Every age has its alternative comedy slot that shakes the conventions of the time and is seen as the way forward the breath of fresh air, the real ground breakers.

Well here’s the truth, what I thought was really cutting-edge comedy in the 80’s/90’s is now somewhat pedestrian and well not funny in some instances. Obviously, the classics do stand the test of time but why is that, what makes them stand out.

This is my interpretation of why I think they stand out and I am going to apply this to the lighting world of today, so this is going to be a rather bizarre link. Good comedy like well-made clothes a great pair of shoes or great buildings are all built on a solid foundation (did you spot the link).

This foundation is built on years of experience and an understanding of the materials and processes that need to be used to build a great sketch show, a fashionable piece of clothing or an energy efficient house.

The process is still the same, but the technology has enhanced the approach with construction. New methods of construction use highly efficient materials to build walls with windows and doors designed to minimise the heat loss. Also, heating systems have become more efficient and lighting has also had a major impact on reducing energy.

All good so far but like all great products or buildings keeping a handle on the components and process is a major factor in whether you will have a hit show or a complete flop and the same is true in construction.

What seems cutting edge today will be the mundane of the near future and common place so getting it right has never been so important. I read a great deal about the smart technologies of today and some of the claims made and like Gartners Hype Cycle it promises so much but will it provide a strong enough foundation to last the test of time.

I’m back to the strong foundations again and this has to be the basis of any smart controls system. The core technology can differ, but we need to clearly understand four important pieces of information to allow us to make a decision

1.    Is the technology proprietary.

Having a totally proprietary system restricts the installer and user from day one as often the base system is dated and using technology that was at best 10 years old but often is more likely 15 to 20 years old, so the restrictions of that period still apply. The speed of communication is limited and adding features is often restricted to a software patch via a head end PC. In its day it was cutting edge, but the core values were not maintained and the system didn’t evolve to embrace an open approach. There are systems that use micro chips that are now obsolete so they have to work around the technology to backdate the performance of the overall system otherwise the system will crash. Imagine buying a brand-new computer with Windows 10 and then having to Install Windows 95!

2.    Can I upgrade the system through life?

My analogy of Comedy and Clothing works if we consider Comedians adapting to suit the changing world and therefore maintain their relevance and likewise Fashion has a massive impact on Clothing, however some classic pieces especially in men’s tailoring have lasted the test of time but tailors have had to adapt to suit the change in their customers. Likewise, in construction we have seen a change in the way we light offices and how we use daylight and the light source to create a dynamic lit experience. Modular ceilings are disappearing, and we see more exposed soffits and cleaner lines. Luminaires are suspended and cellular offices are not as prevalent as they were 20 years ago. Trends may change so you need a system that provides the building owner/ user the opportunity to reconfigure their building and add features. Buildings change throughout their lives as all things do so having the ability to upgrade only works if the core system is open and built around known standards.

3.    How simple is it to integrate to other systems?

This is a complex one to answer as the level of integration depends on many factors but selecting the right approach should be purely down to the user being able to select the level of integration and of course the budget constraints. Open systems be they wired, or wireless must be based on standards that provide clear guidance for integration. If we have devices compliant with IEC 62386 DALI-2 Parts 102, 103 & 104 then we know they are interoperable, and we are not locked into one company’s product that only works on Bus X or Wireless version Y. The standard has a framework that is managed, and all new developments will provide a method of backward compatibility that ensure systems will work today and in 10 years’ time and if you should have a component failure you don’t have to throw away the whole system. The beauty of a standard is that it provides a framework for integration and with DALI Application controllers in their various forms this is via TCP/IP / BACnet.

This level of integration takes away the dependence on a clunky head end that if taken offline or should it fail or be hacked then removes all integration. Application controllers can integrate via an API or similar and will act autonomous, so redundancy and safety is assured.

4.    Is it secure?

This is the big challenge for all of us, how safe is the data we store and how safe are our buildings. Citing the analogy of the Comedian or Fashion Designer from the past, their ideas/ thoughts were often written down in books or patterns and stored under lock and key. In the modern world we share our data with everyone and the rise of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where hardware from others is connected to your systems exposes the risk still further.

Proprietary systems may have some level of security and at the time that might have been adequate but is it updated through the life of the building; can it be updated? The answer is often a resounding no and that is in part due to the system architecture and a restriction on hardware.

Open systems based around an Edge router approach are truly open and share a common network topology and providing access can be granted, updates and security patches can be applied through the life of that project. Obviously, this is dependent so much on the hardware but if you use an open approach then simply upgrading to a new Application controller becomes simplicity itself.

Allowing smart devices to connect to a lighting management system is a natural evolution of controls and that is why IEC 62386 Part 104 the Wireless to DALI interface has taken so long to finalised as security was paramount. As an industry we take security seriously so you have to ask why anyone would deviate from collectively we agree is the best approach.

I don’t think anyone tries to mislead when they talk about technology, but the reality is that often a salesperson will pitch a solution and a buyer will try and save money, so the net result is over promised and underfunded.

We can address this, and it doesn’t take a dramatic change to get it right. Identify those features that are critical to your building and address then one step at a time.

If you’re a developer, then have a clear vision for your building and how you can maximise rental. If you’re a contractor or installer, think about the time to install and commissioning, how to minimise your time on site and finally as an OEM consider the added value if you partner well.

Smart building need smart people to make them work!

Author: Stewart Langdown FSLL

t: +44(0)7774821093

e: stewart.langdown@zencontrol.co.uk