back onto the grid. The federal government says solar is fantastic. It makes you feel incentivized to get it. And then the utility has to pay for the ramifications of that. Are they going to pay to clean the electrons? They've got to pay to deal with them. This starts to touch that transmission and distribution sort of system.
Ron: Pumping that energy back into a broken infrastructure grid. They're not in a position to receive those electrons.
Troy: Yeah. And the electrons are not regulated well, either. Solar is kind of dirty by its very nature. Right. It's getting shoved onto the grid. Guess what's worse? The grid doesn't even need it at that time. That's not when the peak time of use is. What's worse about that is during that period of time, a lot of them, especially the nuclear plants, they're actually curtailing power. They're literally shoving power into the ground. They're producing more than they need because they know when peak time happens, they're going to have to make sure they have enough power, and you don't turn on and off nuclear plants. And that's why we use those in submarines. Those reactors run, and they just go nice instead. Right. That's how you want your nuclear power to be. TThere's a lot to this. But the bottom line is a battery solves all of it, but it's got to be a battery that's managed well. We're doing the right things with it from energy use and charge and discharge perspective. It's got to be efficient because there's still loss involved. Ron, I know you've done a lot in robotics. You definitely understand the power and how batteries work and things like that. That transition from AC to DC and DC to AC can be upwards of a 20-25 percent loss in power. There's a lot to this, a lot to unpack. But at the end of the day, solar does not make any sense, in my opinion, without a battery and a system to manage it.
Then number two, I want to dispel a theory or something that is a bit of a misunderstanding. Just because you have solar power, solar panels on your roof, that doesn't mean you're going to have power when the power goes out. You only have power when the power goes out, and you have solar if you have a way to power the invertors to go from DC to AC so your house can run on that solar power, which is typically a home battery that's going to make that happen. When the grid goes down, you still have a way to power the inverter.
Ron: Troy, I'm going to talk to you as my subject matter expert here. OK, what is the state of battery tech? In the world, where is it today, and where is it going?
Troy: Where it is today is we have definitely figured out that there are challenges between safety and get the discharge and sort of a battery that works great. We'll keep it kind of simple. A battery that works really, really great and does its job for an extended period of time and safety. It's taken a long time to get here, but lithium-ion phosphate, iron phosphate is some of the best out there. That's the Sonen battery, correct?
Troy: That is what they use for their chemistry. Yes. And other manufacturers do this as well. Look, I don't want to pick on anybody, but other guys are using different technology that's not as safe.
Ron: Can I say the name? Is that Tesla?
Troy: Fair enough.
Ron: My Tesla people are going to throw more eggs at me.
Troy: But here's the beauty of Tesla, you know, to give them some kudos and credibility.
Ron: By the way, I love Elon Musk. He's the man.
Troy: Good on you, Elan and Tesla, in your marketing strategies, and it's fantastic. But at the end of the day, what's driving innovation in battery tech is the need for mining a different mineral, if you will, to give us the ability not to have to worry about how to dispose of the battery because the batteries don't last forever. Lithium is a bit of an animal for us to get rid of. Right. Furthermore, where do we get our lithium from? Now we've got a dependency that we need to be concerned about—things to look out for. Lithium polymer is still in the lithium family, but a different kind of chemistry, zinc ion. That's something that is, I think, going to be part of our future and the other one to watch is. What is that one called? I can't remember off the top of my head. It's brand new. It is graphite involved, and the graphite is interesting between the anode and the cathode. It's really, really cool tech.
Ron: I've watched a science series, I think, on PBS about some new graphite battery tech. Yes. The thing about the graphite stuff, I think if I remember right, and I think I watched the same thing you did, but it was the depth of discharge. It was amazing. That's the other thing about battery technology. People don't understand that the different batteries are used for different situations. Well, when you want to make a cargo like it has to have power, immediate torque, immediate to the wheels, and that's the requirement of a battery like that. That's a little bit different requirement than something that's just humming along. It just runs at a nice static output, so there's that, and then we're doing so much cool stuff. I'm watching a lot of Formula One these days.
