This year promises to be an interesting year for controls. Transitioning from the old to the new with the launch of several interesting new technologies which should finally put us a step closer to the reality of the Internet of Things (IoT).

I say a step closer as the reality will be that many of the projects being delivered in 2019 will have been specified in 2017 or 18 on older often dated systems and in most cases, these will be using a proprietary protocol to lock the user into a costly and often restrictive maintenance contract.

The buzz words of 2018 I guess would be a mix of IoT and Wireless with the two of them often being confused as one and the same, which obviously is not the case.

Wireless is a great way of communicating with devices in certain applications and certainly for retro fit it has many advantages but not all projects benefit from wireless.  I should also point out that historically wireless systems have been proprietary, so you are limited by that company’s particular offer.

This is changing and late in 2018 IEC 62386 Part 104 was released as an FDIS a Final Draft International Standard, which to all intents and purpose is the finished document and it is very unlikely to be changed. Approval early 2019 will see products being delivered from mid 2019 onwards. Initially embracing the Bluetooth protocol, it’s not restricted to one protocol and clearly defines the gateway from DALI to BLE or Thread for example. From a purely practical point of view having a standard device that supports more than one protocol ensures disparate systems can be integrated and IoT realized.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention that latency can be an issue on some wireless systems particularly Bluetooth so any dynamic light level changing or scene control or even PIR switching must be carefully designed and managed. The challenge with specifying these systems is you don’t always know the final configuration of the space so ensuring coverage can be problematic.

Addressing these challenges is something we have been working on at zencontrol and have been waiting for the publication of Part 104 so we can offer an open wireless solution that integrates fully with our wired DALI-2 Lighting management system. Flexibility in design and operation based around open protocols is what IoT is all about and for system being delivered later in 2019 and into 2020 wireless solutions built around IEC 62386 Part104 has to be the benchmark standard.

That said in the real world other wired and wireless systems will coexist in buildings and therefore the role of software and the Cloud will become pivotal in delivering truly smart integrated buildings. If we handle the subnet through wired and wireless solutions built around known standards, then the degree of specialty is minimised.

We at zencontrol take an active part in supporting the specification of IoT enable lighting to ensure a seamless integration into BEM’s and or specialist SCADA package.

After all an IoT enabled device is just another switch or dimmer and providing you clearly define the purpose and role of that device, integration should be straightforward.

There will be challenges and as previously mentioned we are still installing legacy systems that offer very little opportunity for expansion and therefore perhaps the number one challenge for any controls installation this year is to decide whether you build in obsolescence or build for the future.

Stewart B Langdown FSLL

m+44(0)7774 821093