Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by any new technology is not the competition or other technologies but the restrictions consciously or sub consciously applied by the potential users of that technology.

We are comfortable with the familiar and find change stressful as we all have a fear of the unknown.  How many times have you heard the expression “We have always done it this way” Indeed you may have done it that way, but it doesn’t make it right!

Everything evolves and although we crave the familiar, the world doesn’t operate this way, and if we look at smart developments in recent years the meteoric rise of the mobile phone first launched around 2007 is a prime example of what is called a disruptive technology that has changed everything.

We are connected and are continually looking at ways to improve that connection. So called smart systems are nothing more than the natural evolution of what was and is already intelligent but has now embraces a more open approach to connectivity.

The principles are straight forward with a common interface such as TCP/IP providing the visualisation of that data in the same way as the web provides a portal to many different systems.

Where the complexity arises is when we try and drill down to the components within that sub system. This is where the phrase “We have always done it this way” starts to undermine the development of a smart infrastructure.

Change does imply some form of risk and isn’t it better to do nothing? Well, the simple answer is a resounding No, it’s not ok to do nothing! Evolution of technology does imply some risk and smart IoT enabled buildings do carry a degree of risk but only if they are not managed correctly.

Smart buildings only work if the message is clear to all involved in the development of that idea.

From the top down there has to be an approach that works to deliver the vision whilst ensuring quality throughout the development of that idea or project.

Failure to adapt or try new ideas does limit the possibilities of new projects as the vision is effectively stopped in its tracks by one or more parties who don’t embrace the new and who’s fallback position is based on the dated or as they would refer to it the “tried and tested”.

The tried and tested was once the new idea of its day and faced similar challenges, however technology has advanced so rapidly and in the world of smart you could argue at an exponential rate.

Clouds exist where data is stored, and mobile technology is common place with edge routers being utilised to provide smart gateways to various technologies. Software has evolved that provides sophisticated algorithms that once required dedicated hardware and software, think Human Centric Lighting: a complex lighting challenge but one that is straightforward to manage.

However, all of this is pointless unless the message is clearly passed down the value chain and all involved in the project understand their place and the value they add to the project.

Choosing the wrong component can and will impact on the function of any smart system and similar to how we source components for other systems; you wouldn’t allow an aircraft manufacturer  for example to use a low cost  equivalent component in in the engine  as this carries a huge risk but we happily accept compromise in a building.

I’ve spoken at length about the risks of value engineering and this is one of the biggest challenges for IoT enabled buildings, as the vision becomes diluted.

Budgets do have an impact and where cost is seen as the benchmark as opposed to performance, then we end up with a compromise. Often this compromise may limit functionality or in some instances such as emergency lighting could be regarded as potentially dangerous.

Historically our route to market for lighting has been based more around the look and feel of the luminaire than its performance. Controls were secondary and often because many buildings were constructed on a Design and Build basis, we didn’t know their final use so installed the minimum specification. After all, why pay for something that may not be used?

This all changes with smart controls and choosing the right system and components would allow the building owner and occupier the opportunity to add features as and when they need them or more often than not when they can afford them.

If the vision is shared and its clearly specified all parties will adhere to the specification and the core infrastructure will be fit for purpose but if we give companies free rein to install what they have always installed or to install a lower cost and potentially poorer performing component then the vision is lost.

Policing the value chain is difficult and we rely heavily on the companies supplying products to get it right but they are fallible and without a strict terms of reference may be persuaded to use a product because it has Bluetooth for example and all Bluetooth devices are the same, aren’t they?

We know this isn’t the case and it’s crucial that we ensure there is no wiggle room for equal or approved components unless they fully comply with the relevant IEC standard.

Wireless selection is very tricky at the moment as there is a standard issued by the Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA) IEC 62386 Part 104 which provides a framework for linking wireless to DALI-2 and this will see approved product in the market in 2020 so it’s essential we all select the appropriate solution for future compatibility.

Lighting controls wired or wireless will be at the forefront of the IoT revolution, but this can only work if our reliance on hardware is removed. Organisations such as DiiA promote interoperability based around a global standard IEC 62386 which assures compliance. This wonderful term interoperability basically means it will work with other manufacturers so if you want to use a different manufacturers switch plate you can and if its compliant with IEC 62386 Part 103/!04 then it will work.

As you can see sensors, switches and drivers are no longer a limiting factor to good lighting controls and with the appropriate gateway, they can be accessed, and data shared to the Cloud or other systems via an API.

Simply applying a veneer of compliance is not enough to ensure a robust system and this is part of the confusion as so many companies jump upon the IoT bandwagon so how do we separate fact from fiction? Well that’s probably for another blog.

Deliver a firm foundation and your lighting management infrastructure allows you and your building to evolve over the life of that building. Dynamic technology only works if we build it on a firm base.

Stewart Langdown FSLL

+44(0) 7774 821093