Friday, April 12, 2024

Taking Control of the Lighting Controls Industry

As Prime Light approaches its 30th birthday, we talk to Ben Brunton, Controls Director at Prime Controls, who tells us about the future of lighting controls and its wireless infrastructure controls system.

Can you explain what a ‘wireless infrastructure’ is and tell us a bit more about lighting controls?

A wireless control infrastructure provides robust radio-agnostic protocols that enable smart nodes to communicate on wireless frequencies including Bluetooth (2.4GHz) and 868 MHz, enabling them to function as a centrally controlled network but with no singular point of failure.

Wireless control for lighting control has been implemented over the years since lights are always present in every building and provide enough devices to create a strong network, whether that be a mesh or direct communication with transceivers, so they make for the perfect network. However, wireless is much more versatile and can help you transform your building into an ultra-smart one.

How easy is it to bolt these additional smart building solutions into the network?

Traditional control systems have worked by having local PIRs wired to luminaires or a centrally programmed hard-wired system throughout a building to control DALI or 1-10v luminaires. The major downside to both options is that they require additional wiring or if used in a new build the owner is then restricted to the hard-wired control layout installed unless they pay for a specialist engineer to recommission the system.

Our future-proof system requires no additional wiring, with wireless controls you simply connect the new sensor to the existing network and drag it onto the system using a tablet. The infrastructure’s already there, so you already have an existing ‘ready-to-go’ network in the building.

In summary, wireless controls offer the end user a lower overall cost solution that offers more flexibility, control, and the potential for enhanced saving due to the flexibility and the ease of making changes when the environment is changed.

What insight can you give us into the future of lighting controls?

Smart Buildings are not only becoming more popular, but they are also becoming commonplace within large sectors like councils, healthcare, and housing; due to regulations, compliance, and the need to work towards a net-zero goal.

When you put a lighting control system in, then you can improve the intelligence of your building in so many other ways. You’ll not only have an efficient lighting network, but you can then add in elements like air quality sensors, leak detection, CO2 level monitoring, daylight harvesting, automatic blinds, and much more. There are so many devices being brought to market that will be compatible with these networks, therefore future opportunities are limitless. Essentially if you’ve got a sensor and you can give us a signal, we can put it on our network however that evolves in the future.

To add to existing regulations, it was announced on 15th June 2022 that new requirements of Building Regulations Part L will come into effect in England. These changes will affect all parties involved with building assets, including consultants, contractors, and lighting engineers. This new change will apply to new universities, new schools, new government buildings, and any type of non-domestic development, so it’s critical to prepare now to guarantee compliance.

With increasing cybercrime, isn’t security a big concern when it comes to lighting controls and smart building networks?

As security is a major concern for our customers, our controls solution and secure protocol have been designed with security in mind as well as preventative measures in place for cyber-attacks. Every device can pass its data onto the next one, to pass it back to a gateway that sends information to a Web Server, so no information is ever held on-site. Our security keys change 10 times every second, supplying bank-style security that is incredibly secure and reliable.

 What trends are you currently seeing in terms of customer demands for lighting controls?

With ever-increasing energy prices in the UK, it’s becoming increasingly important for large organisations to analyse ways in which they can reduce their energy spending, and none are easier than LED lighting and associated controls.

We’re seeing more companies approach us with concerns relating to energy bills, even after installing LED, and how they can make further savings. Wireless lighting controls are perfect for this as they can be easily retrofitted & offer further savings based on presence detection, daylight control & scheduled dimming in certain areas (such as out-of-hours stocking within retail).

Emergency lighting is also a high priority for companies with multiple premises. Our self-testing wireless emergency system can automatically test, report and schedule emergency lighting with any identified failures being flagged within one hour, including location and cause of the fault. This not only eliminates the requirement for an onsite manual test but also guarantees compliance.

And what are the overall benefits of smart building tech?

The possibilities are endless with smart building tech. Lighting Controls give you the backbone to turn your building into a truly smart and efficient one, from HVAC integration allowing adjustment of heating based on occupancy to a self-load managed property where lighting can reduce its load within limits to allow other devices to keep the overall building electrical consumption as low as possible.

For me, the main benefit to a building manager or owner is having peace of mind. To know that your building is compliant, to be able to remotely visualise the activities of your building, and to see that the risk levels are lower – these are all hugely beneficial and in turn, can save you a lot of energy in the long run.

Prime Light  

+44 (0)20 8968 2000

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