I regularly get bombarded through linked in or via the web from companies trying to sell me a service or gadget of some description. Often, with search engines such as Google or sites such as Amazon or eBay these targeted ads are based on your browsing history.

There is a logic to this and in many cases the Artificial intelligence behind the software often highlights products or services that might interest to you.

Now, let’s try and scale this up to someone looking for a smart home system, as I recently did. I live in19th Century cottage and it’s in a conservation zone so modern high-tech controls really weren’t, and option and Mrs. L has a very strong sense of design, so sensors and touch panels were definitely out.

Now, I work in lighting controls and I would consider myself to be professional within that field so looking through data on a range of smart home solutions would be fairly straightforward. Well, in part it was as I know the terminology and understand how devices communicate, but all was not as clear as it could be.

There was a wealth of information on how the various systems would enrich my life and how I could control my thermostat and lighting with their company’s solution. That’s great but topology information and tailoring the solution for my particular needs was lacking. I could have course chatted via the on-line chat window or called the company and I’m sure I would have been given the information I needed; suffice to say I worked it out fairly quickly when I had drilled down through the literature.

A smart home of a few connected devices is not beyond the skill of most people and if you have a teenager then you really have cracked the tech bubble. Scale this up to a commercial, residential, industrial and Retail project and the complexity and skill level goes up accordingly. The question I guess is can someone really understand a technology from a website without the input of a specialist.

Let’s take for example a typical scenario faced by Engineers and the End Client on a daily basis.A new building is proposed, and the client wants to make it the most high tech and energy efficient building they can. A team of engineers are employed, and the brief is at best vague.

It’s at this point an engineer needs to have input from people and companies they trust and who can best advise them on how to firstly interpret the clients brief and secondly how to optimise and avoid unnecessarily limiting the flexibility of the building.

The brief needs specialist knowledge to develop a strategy that will deliver the end goal. In the example, high tech and energy efficiency are not mutually exclusive, you can have one without the other and it’s critical that the objective be clearly defined.

When we drill deeper into the clients brief then cost has to be a major factor and often if the building should be sublet then rental becomes the limiting factor based on the maximum rental value in the location of the building.

So, we can see that High tech and Energy Efficient may not ultimately drive the value proposition.

Specialism is something that should be technology agnostic to a point in that the right solution for the projects should always be at the forefront of any design or project. A good relationship with your technology partner should add value and honesty and remove the pressure of a traditional sales approach of this solution always being the right solution for you.

I have always prided myself that If I don’t have the right solution then I will provide my customer or the Engineer with a solution that matches their project needs. I along with many of my colleagues have built relationships founded on trust and our expert knowledge. The greatest challenge facing every engineer and every building owner is where to go with technology. You can speak to a dozen experts and you may get a dozen responses.

They may all be right in their beliefs but there has to be rules and within Lighting Control and Emergency Lighting testing these have been clearly defined by standards such as IEC 62386 DALI-2. Wired or Wireless, we have a consensus at the subnet level as we collectively have agreed this is the way we handle the local control of lighting.

Organisations such as The Digital Illumination Interface Alliance https://www.digitalilluminationinterface.org have outlined the framework for local control. Similar to the smart home discussion I mentioned previously, data is available, and most engineers will understand the approach taken by the lighting industry and you can work out the fundamentals of the system. Interoperability is for the first time available within lighting control, hardware is no longer a limitation.

What isn’t discussed is how the wider systems integrate through software and how this is visualised through the web. Individual companies are free to interpret and provide a solution based on their chosen software. This isn’t a problem as the management of the DALI Application controllers is via the web.

Historically we have relied on a clear separation of responsibilities between systems, but as we evolve the technology and the management software then the integration of software and hardware becomes ever more important and it’s to that end managing the relationship with supplier/partners becomes critical.

Sales people sell what they have and not necessarily what the client needs. That is why for many years I have built relationships with partners to advise and listen to what they need. I may not always get the project and sometimes they may choose to go a different route, but they know that the advice they will be given is open and non-proprietary.

Managing your relationships empowers you as an individual and the companies you work with, and for. As buildings become smarter the traditional ways of awarding contracts and how we manage these buildings will change; partnership is key at every stage of the project, from concept to completion and beyond.

Stewart Langdown FSLL


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