What’s Next for Wireless Lighting Control Technology?

Lighting controls for commercial buildings are not a new concept. In fact, controlling lighting has been, and will always remain, a fundamental aspect of energy management. Driven primarily by demand for energy savings and utility rebates, energy managers have increasingly adopted control strategies, from manual switches to scheduling and occupancy detection across their estates. 

However, as IoT-enabled lighting technology continues to advance, smart lighting controls are increasingly pushing the boundaries of traditional lighting control and delivering heightened functionality. Today’s lighting control systems offer a greater scope for enhanced data communication and connectivity, presenting a wealth of opportunities for energy managers.

Cross-system integration
The emerging generation of wireless controls, for instance, can take energy management to the next level, integrating seamlessly with Building Energy Management Systems (BeMS) to provide a platform for controlling not only lighting, but also heating, ventilation, security systems and much more through one interface.

The unique connectivity to the BeMS allows data transfer between all building control systems, enabling information on scene setting, energy data, store trading conditions and emergency tests to be reported to the users. Such a complete synergy between lighting control and BeMS offers unique possibilities from an energy management standpoint.

Aside from the costs associated with training employees to use multiple systems, operating numerous control systems can also bring in a high possibility of human error, raising substantial security concerns. By combining a multitude of smart building control technologies on one central interface, energy managers can not only cut costs for training and minimise the risk of human error, but also better visual the energy savings being achieved across their estates.

In the spotlight: retail savings

The value of IoT-enabled cross-system integration between different lighting controls and building management systems has been emphasised by the impressive results achieved for a leading high street blue chip retailer by Harvard Technology.

With over 3,000 stores across the UK, the retailer characterised the problems faced by the wider European retail industry. Operating a large portfolio of stores seven days a week had quickly led to high energy overheads, impacting on the business’s bottom line. As with the majority of retail environments, the financial burden of energy costs had prompted the company to seek a technological solution to future-proof not only its lighting portfolio, but also the wider building management systems.

When an extensive renovation was proposed for the entire estate, which included a strategy for implementing state-of-the-art LED technology and wireless lighting controls, the retailer saw the opportunity to integrate several systems and improve efficiency across all of its stores. Specifying on behalf of the retailer, Matrix, a company of E.ON, selected EyeNut as part of a substantial retrofit scheme across its estate.

Through cross-system communication, the retailer has been able to rapidly collect massive quantities of real-time data that had previously been unattainable. Remote access to data on each store, or indeed multiple stores, can be accessed wirelessly from anywhere in the world via a computer, tablet or even smartphone, enabling store managers to track real-time reports on kWh usage and carbon, energy hotspots and even luminaire failures.

Designed to be easily retrofitted into all stores, EyeNut immediately delivered significant savings in both energy and carbon emissions. This installation has resulted in energy savings of 34% through wirelessly controlled LED lighting alone. When factoring in the additional decreases delivered by the integrated Micro BeMS, savings were further increased by 20% – leading to a significant financial saving per annum.

Emergency automated testing
The requirement for modern and ingenious controlled emergency lighting in commercial properties around the UK is great, and as such, advancements in wireless lighting controls continue apace in this area, bringing a number of innovative features and benefits that have improved emergency lighting functionality, including the ability to automate testing.

Energy managers have to adhere to very strict emergency regulations which not only require emergency lighting to be functional at all times, but also necessitate monthly and yearly functional and duration tests on all emergency luminaires. The advent of updates to the Code of Practice for emergency lighting of premises (BS5266:1 2016) – which requires emergency lighting to be checked on a regular basis and results to be logged by the person responsible for the building – have also intensified the requirement.

Wireless lighting control systems, and more importantly automated emergency testing functionality, represent a significant leap forward for emergency lighting. Such advancements mean instead of sending an engineer to a building to conduct mandatory tests on emergency lighting, energy managers can now remotely complete all tests from the comfort of their office on a desktop, laptop, tablet or even a smartphone.

The evolution of wireless sensors

In recent times, there has been much talk about wireless sensors and sensor networks. Whilst sensors have been in place for some time now, the accelerated development of the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless lighting control systems and sensor technology mean sensors are likely to be one of the core technologies in the smart infrastructure of the future.

There exists a huge potential for smart sensor networks, facilitated by the wireless communication and ‘big data’ processing capabilities of cloud-based wireless lighting control systems. A wireless sensor network consisting of a large number of sensor nodes across an estate, for instance, can enable efficient data acquisition on anything from energy consumption to temperature, air quality to occupancy detection and much more.

There are many challenges to managing energy costs on multi-site estates, but with these complexities comes significant opportunities for energy managers, especially as the popularity of wireless lighting controls rises and the availability of technologically advanced and innovative smart lighting solutions continues to grow.

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