Country Profile: KNX South Africa

Geny CaloisiBy Geny Caloisi, KNXtoday.

KNX has had a presence in South Africa for more than eight years, but the KNX National group office only opened at the end of 2012. Over the course of time, training and education, along with the tireless work of both distributors and integrators, have helped to grow KNX’s presence and awareness in the local market.

Many companies looked into the KNX protocol over the years. Initially Siemens began investigating the viability of the business in South Africa, followed in 2005 by AMC German Technology with Gira’s KNX products.

The South African flag with map of country superimposed.

The South African flag with map of country superimposed.

One of the first installation businesses to carry out KNX installations in the country was EIB Automation. With a strong green policy on energy consumption in residential and commercial environments, the green credentials of KNX were a perfect fit for the company. Now, as KNX Electronic Components and partners of Futurasmus, an online KNX wholesaler and technical support, the company continues to provide solutions through KNX Partners nationwide.

The Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Limpopo is a good example of the work that EIB Automation has done using KNX. The stadium, which was designed and built for the FIFA 2010 World Cup, has over 150 separate distribution boards, 270 KNX devices and control of well over 1000 light circuits.

The Peter Mokaba Stadium was built for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

The Peter Mokaba Stadium was built for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

Another noteworthy project is the Vodacom Innovation Centre in Midrand. This is the first building in South Africa to aim for a six-star rating under the Green Star South Africa certification scheme.

Training and Growth

KNX’s training capability has proved an important asset for KNX growth in South Africa.

ABB began selling KNX locally around five years ago. At the time, they also arranged to send a number of business partners to Germany for KNX training. The improved level of understanding achieved helped to increase the protocol’s popularity bringing the number of KNX Partners up to 12.

Training and the help of the KNX Association has been very important, with the first opportunity opening up in 2010. With the help of KNX’s Marketing Manager, Casto Canavate, a course was arranged in Brussels for several attendees from across the globe. As a result of that training, the first KNX training centre in Southern Africa, KNX Centre (now a part of KNX Electronic Components), was established in early 2011, offering both the basic and advanced KNX certified courses.

A year later, again with the help of KNX Association, the Industrial Data Exchange Academy started offering KNX training online, both basic and advanced certified KNX training courses, as prescribed by the KNX Association.

Recent Developments

In October last year, Heinz Lux, KNX CEO, flew from Brussels to officially open the KNX National Group in South Africa. The Board Members are Dirk Visser from ABB, (President), Nico van der Merwe from Schneider-Electric and David Gradl from AMC German Technology (Vice-Presidents) and Chris Greager from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (Secretary).

The KNX South Africa team with Heinz Lux (front left).

The KNX South Africa team with Heinz Lux (front left).

The next step in gaining a firmer foothold in the country was to organise a big gathering. All KNX partners and companies were invited that represented KNX locally, as well as the Electrical Contractors’ Association.

Over the past eight years, KNX has moved from being an outsider – something of an oddity perhaps – to a position where even installers who do not use it readily acknowledge its place, and clients are beginning to ask for KNX specifically.

The number of certified individuals has increased accordingly, and the number of KNX Partners almost quadrupled to the current 46. With the work of the KNX National Group and training centres, this growth rate is expected to increase. Locally there is specific representation for ABB, Somfy and Hager via Electromechanica in Cape Town, and Gira via AMC German Technology.

In addition, KNX Electronic Components has recently partnered with Futurasmus, a web-based provider of all KNX brands. This development allows further access to products that are not normally catered for by the larger manufacturers in this region. The pricing is also comparable to that found in Europe.

High South African Standards

South Africa has very high testing standards, and CE standards do not necessarily comply. For instance, on the power actuators from 50V upwards, the KNX hardware should comply with South African Electrical Standards and regulation, but it doesn’t. This is one of the reasons why Siemens did not pursue its KNX product in South Africa originally.

Becoming a KNX Partner

With two training centres country-wide, anyone can become a KNX Partner provided they pass the KNX basic course at a certified KNX training centre. In becoming Partners, companies and individuals gain access to the KNX National Group for inclusion in promotional activities; access to KNX products and support via distributors as well as the ability to promote themselves as KNX Partners, both in South Africa and abroad.

Local manufacturers can also benefit from adopting the KNX protocol because it opens products up to being sold in a global market. Since all KNX products undergo a rigorous testing procedure in order to attain certification, it allows external verification of product quality. This ensures that products conform to ISO 9001, and minimises R&D time by allowing local manufacturers to use a tried and tested ‘bus system’ as their backbone – instead of the hassles of developing their own from scratch and dealing with flaws.

By joining KNX, integrators benefit from international recognition of their skills, which are easily transferable in the event of relocation; and ease of planning and installation by using KNX as the underlying standard. They can have access to a wide range of product solutions on an open system, which means that clients are never stuck without a person who can upgrade or maintain their system. Lastly, because each product has its own intelligence, there is no central point of failure. If a part fails, everything else in the installation keeps working.

Getting in Touch

Anyone interested in joining KNX National Group of South Africa can email
Ryan Cetzee, Secretary of the KNX National Group, at knx@idx.co.za

For training, contact Jean-Pierre Joubert of KNX Electronic Components in Cape Town at jean-pierre@knxsa.com, or Ryan Coetzee of IDXOnline in Johannesburg at knx@idx.co.za.

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