Ron: Have you been watching the series on Netflix?
Troy: Well, that's what got me into this.
Ron: We're into it, too. It's amazing.
Troy: You got to start watching the races. I think I'm going to go to the one in October that's in Austin. But the thing that's interesting about that is what they're doing with ED technology. There's Formula E also, and Formula E is sort of those type cars powered with a battery. Then there's something else that you really want to watch out for, and this actually comes out of Formula E, a car company called Lucid. They've been developing this technology for the better part of a decade. They were the ones that supplied the batteries for the Formula E guys. For all the cars they were using, the battery will be using this Lucid vehicle. They're just about to start shipping cars, and the Lucid air can go 520 miles on a single charge. The tech is insane.
Ron: I want to say a normal Tesla is in the 200-300 mile range, correct?
Troy: That's correct. Yeah. We're talking about almost doubling the runtime if you will—many neat things coming in for sure.
Ron: What does it look like for the CI Channel? Namedrop here. We have Rosewater. Joe Picorelli has got an amazing battery, an amazing company. And I've had him on this show before. Then you have Sonnen, who has appeared at the show for several years back to back. I think that may be due to the weirdness of the pandemic or whatnot. I think they've pulled out this year so that we won't see them in September. But I know you're a close collaborator with them.
Troy: Yeah. Adapt Energy is normally in their booth. And we both kind of decided we're going to just watch things for now. But yeah, there's a convergence happening with or without that channel for the CI channel because I liken it to what happened in '93-'94. Lutron, I believe it was that time frame that showed up at CEDIA, and everybody's going why? Why are you here? What does the lighting system have to do with our awesome automation? We just didn't realize the importance. Right. And how that would play a role. Now you look a decade or two or more later, and all of a sudden, a system doesn't go in without a lighting system. You could say the same of shades. What I see happening for the integrator is that they're on projects now where solar is being put in a home, batteries being put in a generator is being put in maybe all three. Some of the pioneers of things, the innovative thinking integrators, realize there is money to be made in communicating with those devices, integrating with those devices. We have this idea of energy automation right back a few years ago or whatever. But really what this is and we want to change that that that idea, we want to change it to energy integration because that's really what's happening, is you've got all these different devices that do something with energy. Maybe they create it. Maybe they store it. Maybe they manage it. But when you integrate all those things with the home automation system, you do some really cool stuff. Can you imagine your home managing its own power based on the battery's current state of charge and because the battery has dipped below 50 percent? Let's make sure the lights can only go to 50 percent because it's between the hours of X and Y, and there are so many things. For the CI guys, they're going to be able to start adding value.
They're seeing if they're going to be able to add value by integrating all of that technology and putting it all under one nice little roof or in a system that manages itself for the benefit of the lifestyle of the homeowner—a couple of quick topics regarding home automation and the intersection of solar and batteries in the home.
Ron: I'll add another topic there, which is just home automation and energy in the home. We could put solar and batteries to the side. Are you seeing how today if an integrator wants to deliver a solution to their customer to allow to at a minimum to monitor energy consumption and to interpret that and know what that means? How is that done today and I'm making an assumption I'm leaping here. I don't know that I know this, so it's only an assumption that that might affect the energy usage patterns of the consumer if they can see how much energy they're using today versus yesterday maybe versus other people in their area. I know that probably is a big leap. I know my Nest thermostat used to do that. Where does that stand today?
"Once you can take data and information and display it so that a person can ingest it, understand it, and then make a difference with it, you've done something right. I call that the power of a watt."
Troy: I think that's the key. Honestly, Ron, I think what you just described is one of the keys to getting where we need to go. That's education, right? Once you can take data and information and display it so that a person can ingest it, understand it, and then make a difference with it, you've done something right. I call that the power of a watt. It's a little play on words, right? Understanding the power of what a watt is.
Ron: Have you trademarked that? If not, do you need to? It's in the public domain now.
