This is a topic close to my heart as I have spent many years promoting good emergency lighting and especially its testing and management.

The dawn of smart building and smart cities has been very focused on the user experience and the benefit that big data can provide, but I think it’s important we also reflect on the life safety systems that will also connect to these systems.

Convergence is a reality:disparate technologies will coexist on known platforms so that they may interact with each other and emergency lighting will be no different and although emergency lighting sits comfortably within a DALI network we must ensure we design the system appropriately.

Unlike other systems, emergency lighting is a life safety system and as such must default to a failsafe mode in the event of a system failure. In most of todays emergency lighting schemes the operation and testing of the emergency lighting system is fairly straightforward although we still have manual testing of emergency lighting which in my opinion isn’t worth the considering as it provides no real data.

Automatic testing and monitoring of emergency lighting is well established and with the appropriate technology the systems can provide a time stamp of both the Function and Duration test as well as status information on the light source and the battery.

Current lighting management systems if properly designed support the commands as defined in IEC 62386 DALI-2 and can provide a wealth of data on the functionality and safety of emergency lighting.

In theory integration with a “Bigger system” should improve functionality and provide additional input to work alongside Fire Alarms, Fire Dampers and possibly Fire Extinguisher systems.

We also have to consider that Dynamic Emergency Exit signage is also in the ascendence and as a technology this is an area of emergency lighting that would benefit from the data obtained from a converged IoT infrastructure.

All very good so far but the challenges is how do you maintain the integrity of the system despite the technology. If a system can override a life safety system such as emergency lighting and inhibit its operation then we need to know about it.

Carrying out a Risk Assessment is the key here and it’s important that when we connect any life safety system to a “Big Data” system such as those we envisage with the Internet of Things that we look at all of the different operating scenarios. Is there a potential scenario where another system could hold off emergency operation for example.

Perhaps the biggest risk is wireless emergency testing and monitoring, this is an area which will develop rapidly once IEC 62386 Part 104 has been finalised later this year. At ektor we have been providing a wireless emergency solution for some years based on Wi-Fi and with the final sign off of Part 104 we will also offer a compliant 104 stack to ensure compatibility across Bluetooth and other protocols. The key here is the compliance to a known standard and with wireless emergency being seen as the natural choice for retrofit its crucial compliant product is sourced to ensure the system can see and manage those connected devices.

A non standardised wireless network may function at a local level but does restrict the capabilities of the wider system and full integration is therefore not possible.

I include proprietary Bluetooth in this category as this is based around an individual companies interpretation of Bluetooth. Their version of Bluetooth doesn’t reflect the work undertaken by Bluetooth SIG and IEC on IEC 62386 Part 104.

Why is this important? When we mentioned Risk and we consider trends then connected converged platforms will dominate and if we believe the hype, then all systems will be wireless. There are arguments for and against wireless but what is critical is that the wireless platform is based around a known standard that is not restricted to an individuals protocol.

Standards are designed to benchmark functionality and having a smart wireless system that works in accordance with known parameters ensures compatibility. Standard commands can be asked of a device and the appropriate response confirmed. System design is simplified and the ability to converge function through the IoT platform is assured. Failures can be logged and incompatibilities minimised if not eliminated completely.

If you do choose to connect your emergency lighting to a building control system based on the Internet of Things then do make sure you select a partner who supports a true open approach to integration.

Stewart B Langdown FSLL Business Development Director zencontrol/ ektor

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