Moving from wired controls to wireless control systems can appear very enticing, especially for retrofit projects as there is a potential for reduced installation cost and effort when data cabling can be minimized. However, this saving only becomes reality, if the wireless connectivity selected supports the needs of easy and fast installation whilst delivering the reliability and performance needed for today’s lighting control and IoT applications.
Wirepas Mesh provides a unique decentralised autonomous mesh network that is ideally suited for lighting control with IoT projects.
So, what should you look for in these communication systems?
The first thing to remember is that you will be deploying systems with 100s of sensor and control nodes. Don’t make the mistake of performing a small bench test and expanding from there to your eventual system size. If at all possible, gather 100s of nodes and then test. Given the affordability of hardware from Nordic Semiconductor and Silicon Labs it is not a costly exercise and the investment in buying some 200 nodes for testing is money well spent to catch scalability or performance issues as early as possible in the evaluation.
The systems you are designing will be deployed in the real world. The real world has many users of the ISM bands, especially the global 2.4GHz band. Like we do in our testing systems, you should deploy your testing system in environments with other radio systems. This allows you to test the interference tolerance and co-existence capabilities of your radio system.
Performance measurement should be considered at the system level. Not only the mesh protocol stack but consider gateway performance where appropriate and check that the vendors provide a helping hand on the gateway side with reference software and deliverables.
Consider how long it is going to take you to develop your system. What is available as a deliverable from the vendor, how broad the ecosystem is around the technologies you are testing and what design support you can receive from third parties in the ecosystem.
In summary, don’t focus on synthetic, small scale testing. Think of the bigger picture and catch issues early. It’s a lot cheaper to fix mistakes at the beginning of the project or avoid them entirely through a comprehensive testing scheme.