Troy: I'll work on that, Ron. But I do this with my kids, and you're absolutely right. They've got touch screens in their rooms, and I take them to a dashboard that shows them just their room. They can literally see the power use in their room, and we turn on and off the lights. I help them understand the power of a watt and how this translates to coal and trees. I think it's how we deliver the information, giving the homeowner the ability to see things in such a way that it changes habits and increases the demand for systems that. Make things better for not only their lifestyle but the lifestyle of others around them. It's fun because technology can definitely do this for you. That's another piece of it. You're not going to manage it in this granular manual fashion. Nobody in their right mind is going to decide to go through their whole house and unplug all the little things that have a phantom kind of load if you will, that's drawing .001 watt. They're not going to think about it or care about it, but if the system did it for them, they would be very thankful for it. And to be able to see the data and the information, I'll use a phrase that my wife threw out there.
I always show her all the cool, crazy technical stuff, right? We live it. We breathe it, we eat it, and sleep it. And I'm like, look at that Check this out. This is so cool. Watch this. Watch that. And I'll never forget it. Just a couple of years ago, she was like, "I like it. It's great, man. But really, all I want to know is if I'm winning or losing." And that was profound to me because at the end of the day, I think that's what consumers really looking for, is a system that helps them win and lets them know when they're winning and when they're losing.
Ron: For this vision that you're describing right there to mean something to the country and the world, it needs to be done in mass. I'm making an assumption here again.
Troy: Yeah, you're right.
"Many new ideas start with those that can afford them, meaning the luxury consumer will often be the tip of the spear for new technologies."
Ron: How but I'll also posit that many new ideas start with those that can afford them, meaning the luxury consumer will often be the tip of the spear for new technologies. Is that where this is? They are the tip of the spear. They're the ones experimenting with this, and if so, when does it actually scale throughout this country and the world to actually mean something for future generations?
Troy: First, you're spot on. That's certainly where we have started in terms of the luxury brand of Adapt Energy and what it does and all that. It's sort of like the Tesla Roadster. That's where they started. You vet your technology, software, and hardware, and you come up with new ideas and innovative ways to do things. And then you take that, and you scale it. We're already in that process right now. Now, what's happening is we're starting to have conversations with utility companies. Right, so you want to talk about scale that scale today, and for the past few years, I'm having discussions with integrators, solar contractors, electrical contractors who have a project. A singular thing that needs to be worked on, addressed, and whatever. And that's where we're great. Right? We can solve all those crazy technical issues, and we do it with hardware and software tools. But in the future, with the utilities talking to us, they're looking at it from the standpoint of a much grander scale.
Some of these utilities have millions of people that they supply powerful. How do you take that that that technology, all the things that you've learned, all the things that you've innovated through, this sort of higher-end approach and make it cost-effective, but still capable of doing those very same things scaling? It's happening literally right now. You do that through learning our current product. I could control over two thousand breakers in a home if I wanted to. That's scalability on the technical side. Right. But what we've learned is the average home needs to be able to turn off maybe four things, five things. We don't need that added expense of 16 brake control or 32 or 2000 or whatever. It's just learning those things and then making those tools available through the right channels, including utilities, builders, and developers.
Ron: I'm going to give a personal example. I moved into a new house in 2019. I think I responded to some ad on Instagram. I'm a sucker for Instagram ads. And next thing I know, I had a meeting with a solar vendor that wanted to sell me solar. I could buy the solar. I could buy the batteries. It's a lot of money. But when I did the math, the math doesn't work. I would not be doing it because financially, it made any sense I would doing it. I'd be doing it because I feel that I'm I almost want to say I'd be chest-thumping in some way about being green, or I'd want to be cool for my neighbors. I don't care what my neighbors think. That's not going to drive me. I'd like to think green, but there are points where I'm not going to spend many tens of thousands of dollars of my own money to be .0000001 percent better for my state. Right. I'm just not going to do that. I guess that's the quandary I have about this stuff. And I believe, if you look at Moore's Law and the cost of electronics and chips and silicon, it goes down, power goes up.
