Imagine you're spending an evening at the orchestra. The conductor stands on stage and the musicians come to life: The conductor moves his baton, and each instrument plays exactly as he directs. The violins crescendo while the cellos quicken their pace; the bassists pluck away at their strings and the percussion beats in rhythm. All parts of the orchestra are making completely different sounds, but the conductor controls each one and melds them all together to create beautiful music.

What does that have to do with pool automation? Well, a homeowner with advanced controls and a smartphone is much like a conductor with a baton and an orchestra. But the payoff is what you can do with those controls.

Imagine you are attending a performance of that same orchestra and decide you want to spend some time in your spa when you get home. You pull out your phone and click through an app, turn on your spa heater and continue to watch the orchestra while your spa heats up at home, ready and waiting for you when you arrive back. Web-connected automation is not the future anymore — it's happening now.

What is Automation, and Where Does It Stand Today?

Pool automation has been a part of the industry for the better part of a decade and serves as the orchestrated control of a number of different pool devices. What makes pool automation different from home automation is the amount of logic and interlocks that are present within the system: All pieces of the technology are required to work in harmony in order to fully realize the benefits.

And it's not just the homeowner who enjoys the advantages and convenience — with today's advanced automation, pool builders can design with creative flair and not worry that the user will miss out on efficiency, and servicers can preemptively assess pool problems without having to leave their office or truck.

Web-connected pool functionality can no longer be ignored by proficient builders. The newest generation of pool owners (yes, we mean millennials) are not surprised when they see this technology — they have come to expect it. To the next generation of pool owners, automation technology is not novel, it's practical. The pool owners of today and tomorrow have more things competing for their attention than ever before. In order for them to fully enjoy the pool owner lifestyle, they need flexibility in how they maintain and manage their pool.

What are the Benefits of Automation?

The newest generation of pool and spa owners remember the days when their parents owned a pool and spa — to turn on just about anything in the system, you had to walk over to the pool equipment, open the control panel, flip switches and push buttons to find the function you needed. With a web-connected automation system, pool owners have multiple pool functions readily at hand through a single application. It's through that single application that pool owners can set schedules and automate pool system functions, removing the need to manually control functions each and every time they're needed. That's what's most important: Pool owners don't even need to be home to access their pool information. If there is an internet connection, owners can have peace of mind knowing that if they accidentally left the pump running or left the pool heater on. They can access and adjust it from wherever they are.

Modern-day builders have customers who want a unique design and interesting pool features without a cost-of-ownership price that makes their eyes pop. Quite simply, the only way to deliver this is by taking advantage of automation. Pool automation allows builders to create freely without constraint knowing that their end product will operate properly.

For servicers, accessing their customer's pools from the comfort of their office or truck is a matter of survival in a competitive marketplace. Preemptively determining if there is a problem that needs additional resources — or not — creates cost and time savings that really add up. For example, if there is a chemical unbalance in the pool, a servicer can look at the chemical levels and determine whether or not a new piece of equipment is necessary for the system to be fixed. He then can buy the equipment, visit the home and quickly and effectively solve the issue. The faster response time and decreased downtime helps servicers develop customer loyalty and grow their business. At the end of the day, that's what pool pros are looking to achieve.

The Future of Automation

Pools and spas are already connected to the web, but the technology is only going to become more sophisticated. What's interesting in this field is that automation is slowly becoming modular: Instead of needing to buy a full system, soon users will be able to buy small pieces of the system that will allow them to get their feet wet with the new technology. Isolated automation in heaters and cleaners is already on the market, and that particular market is expanding rapidly.

A common misconception in the pool industry is that having a simple pool makes automation difficult and inefficient, but the new technology coming to market will combat that line of thinking. It provides the user with the convenience of automation at a much lower entry point than the full automation system, giving them the control they need without a major financial commitment.

With that in mind, the rate at which technology is advancing in the pool industry is growing exponentially. It's good timing as customers have come to expect ever greater innovation and less operator burden. For an "old school" builder or servicer who doesn't value automation, it's vital to reach out to manufacturers for assistance and training in web-based pool system connectivity. For every pool professional, the time to get comfortable with new pool technology is now. Web-based pool automation is lucrative work that can be done during both the on- and off-season and provides a true benefit to the end user.

Final Thoughts

Like a conductor to an orchestra, web-based automation provides the control essential to making all parts of a pool system work in harmony — resulting in an enjoyable experience. It is not simply a novelty: users engage regularly with the technology, taking control of their systems and utilizing it to their benefit. The system can harmonize without the conductor, sure, but with profit, convenience and the opportunity for future advances on the line, why not take part? This is a technology that provides true benefit to all users — allowing owners the comfort of control from anywhere, builders the freedom to create without constraint, and servicers efficiencies of operation that can dramatically impact the bottom line. No matter how you look at it, adapting to automation is the only option.

David Goldman is the director of product marketing at Zodiac Pool Systems.

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