KNX user forum: How it became one of the largest smart home communities

KNX user forum is the place where KNX homeowners, DIYers and installers bounce off ideas, exchange KNX programming skills and help each other. Since its launch in May 2007 it has become the biggest and most active meeting ground for German-speaking KNX enthusiasts.

It covers everything from general debates about the KNX system, topics for complete KNX beginners and building technology (without KNX / EIB) to manufacturer forum threads and discussions about specific KNX buttons, KNX programming as well as professional advice. There truly is something for everyone. In addition, the KNX forum also offers companies the opportunity to run their support forums here.

We are sitting down with Matthias Schmidt, one of the admins of the forum, to discuss its beginnings as well as wishes and plans for the future of KNX user forum.



Hi Matthias, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you’ve gotten interested in KNX technology?

Matthias: I started working with KNX - or EIB, as it was called back then - privately more than 20 years ago. I studied mechanical engineering with a focus on automation technology, EIB was my passion. The virus of KNX didn't let go of me and in my new house (2002) I integrated everything that was possible at the time, including many external things such as the letterbox, bathtub, etc. In 2004 I received a KNX award for this.


NEWLY REGISTERED USERS

As of 31.12.2020, 61,115 users were registered in KNX Forum. That’s an increase of 2,622 or 4.3 % users compared to the previous year.

Registrations have been rising continuously since the reference year of 2016. While in 2016 an average of 310 users registered per month, this figure more than doubled to 658 in the past year.


Currently the forum has around 62k members. You’ve mentioned that it was founded in May 2007 by a small group of dedicated smart home users. How did you get involved in it? What is your role in the forum?

Matthias: The founding group emerged from a group of homeowners who were intensively involved with the Gira Homeserver. Many of them were also beta testers for this device. Close friendships developed from this group. The forum in which we exchanged ideas was at some point too limited for our needs.

For this reason, we decided at Easter 2007 to start the KNX forum. As the founders of the group were all specialists in different fields, the forum was up and running within a few days. We chose the registered association as the form of business, of which I am the 1st chairman.


Did you think it would ever get this popular? Is it your full-time occupation or a hobby?

Matthias: Yes, I was actually certain that building automation would also become normal in the private sector one day. However, it took a very long time until, on the one hand, the prices dropped significantly due to the numerous manufacturers and the associated competition and, on the other hand, devices, i.e. user interfaces such as buttons and displays, were developed for private housing construction.

KNX is both my main profession and my hobby. In addition to the forum, which I run more as a hobby, I work part-time as a system integrator and, together with my wife, design smart houses in my region.


YEARLY VISITORS (2016-2020)

The Forum was visited by over 630,000 visitors in 2020. Compared to the reference year, this is an increase of 67 %. This growth is significantly higher than that of the topics and contributions, which proves that the KNX Forum is in high demand as a knowledge base, without a large number of visitors registering and becoming active themselves.



You’ve mentioned that KNX user forum was visited by over 630k visitors in 2020. Compared to the reference year (2016), this is an increase of 67 %.

Comparing this with the number of members, what would you say a typical visitor is looking for? Skimming through the threads and eventually becoming an active member or staying a lurker? Why do you think it is that way?

Matthias:  I think the forum satisfies many different needs. It starts with people who want to find out about technology before building a house and goes all the way to professionals who ask questions here as well as manufacturers who provide support for their products. The ranking on Google is really high; in many cases, the forum appears before the manufacturer's pages in the hit list for a topic. With increasing size and relevance, the number of registrations also accelerates, of course.


DAILY VISITORS

This graph shows the daily progression of visitor numbers (grey = 2016, orange = 2019, blue = 2020). The distinct seasonal pattern has been constant for years. On average, 1,726 visitors visited the KNX Forum every day in 2020, 1,792 in 2019 and only 1,032 in the reference year 2016.


In the graph you can see that an average of 1.726 visitors visited the forum every day in 2020, 1.792 in 2019 and only 1.032 in the reference year 2016. The linear growth shows the increasing popularity of the KNX knowledge. What are your thoughts on this?

Matthias: Of course, I am very proud of the growth, just like my friends. However, this growth also brings a lot more work associated. Apart from the pure administration and management of the forum, you have to be permanently online and read along in order to recognise undesirable tendencies and counteract them.


NUMBER OF POSTS

The number of posts also shows a positive trend. In 2020, 143,908 posts were written. This corresponds to an average daily volume of just under 400 posts.


Q6: The KNX forum allows for sponsorships, could you please explain more about this matter and invite new collaborators?

Matthias:  A few years ago we were at a turning point: the size of the forum was making it more and more expensive to run, and the time required to do so, was also increasing. So we had to ask ourselves whether and how much money and free time we wanted to put into it in the future. So the choice was: dissolve the forum or carefully commercialize it.

We decided on the latter, because we were of the opinion that the topic of smart living would remain important in the future. At the same time, we created the conditions for those who profit financially from the KNX user forum, i.e. the manufacturers, to take part in the operation of the forum as sponsors. In return, they are allowed to advertise their products and services within a defined framework.


TOPICS

In 2020, 12,885 new topics were opened in the forum, which is about 6% more than in the previous year. This corresponds to an average of 35 new topics daily.


What are your plans for KNX forum for the future? Do you plan to move it to another platform or keep it the way it currently is?

Matthias: The forum is maintained by the best admin in the world, Alfred Scherff. As long as it stays that way, the forum will certainly continue to exist on our platform.


If you weren’t aware of the KNX User Forum yet and would like to read and post articles yourself, then join in and become a part of the ever-growing community HERE. Also, feel free to tell us what interests you most in the comments.

If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor or have a support forum thread in the KNX User Forum, don’t hesitate to write to Matthias directly.