Is there a Moore's Law equivalent in this energy storage usage, automation, space, or do you see it living in this luxury, by the way? It's OK to live in the luxury space because I think our integrators in our channel can have a lot of success for many years with this. I think it's very cool for our channel. But I'm talking about how do we save the planet?
Troy: Here's how we do it, and it's happening right now, and there is sort of a Moore's Law approach, but it's how these things are getting funded. It's where the money is coming from and what's being done with the money to to to scale things like what we're talking about. Let me give you an example of what I see happening in the future. People want resiliency. All you have to do is go through a hurricane or a major snowstorm or a thing, whatever it is in your life. And all of a sudden, there's a very different weight put on resiliency to get out of it. Right. You're not buying into this because you're trying to save money. Why do you have insurance? Ron, why do we have business insurance, car insurance, home insurance? It's just in case. Right. This is resiliency and sort of like an insurance policy is how people are thinking about this, and we're starting to see this happen at the individual, a home, one home, one consumer. Hey, I don't want to go through that ever again. I want to make sure that my family's safety.
Our technology is OK. Our koi pond is not going to be dead, whatever it is right now. You exacerbate that a little bit by looking at a community. Take that home and now go to a community like a community, want some level of resiliency as well. How do you feel? This happened to people. How would you feel if I had a bad dream about this? To be honest about the power being out in Snowmageddon like we had in Texas and being the only one for miles that actually has power.
Ron: I think if it went on long enough, it'd probably be dangerous.
Troy: Amen. That's exactly right. That was the nightmare that I had. I actually didn't lose power. I was very fortunate in that regard. What if I had? I couldn't turn on a light. Are you kidding me? People are freezing in their own homes. What do you think is going to happen? Man, the windows, right?
Ron: I lived in Florida in 2004, 2005, and 2006 when some major storms. Now, not as bad as Andrew in '92, but some of the bad storms, we were without power in Fort Lauderdale for two weeks. Yeah, when I bought my first gun after that experience after seeing how crazy society starts to break down. But there is no food, no water, no gas. That's when you need to be scared.
Troy: That's right. Anyway, take that at a community level and say, alright, now the community can help each other. Let's say the development had batteries in every home. I'm a little low. You have extra power. Well, we can share that resource as a community. Now the community is supporting each other. Now, take that even a step further, and you go into a larger sort of community type thing. This is called the decentralization of the grid. Today we get our power from the grid in almost all cases. That's our first line of defense in terms of where we get our power. What I see in the future and what's going to change things is when your first line of defense becomes your own little bubble, your home, and the home is managing itself in such a way that today we're a little cloudy. We're going to change how we do some of this is and some of that, and we're going to squeeze on power and set it good. Right. Then the next line of defense is your community, right? Oh, my gosh, I'm getting low or my roof facing this way. Your roof is facing that way. Help me out then.
The last line of defense becomes the grid, right? We flip it 180 degrees, and now we've got this beautiful thing. Now take that and look at apartment complexes and look at other multiple dwelling units and look at the roof space. Guess what that is? That's a virtual power plant. This is a battery swarm if you will, or batteries as a swarm on demand for the utility to ask for. The utility can go, man, you know what? We just saw an increase in demand. We're looking around. Rather than institute rolling blackouts, we're going to dispatch megawatts of power from this multiple dwelling unit, this apartment complex where maybe this community to the grid. Now we're all working together to make these things happen, and we're literally working on those things right now. Virtual power plants are real. How does that happen? How does it become a thing? How do we change the world? Well, it happens on the innovation, but that innovation happens all the way around. We've got to have innovative ways on the financial end of things, just like we have to have innovative ways on the technical end of things to pull this off.
Groups are being put together right now that are doing some great things. They're called grid asset managers and grid asset owners. They literally own the grid assets, batteries, solar blah blah. And they, to some degree, might control it. But the individual consumer benefits in a major way, and so does the community. Then so does the utility.
