LED Technology

Emergency lighting: Ushering in a smarter future

Russell Parr, sales and marketing director at Prime Light, explores the evolution of the latest generation of smart emergency LED fixtures and components and the promises of enhanced functionality, connectivity and capabilities they could deliver beyond illumination.


mergency lighting is a necessary staple in commercial buildings, industrial facilities and public spaces, even more so as the safety and compliance standards placed on modern buildings become more stringent. Despite emergency lighting being a legal requirement, many legacy systems have remained rigid and basic in their functionality.

All this while LED components for other applications have moved on leaps and bounds, embracing everything from Bluetooth Mesh connectivity to human-centric lighting and even Internet of Things (IoT) functionality. The year of 2020, however, looks destined to be an important transitional year for smart emergency lighting as innovative products begin to move closer to their non-emergency LED counterparts, supporting an expanding array of functionality while also delivering on the common expectations of high-level performance, optimum efficiency, reliability and regulatory compliance.

You’re in safe hands with leading- edge emergency lighting Indeed, the emergency lighting community is continuing to create leading edge solutions that look set to deliver on the promise of a smart future.

Perhaps the most notable area of innovation is the integration of automated testing capabilities into modern systems. The

latest generation of smart emergency LED fixtures and drivers incorporate on-board intelligence and self-testing features to ease the burden of monthly testing, limit maintenance and reduce the possibility of fines for non-compliance. In the event of failure to a key component of the emergency luminaire, whether that is the inverter, light source, or battery itself, a built-in LED indicator omits a red light with a binary code displaying a particular speed of flashes which shows a visual indication of failure. The automatic testing regime limits human error and ensures compliance of the installation. The adoption of the automatic testing technology into the DALI protocol, in particular, gives options to further enhance the reliability of the emergency lighting scheme, with tailored management of the testing regime. More fundamental options are available with things like built in test switches. Although the smart self-test functionality doesn’t replace general site maintenance, it does significantly reduce the time required to perform regular testing. The automation of the testing means the monthly process can be visually inspecting the status of the LED indicators of each of the emergency points. In addition, this process also protects batteries as they are not being discharged unnecessarily, helping to alleviate any potential over-testing.

Automatic testing technology also helps reduce the compliance burden for facilities managers, with testing, maintenance, and documentation regimens simplified. Self-test luminaires can be programmed to meet the stringent compliance standards stipulated in regulations such as BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004, for instance, which require each luminaire to be tested at monthly and annual intervals and the results to be manually logged.

Intelligent emergency lighting components

For years, emergency lighting manufacturers have tried to balance functionality and form factor by searching for new and innovative ways to reduce the footprint of their designs to have minimal impact on space. In response to this requirement, today’s systems integrate high specification LED light sources with modular electronics for easier installation, optimum flexibility in scalability to meet the different requirements of prospective installations, enhanced lumen levels and performance, and impressive cost and energy savings over the life-time of the unit. The greater flexibility offered by the interoperability of the latest generation of emergency systems also means a simplified and less costly solution for retrofitting existing buildings, as professionals have a broader range of compatible lighting devices to choose from. While intelligent emergency lighting luminaires, manufactured using semiconductors, mean the LED’s microcontroller-based driver can even enable advanced levels of programmable intelligence with the DALI protocol for even greater flexibility.

For engineers and specifiers, this offers the potential to deliver everything from the ability to remotely test systems from any location, anytime, to real time remote monitoring and maintenance alerts, and, full integration with other mains lighting, emergency and BMS (Building Management Systems) in place, plus much more.

Safety first

Emergency lighting’s primary function has always been, and will remain, guiding individuals out of the building in the event of a fire or similar crisis. Should a power outage occur, regardless of whether it’s a result of mains failure, fire or circuit error, it is critical that emergency lighting provides reliable and adequate lighting output to direct the occupants out of the building to safety. Where the system is ineffective, people’s lives are put at risk and the outcome can be devastating. Equally, though, particularly as safety and compliance standards become more stringent – and buildings come under further scrutiny for the reliability of their emergency lighting systems – professionals are seeking further assurances of quality. It is for this reason that independent quality marks such as ENEC Mark and Kitemark approvals are assuming even greater importance.

As smart emergency lighting solutions continue to enter the UK market, bringing with them promises of enhanced functionality, connectivity and capabilities beyond illumination, it is imperative that specifiers understand the critical mechanisms of modern systems. For this reason, partnering with an experienced lighting component solutions provider can help professionals derive maximum value from their systems.

Components in Electronics May 2020 33

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