I try and avoid going into too much detail on these blogs as the specifics are valuable to my clients and also the competition so I have to walk a fine line between education and giving away data that may help a competitor; that said we have already made the statement that we are willing to share our IEC 62386 Part 104 Wireless stack as we feel its important to have a unified approach to wireless integration.

I touched on Wireless in my last blog and this will have a major impact in how we manage both new build and our existing building stock. Certainly, for the existing building stock wireless has many advantages as no additional cables are necessary and providing the building can support a wireless infrastructure then upgrading the controls and life safety systems such as emergency lighting makes sense.

The market is currently in flux as the transition to a wireless standard isn’t finalised; we are at Final Draft International Standard(FDIS) stage so we can say with confidence that what has been agreed will be adopted so we do have a framework in IEC 62386 Part 104, but what about the current wireless systems in the market; what happens to them?

One would assume the smart ones will gateway to Part 104 and provide some form of limited interface where as some will just ignore the standard and carry on regardless. It’s the later that does concern me as the contractor and end client have very limited knowledge in this area and rely heavily on those specifying the project.

The term “Smart” is applied to every wireless technology and unfortunately not all are as smart as they may at first appear.

Swapping a proprietary wired solution for a proprietary wireless system makes no sense so how do you differentiate and decide which solution suits your needs.

You could of course use a very simple matrix to rank features and this certainly would give you a clear indication of pros and cons but with questions around proprietary protocols the answered may get slightly blurred. Don’t get me wrong in certain applications, one could argue that a proprietary system has benefits and I guess emergency lighting may be one, but I would argue that a robust open infrastructure would always out perform a closed and limited system.

The question you have to ask is what would happen if that company ceased trading or were purchased by another. If the protocol were based on an open approach such as DALI-2 and the use of Application controllers (TCP/IP) then the hardware is protected and transitioning to another system is possible.

A proprietary system locks the hardware and software to that company and as such limits the opportunities for the building designer, installer and owner to fine tune and upgrade through life. They are stuck in a vicious circle dominated by that company’s solution. Often upgrades aren’t possible as the hardware is dated and designed for one specific task and cannot adapt or learn new skills.

In recent years the rise of controls based on perceived open protocols has blurred this still further. A good example is Bluetooth, where one would assume that all Bluetooth is the same and unfortunately that’s not the case.

There are systems built around Bluetooth that control and regulate light but only with their hardware/ software solution. It’s like buying a car and being told you and your family must buy their phones and music players to work with their Bluetooth interface, and that you cannot connect any other devices as they are not supported. I’m confident most of us if faced with this choice would avoid that manufacturer and move on to one that embraced an open approach; so why don’t we do this with Lighting control.

In support of the pioneers of Bluetooth control, they engineered a solution that worked and companies like that need to be applauded but some are playing catch up and using Bluetooth as a hook when the basic infrastructure hasn’t changed in decades.

I accept this is a difficult topic to get your head around and this is where I come in. Developing a strategy that gives you and your customer the best possible solution takes time and knowledge and often we are lacking in both. Chasing deadlines, means we run out of time and therefore cannot do the research we would like, to better understand what is out there in the market.

I work for a company and yes of course I would like you to use them for your solution, but only if it’s the right choice for you. One solution for everyone doesn’t work and accepting that there will be grey areas is a reality of how buildings develop and evolve. If you have an existing infra structure based on one particular companies’ solution, then changing to a new approach may not work for you. On the other hand, if you are trying to develop a strategy based on Wireless such as Bluetooth then getting it right is critical.

There are some great solutions out there and there are some that are not so great, and if we accept that sometimes we need to have a more flexible approach to controls then make sure you think Smart to build a Smarter building.

Stewart B Langdown FSLL

e: Stewart.langdown@zencontrol.co.uk

t: +44(0)7774 821093