"I think that looks like a bright future. It looks like a fundamental entire redesign of the grid and of the way of thinking about power."
Ron: I can see that future. I think that looks like a bright future. It looks like a fundamental entire redesign of the grid and of the way of thinking about power. Are we going to see this Troy? Are our children going to see this? Or is it beyond is our children's children going to see this? I'm asking you to pull out your crystal ball here.
Troy: My crystal ball is always broken.
Ron: Mine always is, too. That's why I just ask others.
"We've got to have methods of storing a lot of power. Remember earlier I said what a lot of utilities do during the day. They curtail that power. They have no method of storing it."
Troy: Alright. Well, if I had to guess. Yeah, we're definitely going to see it. I think I'm going to see it in my life because we're building it right now. Now, are we going to see it transform? In our lifetime, maybe not in mine, but I think definitely in my kids' lifetime, because, look, it all comes down to storage. It really does. We've got to have methods of storing a lot of power. Remember earlier I said what a lot of utilities do during the day. They curtail that power. They have no method of storing it. They've even tried crazy things like turning to the grain silos. You're going to see them all the time in Texas. They've tried to turn those things into a battery, just filling it up with some material and dropping some form of an anode and a cathode in there. How much power can we store? This has been tried for many years. How crazy, right?
Ron: That's crazy.
Troy: When we can store that much power. That's going to really be the thing that changes everything. What we need to watch for once you start seeing battery technology reach that point where Moore's Law is definitely in play, and we're squeezing on the financial innovations of ways that we can pay for it, it's going to skyrocket.
Ron: Awesome, Troy, as you probably could tell. Man, I could talk to you about this topic for hours and hours. I find it fascinating. I can tell you that I speak for the audience and myself. Thank you for you and your team and the innovation you guys are doing. I think the world needs it, and our industry needs it. And our industry, if they open their minds, could benefit from this, and they could position themselves as thought leaders around our future, our energy future here in this country and around the world. Tremendous, tremendous job. Troy, proud of you and your team. Those that are listening are tuning in. Who do you want to make contact with you and how would they do that? Well, we want solar contractors. Electrical contractors, absolutely. But more importantly, we want custom integrators. These are the guys that make it happen and that we've built a business supporting and innovating these new things because this is how you stay in business and how you stay on the cutting edge of what's out there. I want my custom integrators to call us not only about Adapt Energy but about Adapt. And we can teach you how to really blend those two and just make a wonderful, wonderful system for a consumer.
You can find us at www.pantechdesign.com, and up at the top, you'll see home automation. That will be the Adapt software for Crestron and our design, engineering, and programming tools and then energy automation at the top. You'll find a lot of information about Adapt Energy, some really great videos like you can actually see the technology working in my house, and it's just pretty cool. And we want people to share that with their homeowners, their customers because that's where I mean. Like you said earlier, it's kind of cliche, but very true pictures are worth a thousand words. Those videos are really fantastic. The best place to find us and also set up to track us. Right. If you just go on our website, put your email address in there, you can stay on top of what we're doing with the innovations on both sides of the fence, Adapt and Adapt Energy. Do that, and you'll be notified of this kind of thing.
Ron: I will let you go, Troy, but I don't want to do it without addressing some live questions from the audience. If you will, let me get them some quick answers, and then we'll cut loose. First of all, Sean does jump in, and he's talking about the old school of lots of remotes down to one. And I think he's making a comparison there to the future of energy storage. Thank you, Sean, for tuning in.
Troy: I agree, Sean. Totally.
Ron: But Tomas asked the question here. I think the only part of it's on the screen. He says, "Troy, without getting into which brand is best, what is your opinion on the news Savant power formerly called Race Point Energy? The presentation looks awesome, and I share your opinion that it is the future that has arrived in regards to technology." What is it that you think? What is the impact of this? It sounds like he's asking a targeted or specific question about Savant Power, but if you want to, I'll let you take that in any direction you want. Troy. Yeah, Tomas, I want to be always honest about everything, so I don't really know much about what they're doing. I spent a little time with them at CEDIA 2019, and we looked at our technology and their technology, and there's just a lot of similarities there. Here's what I can tell you that I do know I applaud them for their efforts and their innovations. Please continue doing what you're doing, because I think it's great. That's about as far as I can take that. Unfortunately, not a lot of technical there, but I've heard some great things about what they're doing, and I'm happy too, especially being in sort of our custom integration channel, are looking at it sort of vindication, right that we're doing the right thing too. Thankful for that.
