We ask about the essence of a smart home, what direction the company is going today and what we can expect in the future. Mr. Konečný reveals with us at the start the main reason behind ELKO EP’s successful ranking as runner up for Company of the Year, and which product series see the most investments. He also shared with us his experience of living in his own smart home.
The company ELKO EP has been on the market since 1993. It develops and produces a wide range of devices for home and industrial electrical installations. Two years ago, the company earned the title of Company of the Year of the Zlín Region and 2nd place in the entire Czech Republic out of 252 companies. What was the main reason behind your success?
What was most important for the jury was that the company had worked its way up from zero. It developed rapidly and often innovated its own products. Without quality people however, this would not have been possible. Twenty-two years ago, I began in my parents’ garage developing, producing and then selling my own time relays. At first my family helped me out. From a handful of employees, the company has now become ELKO EP HOLDING, a.s. with 281 employees and eight branches abroad. We began with five types of relays. We gradually built our assortment up to today’s 200 electronic devices for wide-ranging use. Almost everything has changed since that time – manufacturing lines, production processes… Just in terms of space, we have moved five times. One thing that didn’t change however is the fact that we develop our own products, and we still produce and sell for ourselves. You can see for yourself how our company looks in our corporate video, or you can visit us soon during our Open House.
Which products are your main workhorses and which ones are you counting on in the future?
Our mainstay is the product series of electronic devices on which we grew. We sell it at home and abroad, and we have already expanded into 60 countries worldwide. We also produce for world renowned brands such as Schneider Electric, EATON, HAGER and Siemens. Today, relays still make up most of our revenue, and this stable base allows us to develop in the areas of Smart Homes and Smart Building.
Since 2003, we have invested robustly in our system of electrical installations called iNELS. Two product series have developed. The bus intelligent electrical installation iNELS BUS is ideal for those who are building or reconstructing a property, and the wireless iNELS RF Control is designed for those with already built buildings wanting to make the existing electrical installation more sophisticated. In the west, roughly 40% of family homes are equipped with a comprehensive or partial intelligent electrical installation, but they are still only found in about 6 % of Czech homes. This is one of the fastest expanding branches, where we also recorded a 100% annual increase in orders. We now have performed over 3,000 installations in the CR and abroad.
What do you find most important in terms of an intelligent system?
For the customer, the most important factor is complexity of functions of the system, an overview of home operation and easy control of all technology using a single application in the smart phone or tablet. Also savings, security, comfort and other advantages of the system in varying order according to client priorities have all become crucial.
The fundamental qualities of the iNELS system are flexibility and variability. We continue to work on integrating options of diverse technologies into the system, e.g. in the areas of recuperation, air-conditioning, shading technology, security cameras, fire fighting technology and others. Our aim is to let customers choose from quality brands of appliances or devices that can be connected into the system and controlled by means of a single application in their phone, tablet or smart TV.
It is possible to connect practically any appliance, but we are mainly concerned about connections enabling in applications the expanded control of functions, not just use of on/off buttons. The system is capable of adjusting to types of installations in any buildings, to expansion options and to changes in function or upgrades.
Can you outline what direction the area of Smart Living is heading? What novelties can we expect?
Smart Home technology is continuing to expand and improve. The manufacturers understood today’s modern trends and are open towards them. Interesting examples include the automatic dog and cat feeder or smart door key.
The main improvements especially involve energy savings and simplification in installing products. For example, the average electrician can install and set up our new smart sets, which he feared before. In developing a Smart Home, large players on the electronics market also contribute (Apple, Samsung, LG, etc.), whose devices are labeled as “Smart” or “Smart Ready”. We have also registered efforts in introducing standardized, unified protocols.
Two years ago, you and your family moved into a new home – your “smart home”. Reveal to use what functions you utilize the most? How do your wife and children like it?
Everyone got used to it gradually. Even my mother-in-law understood that it is possible to control four lights at once with a double button. My wife anxiously refused touch control, arguing that she was completely satisfied with classic ones. Today she controls everything including TV and music from her mobile phone, admitting that it is indeed faster and more comfortable. As opposed to this, my two-year-old son took immediate interest in the gyroscopic controller to the video zone, playing around with it long enough to be able to start a fairy tale and control volume. (more here)
I personally use the smart home function every day. I keep stored in my favorite applications control of blinds, turning on and controlling lights, switching on the coffee machine and the news to channel ČT24, and running the “departure” scene involving garage and gate opening, and they copy my morning regimen from waking up to driving away. However, not everything can be perfectly planned immediately. It depends on how perfectly you want to adjust the home to your needs.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy playing, penetrating the world of new technologies and controlling the previously uncontrollable. I also enjoy explaining to people that smart living makes sense, and that it is not founded on comfort alone, but on efficiency and a certain life style. I especially accent the opportunity to save and to live in an environmentally friendly way. At work, I am far happier in the R&D department than in the office.