As technology evolves it makes perfect sense to link lighting control systems to a wider smart network to provide a level of connectivity with unparalleled granularity.

Lighting is everywhere and fulfils a very important role in illuminating the dark corners of our buildings as well as illuminating buildings or communal spaces after dark.

We should also consider the many thousands of street lighting columns that exist along roadways and footpaths; each providing a point of light in the darkness of the night.

I could wax lyrical about the benefits of lighting but as the title has set out, there may be a problem lurking just over the horizon, where our rush to connect everything may slightly backfire if we are not careful.

Lighting is everywhere and as such provides the perfect medium to allow smart systems to proliferate by linking the lighting or more importantly its control infra structure into a wider more connected network.

Lighting has standard and best practice that outline performance and give a framework for commands. Therefore with a smart lighting system, obtaining data and using that data to control other equipment or to track movement and energy is fairly straightforward; that is if you choose an open system approach.

I heard an expression today that really sums up the risk of poor security and this helps to outline my thoughts. “How much Risk is your Client prepared to accept”

I would imagine in an ideal world the answer would be zero risk, but practically that isn’t possible, and some would argue, impractical as the level of security needed would be so great that systems would become locked down and unusable.

Simply operating a system has some level of risk as we humans are often the weakest link in our technologically advance systems. We need to manage this risk and where ever practical strike a balance between function and risk.

Clearly what we need to do is understand the design of our systems and any potential vulnerabilities. 

At a local level, one would understand this as cause and effect; simply pressing a switch or sliding a button will affect the local group of lighting and either increase or decrease the lighting according to set criteria.If we take this model and expand its influence to manage key features of a building or to manage space or resource then we have to carefully consider this transition from local data collection to global data supply. You’re a cog in your very controlled environment that has suddenly become an even smaller cog in an infinite machine of possibilities.

This is, in essence the Internet of Things (IoT) and is slowly becoming a key aspect of our daily lives. The mobile phone is one example of IoT; they allow us to be connected and to share data on where we have been and where we are going, we can take pictures, listen to music, watch movies and so much more. In a relatively short period of time approx 12 years since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007 we have radically changed the way in which we communicate.

Buildings and so called Smart Cities are going through a similar evolution from unconnected spaces to a world of connected spaces. Whilst travelling through these spaces or working within these so called smart spaces we will be receiving data and sharing data to a wide range of systems and platforms. Lighting will be an essential gateway to a smart world through the use of multiple technologies such as Wireless communications (Beacon technology) or through specialist platform such as LI-FI.

I have said before that no one system or company will dominate this space as there is already a vast amount of choice, but certain rules must be followed and security is perhaps the one area that has the greatest impact, yet can be so easily overlooked.

I mentioned the term “How much risk is your client prepared to accept” and I believe this cannot be easily quantified. It is possible to have some benchmark of acceptable risk and this must be in fully understanding the vulnerabilities of the devices connected to your system, taking it down to component level. Lighting has granularity and a long operating life, yet we continually value it based on cost per lumen or cost per square metre. This I believe is the wrong metric as security should be encapsulated into the service cost as part of the OPEX of the building.

The risk of using value purely as a measure of worth, is potentially very dangerous as the less informed may deviate from specification based purely on cost and cost alone. It happens regularly and historically the consequences weren’t that dramatic however in a connected world this may be a serious financial risk.

Security is a key feature of any smart device and its an area that can be compromised to produce a lower cost product. This lower cost product may be vulnerable and therefore could put your IoT infrastructure at risk.

Commercially your building may be compromised and in a worse case scenario access gained to sensitive information that could undermine your companies privacy laws under the GDPR Directive.

So before we connect systems together we need to fully understand the implications of our actions and seek assurance from the Lighting Management company that they have in place a security policy that protects each component of their lighting control system.

Here at zencontrol we use Enterprise levels of Encryption to protect our gateways and provide a robust interface to only add compliant and secure devices to our network. Also, through the life of the project we want to work with the end client and Facilities management teams to maintain security and upgrade our systems through their operating life. The same is true for our Ektor emergency range the first true wired and wireless system that uses zencontrol sophisticate algorithm to provide safety and security to any or our present and future systems.

For more information please contact.

Stewart Langdown FSLL

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