Ron: Yeah, I agree. When you start to see multiple brands talking about the same subject, that's very confidence-building. That means that you're on to something.
Troy: Joe Picirilli. He's doing some super cool stuff. We talk all the time. He's been to my house. He's seen what we're doing. We're going to be blending our technologies because it makes sense, right? Like his technology for a battery for the home, fantastic, ours to manage all that. It's a beautiful marriage. There's a lot of neat things that are coming.
Ron: Awesome. That would give one last shout-out. Jeremy is up in Minnesota. He's a friend of yours and mine and a longtime industry vet.
Troy: Jeremy P?
Ron: Yeah, Jeremy P is in the flesh tuning in. Listening to the one and only Troy. Thanks, Jeremy, for tuning in, sir. Greatly appreciated. Again, Troy, thank you for joining me on the show. Let me see what show is that? This is shown in 179. Show number 7 and show 179.
Troy: Wow. Well, thanks for the opportunity, Ron. It is fun. And I know you, and I could do this for hours. Maybe someday we'll do another one, and hopefully, we don't wait as long. That would be great.
Ron: Alright. You have my commitment. We won't wait four years for the next show. Thanks, buddy. Be well.
Troy: You too.
Ron: Alright, folks, there you have it, Troy Morgan, Founder and CEO at Pantech Design, they are just a fascinating company, been known for many years for being Crestron programming experts. I know they are known as design and engineering experts. They'll do that both for their clients and then directly for customers, and the Adapt and Adapt Energy sides of the equation are both incredibly innovative. I think it's just really neat. Troy is definitely a person you want to be following. And Pantech design is definitely a brand that you want to be turned into just to kind of see what they're up to. I promise that they'll always have intriguing ideas and things out on the market that is making changes in lots of lives. Quickly closeout.
If you have not already done so, I would love it if you'd subscribe to this podcast, the Automation Unplugged podcast. Remember, this was life, but this is an audio-only format as well. You do need to subscribe, though, to get those updates. I would love you to do that. And again, we're always working hard on all of our social channels. Our social team, led by Stephanie and our new marketing manager, Jessica, have lots of exciting, I'll say, scaling and improvement and even more powerful, helpful content that's going to be coming out on our social channels here in the coming months. You definitely want to be tuning in. And on Instagram, that's our newest channel. You can just find us at One Firefly LLC if you are not already following us. On that note, I'm going to sign off. I look forward to seeing you all next week. I actually know this because I was working on it earlier today. We've got just another Texas native business, and in this case, it's going to be a rock star. Think of this as CE Pro 100, but just a powerhouse residential and commercial integration firm out of Dallas. That business is Texadia. And I'm going to have Steve Burke on the show. Steve's going to be here for episode 180. And definitely, you want to tune in for that. So on that note, I'm going to sign off. Have a great rest of your week, a great weekend. Don't forget, this is summer and relax a little bit, have a cocktail or do whatever you need to do this weekend to relax, read a good book, hang out with your family, and I'll see you later. Be well.
Troy Morgan is the Founder and CEO at PanTech Design. Under Troy's leadership, PanTech Design quickly became one of the leading firms of its kind to develop groundbreaking products like the Adapt for Crestron software suite and Adapt Energy home energy automation ecosystem. Today, Troy focuses on tackling the world's energy challenges with his revolutionary Adapt Energy solution that helps homeowners better monitor and manage their energy usage.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
- Adapt Energy
- Formula One Netflix Series
- Lucid Air cars
- Episode 7 of Automation Unplugged with Troy Morgan