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Part III: “Changes”

April 6, 2018 - Wirepas

Lighting blog part3

David Bowie was renowned for his chameleon-like personality changes and the constant re-invention of his personal and musical styles. Similarly change was in the air(waves) at Light+Building 2018 and also at Wirepas as I take responsibility for Wirepas’ product marketing activities in the lighting market.

The biennial gathering of lighting and building automation experts in Frankfurt saw 220,000 people enter the Messe. There was change in the air and one of the the strongest messages that came across was luminaires and wireless technologies are coming closer and closer together, but this is not a natural coming together as both have never really gone hand in hand.  Lighting control never needed to be wireless before, and wireless never needed lighting before. What’s driving this trend observed at L+B 2018?

A clear driver was that people’s expectations of how we interact with our immediate environment is changing. Software is disintermediating the human from the physical sensors and actuators around them, enabling more precise control of our living and working spaces for better efficiency and wellness. Alongside these changes is the desire to reduce the cost of installation and commissioning of control and automation systems to open the market to broader adoption, coupled with the high reliability expected of lighting control and building automation systems.

Wireless control systems sit at the junction of cost reduction and improved user experience. So, let’s talk about doing wireless control systems right. Zigbee and Bluetooth Mesh are just two of many connectivity options out there, Bluetooth having strong end user awareness – we use Bluetooth to connect our phones to speakers, to headphones, to shopping mall beacons, our cars and now we can connect to lamps in the home that we can buy from Amazon and our local supermarkets.  This has clearly made the lighting industry stand up and take notice.

Lighting manufacturers are looking to bring more value to their luminaires by adding wireless connectivity options, which will potentially remove the need for controls in a cupboard but also open the world of Human Centric Lighting to employers by making the infrastructure required easier to install with less cabling.  The obvious choice is Bluetooth as the human to luminaire connectivity choice, but does that mean it’s the right solution everywhere?

When we look at commercial spaces beyond 200-300 lighting points, multiple floors and even buildings, we begin to observe challenges with scalability and more importantly, reliability.  The lighting infrastructure is an obvious choice to provide the building wireless backbone.  To achieve this the connectivity needs to be strong, reliable and intelligent.  After all, a connected building or city should be intelligent.

This is where a true mesh connectivity solution is required.  The ability for nodes within a mesh to instantly talk to each other, the ability to self-determine whether a node needs to act as a router or not, and more importantly scale as new devices are added to the network.  Then we talk about future proofing.  What if you wanted to add more luminaires to the network or distribute software updates from a single point to improve the functionality and features offered?  Imagine a city with over 700,000 connected devices in a single wireless mesh, being able to communicate between nodes and distributing software updates when needed.  Sound too good to be true?  Well it is true.  It is here now.  Over the last 12 months, Aidon has rolled out over 700,000 smart energy meters connected with Wirepas Mesh in a single mesh network.  Read the full report on the rollout by IDC.

So, what does this have to do with lighting?  Utilities need strong, secure and reliable mesh networks and so does lighting.  Someone once told me that buildings are ultimately built for people to use, not for anything else.  The same applies to lighting, its for people.  Lots of people.  As we start to think about connected lighting systems we could have thousands of luminaires in a single building connected and being interacted with. Wirepas Mesh offers the functionality, robustness and reliability the lighting network needs to handle the volume of traffic – that’s our expertise. The way people interact with the luminaires and the way the system responds to its environment, well that’s an app that sit on top of our protocol and be developed by the experts – the lighting people.

Parjinder Sangha, Product Marketing Director for Smart Lighting