This year has seen the culmination of an exciting journey Sontay has been on with its customers, culminating in the launch its wireless sensing product range, SORA. It has also seen the perfect storm of COVID, net zero and the cost of energy crisis bring the building management systems (BMS) sector sharply into focus.
This year, Stacey Lucas, Commercial and Marketing Director at Sontay is celebrating working for the company for 20 years. She reflects on an exciting year for Sontay: “We have been developing a wireless product range since 2020, talking to our customers and listening to their needs. This year we were able to launch SORA into the market. This product range combines our expertise in sensing devices with the wireless power of LoRaWAN. SORA enables buildings to achieve energy efficiency whilst ensuring the safety and comfort of its occupants. We are looking to expand the range in the coming months and years so this is just the start of an exciting journey for SORA and Sontay.”
Clients agree with Stacey that SORA is revolutionising the sector. Andy Camsell, Technical Director, Novus Controls Ltd, said: “SORA sits above everything else. As market leaders Sontay has excellent sensing technology, combine that with LoRaWAN’s renowned and reliable wireless connectivity, and you can have SORA up and running in a matter of minutes. It has a gateway that you can programme yourself and LoRaWAN ensures consistent transmission data back from the sensors.”
SORA will help ensure the health and safety of occupants in buildings which Stacey believes COVID helped bring to forefront of building managers, specifiers, architects, engineers and designers’ minds. “The government has brought in legislation around ventilation,” she notes. “So, it wouldn’t surprise me if in the near future the Government specify the use of sensors in public buildings to mitigate the risk of infections spreading, they could go even further, regulating commercial buildings in the future to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Sensors are now also playing a vital role in helping businesses meet their net zero targets. But it is the energy crisis which is currently bringing Sontay to companies attention. “Companies are looking at how they can reduce their energy bills, ensuring their buildings are running efficiently to help reduce costs,” explains Stacey. “People often assume modern buildings have a building energy management system (BEMS) in place, but often they don’t. Because SORA is a plug and play system it can be installed quickly. The system can also be installed with minimum disruption in heritage buildings where previously chasing out walls would have damaged a building of significant cultural importance.”
The growth in demand for sensors has seen them more readily available to buy on the internet. “These are not going to be able to connect to a building management system so that data can be used for a control algorithm or as part of an analytical data set,” explains Stacey. “When you examine these sensors, it becomes clear that the design will not allow for the accurate measurement of temperature, relative humidity or CO2 required for the BEMS sector, which means they’re going to be slow to react. People in an office for example may begin to complain that they are too hot or too cold because of the delay. Our sophisticated sensors are designed to meet the needs of the building controls industry, we can measure the temperature, relative humidity and CO2 in a duct, we have sensors that can attach to a pipe to assess its temperature. The level of sophistication required can only be met by the BEMS sector.”
“The comfort of a building’s occupants has also become a top priority for companies because they are beginning to understand how buildings impact people and their ability to work, she explains. “As a result, we are seeing demand for our sensors grow because people want healthy buildings.”
A building certification programme called RESET is also placing real focus on the comfort and health of a building’s occupants. There are two certification levels, RESET Certified and RESET high performance. Reset relies on data gathered over three months to assess air quality and see if a building meets air quality targets. It also includes standards for indoor environmental quality (IEQ) sensor performance, calibration, installation and data reporting. Sontay’s GS-IAQ all in one air quality sensors are RESET certified and can measure temperature, humidity, CO2, VOC and PM all from one device.
The growth in demand and greater understanding of the role sensors play in the built environment is fuelling a smart buildings revolution according to Stacey. This growth in demand has meant Sontay has continued to build its global presence and grow its family with Alessandro Cirilo, Alejandro Garcia, Chris Carson, Ryan Kidd and Elizabeth Bailey all joining Team Sontay this year.
Lizzy said: “I can’t believe it has nearly been a year, but what an amazing year. I have been part of a new product range launch and our new website launch.”
This year also saw the launch of the latest Sontay catalogue with a social media competition to raise funds for the Ukraine Appeal. For every picture taken with the new brochure, Sontay donated £5 to the appeal. Famous actress Ronnie Ancona was involved. There was a picture of the brochure taken with a horse and someone managed to dress up in a bright pink suit for their photo. £750 was raised for the appeal thanks to the imaginative efforts of Sontay’s extended family.
Stacey said: “We are excited to have grown the Sontay family this year which means we will go into 2023 stronger than ever before ready to support our customers. There have also been some internal promotions which means Sontay will be looking for more resource next year.
“We are going to be building a website in Spanish and one in Italian to support our growth in these countries. We will also develop language specific catalogues for these countries too. Shortly we will a launch the French website. We are working hard to ensure that we are meeting the needs of these new markets and making the resource available so that the Sontay brand is recognised in these new markets with the same high regard as it is in the UK. Our website analytics show that we have interest from across the globe in our product range, this is incredible and demonstrates an exciting future for the brand.”
Stacey joined the Building Control Industry Association’s (BCIA’s) Management Committee at the start of 2022 and has just been made Vice President. “The association has grown from 90 members to more than 150 in the past few years, so we have employed a full-time Executive Officer. I am really excited for the future of the association as we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our members.”
In the future Stacey believes the Cloud could transform the way data from sensors is managed. Currently data from sensors goes to the controller. “In the future the sensors will talk to the Cloud and the Cloud will talk to the field devices and the building will operate like something from the Matrix. To access Cloud services you need a subscription, but there are questions about who owns that subscription and who manages it after handover etc. If someone forgot to renew a subscription would the building just stop working? All of these points will need to be ironed out and the management of a building will need to evolve along with the equipment installed. Currently a controller has an intelligent strategy programmed into it. But the Cloud could offer endless possibilities, it could look at weather data and decide to close the shutter on a building to protect it from a storm. A building could become intelligent in the future and human decisions could be taken out of the process entirely.”
In the meantime, Sontay is continuing to evolve its products to meet the growing needs of its customers and the BEMS sector.