Paolo Benedetti knows that today’s high-end automation equipment is far too complicated for pool service providers to maintain on their own.
“It’s getting so bloody complex that
even the builders are relying on a series of dedicated experts to provide the
support we need,” Benedetti says.
The founder of Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa and a Genesis 3 Group Design automation course instructor, Benedetti has been designing luxury pools for more than 20 years. He’s learned that both feature and chemical automation can only reach their full potential when service departments, builders, manufacturers and technical experts know their roles and work together to keep everything working as it should.
Manufacturer Resources Take Pressure Off Service Crews
Major manufacturers like Pentair, Jandy
and Hayward offer product training and instruction, professional workshops and
ongoing education — and service providers would be wise to take advantage of
them. These resources allow crews to become intimate with the automation
equipment they’re likely to encounter on luxury pools — but the men and women
who service high-end automation equipment don’t necessarily have to become
“Obviously, we need people to be able to
work the automation we’re installing,” Benedetti says. “But if the client uses
a smartphone to control the system, most of that stuff is integrated into the
software by the pool manufacturers. Understanding how to format that equipment
is important, but again, the manufacturers have it all spelled out in their
manuals how to do that, so it’s pretty basic.”
When a customer reaches out with a
problem that’s not so basic, service crews should again turn to the true expert
— the company that makes the product. According to Benedetti, most
manufacturers have technical service people in the field who can come out and
Pool Automation and Home Automation: The Division of Labor
Automation devices are only as good as
the networks that connect them. However, integrating the gadgets and gizmos
that bring complex luxury pools to life requires a bit more expertise than
dimming the living room lights or opening the garage door with a virtual
“Oftentimes, our pool controls are
linked with home automation systems, which isn’t necessarily a seamless
integration,” Benedetti says. “It’s not at the point yet where you plug in the
Amazon Alexa and start talking to the pool system. We’re not there yet.”
So, where are we, exactly?
Benedetti explains that most pool
automation manufacturers make what are called protocol adapters, which act like
language translators that “allow pool automation systems to integrate with the
home automation systems.” They also serve as the plug-in point for the end
user’s wide area or local area network.
The builder’s job, according to
Benedetti, is to install the automation equipment and provide the protocol
adapter — and little else.
“At that point, we hand it off to the
home automation person who writes the codes that are required for two systems
to communicate,” he says.
When the service department gets a call,
it should also recognize that its work stops at the protocol adapter.
“As a pool builder, I don’t want to
spend three or four days in front of a computer writing codes so the systems
can talk to each other,” Benedetti says — and the service department doesn’t
have to attempt such a heavy lift, either.
Instead, service crews should recognize
the natural division of labor with every call to maintain technically advanced
“Everything on the home automation side
of the protocol adapter or language adaptor belongs to the A/V guy, and
everything on the pool side of the language adapter belongs to the service
department, manufacturer or the pool builder,” Benedetti says.
This division ensures that all four
specialists — builder, manufacturer, service provider and home automation
expert — can concentrate on what they do best. The good news is, service crews
probably won’t have to go far to find a home automation expert who’s up to the
“With most of these high-end projects,
the homeowner already has a home automation person engaged who is installing
the home automation system,” Benedetti says. “Whether it’s home automation
through lighting, security systems, closed-circuit TV or their internet and
Wi-Fi, they already have a person who’s handling all those systems. That person
gets tasked with providing the integration and translation to the pool system.”
While service crews should rely on the
homeowner’s in-house automation pro, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t cultivate
relationships just in case.
“Every time I run into one of these home networking guys whom I feel confident with, I always collect their cards,” Benedetti says. “I have a Rolodex of names I can refer clients to, but I prefer not to get involved in that. I prefer to install my part of the system and then hand it off and say, ‘Here’s who you need to contact to integrate with the rest of your system.’ ”
In the end, maintaining luxury pool automation equipment comes down to three things: leaning on manufacturer support and resources, recognizing the pool automation/home automation division of responsibility and never, ever breaking Benedetti’s cardinal rule of all high-tech equipment: “If you don’t understand it, don’t touch it.”