Are you a fan of home automation products? I’ve become a bit of an addict over the past few years. It started with some occupancy and vacancy light switches. Anyone who’s used them knows they turn on when they sense motion in the room. Once they no longer sense motion, they turn off. (There are various iterations, like manual on, automatic off or automatic on, manual off, but you get the idea.) They’re reliable and virtually infallible — unless you stop moving in the room.

Next I moved up to voice-controlled devices. Myriad choices exist in this market — platforms based on Samsung, Amazon, Google and Apple device protocols are among the most common though certainly not the only choices. I began with easy plug-in options (say, a WiFi-based outlet that allows me to control a fan or light) and eventually augmented my home with hardwired switch and plug options. On the plus side, these controls are more customizable and allow a varied schedule. On the down side, if your internet goes down, or if the device’s connection to your WiFi network is poor, you will spend a lot of time cursing inanimate objects.

The next level for most home automation projects are hub-based system. Such systems mitigate some of the WiFi connectivity issues in that only your hub needs to be connected reliably to your internet. (Each of the devices on your network connects to the hub.) Though I haven’t taken this step yet, I can see the advantages. Through third-party apps, it is possible to build complete recipes with multiple events triggered by a single keyword, action or scheduled event.

The automation conveniences we can now enjoy in our home, coupled with the loss of institutional knowledge due to retiring workers and the shifting responsibilities of those taking their place, are drivers for the increasing ability to control thermal processes remotely. After all, if you can check who’s at your front door when you’re away from home, it makes sense you be able to check the process equipment alarm when you’re in another part of the plant or even off-site. Has this trend reached your plant yet, and how are you remotely monitoring of thermal processes?