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BUILDING CONTROLS BSEE The future of lighting connectivity T uTommi Raivisto.
Tommi Raivisto, Chief Digital Officer and Head of R&D, and Lars Hellström, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Helvar, discuss why a hybrid connectivity solution of wired and wireless lighting controls is the optimal solution in commercial buildings.
he introduction of advanced lighting controls has been key to adding new levels of comfort to the built
environment, particularly in the commercial property market. Most recently, artificial intelligence and the development of self- learning lighting solutions, such as Helvar’s ActiveAhead, which constantly refine and improve performance, has seen the birth of lighting intelligence.
We believe that in the near future wireless lighting control systems should complement wired lighting control systems, rather than serve as alternative, creating hybrid connectivity solutions that offer superior quality of service, security and interoperability. Hybrid solutions will provide the best option for gathering data in commercial property, such as the occupancy of a building, which can then be used by building managers to make informed decisions about the management of their property. It is becoming increasingly important for building services engineers to specify these value- generating systems to property owners as part of a comprehensive lighting solution.
A number of the most widely available connectivity technologies, such as 4G, Zigbee, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low energy (BLE), will be familiar from mobile phone usage, smart home or other commercial solutions. A common network topology of these technologies is a star configuration around a hub, such as a gateway controller or router with a
communication distance of up to 50 metres and operating on a 2.4 GHz frequency.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) operates on 2.4 GHz with a range of approximately 10 metres. BLE-connected devices require little
additional power to connect to the network, and can run on small coin-cell batteries or energy-harvesting devices. BLE networks can only broadcast one message to all devices on the network; however, the development of BLE mesh networks enables smart-phones and tablets to control multiple devices that are connected to the same network, and the devices to communicate with each other. This is particularly important in lighting control applications because it ensures seamless adjustment of light levels when sensors detect presence.
One advantage that BLE mesh networks hold over
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comparable technologies, such as ZigBee and Wi-Fi networks is that there is no Single Point of Failure. ZigBee and Wi-Fi networks require a router or hub to operate and communicate controls to connected devices, so if the hub fails then the system cannot function properly. In a BLE mesh network there is no hub and if one device fails then the others can continue to operate, respond to controls and gather data to fulfil the increasingly important dual role for lighting systems to provide light to occupants and data to building owners. BLE mesh networks have much higher bandwidth capacity than DALI-based lighting control systems so can collect more data on property occupancy and relay this intelligence back to a cloud or app-based portal for analysis, which can generate real value for business and property owners. There are a number of business applications in which this data can be used. With network-connected lighting intelligence systems installed in meeting rooms, building owners can analyse which meeting rooms are used most often, and reassign those which are used least to a different function.
In large cities, property costs have increased significantly and are projected to continue to rise. Property managers need to ensure that their office space is being utilised as effectively as possible; this task is made easier with accurate data generated by lighting intelligence that can show which areas are being used and which are not. However, while wireless luminaires have greater capacity to gather data, the control that tells the luminaires how to operate is yet to be standardised. Lighting control solutions that communicate via a Bluetooth infrastructure are currently using proprietary commands and are unable to communicate with each other to provide truly seamless lighting control. This makes the case for a hybrid connectivity solution for lighting control even stronger.
A wired DALI network, which can broadcast commands to any connected luminaires, can provide lighting control to larger open-plan areas in a commercial building, and the wireless connectivity
technology can then be used in dedicated areas such as meeting rooms and hallways. A wired DALI network can translate proprietary commands, such as those used on a BLE mesh network, to enable the two
connectivity technologies to work seamlessly alongside each other, so that a BLE mesh network can operate as
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part of a hybrid lighting control solution.
This is the ideal solution for building services engineers specifying lighting control in commercial applications, because it provides the lighting intelligence that many building owners now expect from their lighting systems, as well as the quality of service that a wired DALI network can provide.
An example of how wireless and wired lighting control solutions can work together can be seen as a person approaches a meeting room. The luminaires in the corridor outside know, through BLE mesh network connectivity, that the person is
approaching the meeting room so can command the luminaire closest to the door,
which is also connected to the mesh network, to turn on. Once the person is inside the room, that Bluetooth connected luminaire can, through a command that can be translated by the wired DALI network in the room, alert the other luminaires of the person’s presence. Sensors integrated into the luminaires can then gather data on the
occupancy of the room and relay that information back to a cloud or app-based portal for analysis.
We believe that the future of lighting connectivity may lie in hybrid connectivity solutions, IP-controlled, wired or on Bluetooth low energy mesh network wireless technology. However, the wireless technology currently
available on the market cannot support a solely wireless lighting system in complex and professional applications. To generate value in commercial applications and provide the very best service to its customers, the lighting industry will adopt a hybrid connectivity solution of wired and wireless technology. This can combine the advanced, autonomous, data-gathering lighting intelligence through wireless technology with a reliable, standardised wired lighting control system like DALI to provide a seamless, robust, secure and high quality lighting control solution.
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