This is quite a controversial topic as everyone has an opinion on what is right and wrong and to be honest, it’s difficult to be totally precise on this one.

So, I will give you my opinion which is based on a number of years working in controls and will hopefully give you some guidance on where to go with wireless.

Wireless technology has been around for far longer than most of us are aware and has been used in a variety of applications but generally in a limited capacity. There have been reasons for this and I would say this had more to do with the technology than wireless itself.

Wireless removes the need for control wiring and distributes the intelligence within the luminaire or its controller. Traditional restrictions of the wired circuit are no longer a limiting factor with wireless solutions providing seamless integration between many different devices. At its core, wireless provides flexibility and expansion of new and existing installations without the need for major wiring changes. Sounds marvellous and to a certain extent it is when you consider that cabling can in certain instances be a problem, such as when retrofitting an existing building or with a listed/ protected building where additional cable cannot be run.

The challenge is what protocol to select, and should you opt for a proprietary or open protocol. This is a complex question to answer so I will give you my view. In preference I would always opt for an open protocol and I think most of us would however, not all open protocols are the same. It seems a little counter intuitive to state this but because a device works on Bluetooth for example it should follow that all Bluetooth devices will work together; sadly, this isn’t the case and Bluetooth like many protocols has a number or variants. There is some standardisation as you can obviously link mobile phones, to cars and speakers for example, but in lighting this doesn’t always follow suit.

The challenge lies in the complexity of the commands and often the number of devices connected to the network. To that end bodies such as IEC and Bluetooth SIG along with the Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA) have been working on a standardised gateway from wireless to DALI2. Initially its widely anticipated that the gateway will be Bluetooth, however this is not totally set in stone and IEC are working with other technologies such as Open thread for example.

Whatever the wireless protocol, we need at some point to decide whether we connect to individual drivers or to gateway modules, so we can talk to multiple drivers. If we accept the gateway philosophy, then wireless to DALI2 makes perfect sense.

Proprietary protocols are perfectly acceptable and if you choose one in most instances they will function as intended but a word of caution, anything proprietary carrys a risk and that is generally one of support. Often, a client has asked the question what would happen if company X stopped trading what alternative would one have to maintain or expand the system.

The Do’s can be defined as follows;

  • Do use wireless to connect to a lighting control system; Often the connection to the lighting control system can be wireless but there will be a need to connect to a TCP/IP backbone through a wired interface.
  • Do use wireless to expand a wired system; Wireless allows the expansion of existing systems without major wiring changes providing the system has been designed to support expansion.
  • Do use the appropriate protocol for your wireless network; Proprietary or Open, the choice is yours, but do consider the long-term implications of proprietary.
  • Do consider the design of the building; Not all buildings will suit wireless communication due to the nature of their construction or the distances involved.
  • Do consider the long-term use of the space; Wireless is more expensive to purchase so consider how long the space will be occupied and how often it will be modified through its operating life.

The Don’ts are a little more complex;

  • Don’t use wireless when it’s not required; Just because it the latest technology doesn’t always follow that it delivers any additional benefit other than removing the bus wiring. Many sensors are powered off the mains so the saving in wiring is minimal in a new build.
  • Don’t buy stand-alone wireless devices and assume they will connect to a wider system; Devices designed to work on a control system will have different version of software and will be designed to communicate accordingly. Also, many system based wireless networks will use Mesh technologies.
  • Don’t buy from the open market; A continuation of the previous point not all sensors will work together and therefore a wireless device needs the appropriate software to allow it to communicate. Use a trusted manufacturer and ensure the protocol is suitable and compatible.
  • Don’t use Wireless without surveying the building; Survey the space and ensure the building is suitable for wireless control and that you have sufficient nodes/ repeaters in the design.

Obviously, there are many other points that could be discussed and hopefully I will expand upon these in later features. In the meantime if you want to know more about wireless trends and how you can master the wireless market today then pleaser don’t hesitate to give me a call.

Stewart B Langdown FSLL

tel: +44(0) 7774 821093