A coffee story that throws light on the state of today’s proprietary lighting controls industry and the smart Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are market disrupting them.
Here, Teresa Pole-Baker Gouveia draws on a recent experience that very well reflects the potential long overdue market changes that are already occurring in the lighting controls industry. Not being led by the traditional lighting controls companies but by a new generation of solution providers and channel partners.
Last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me my present, and I tried to contain a sigh as I saw … another coffee machine! A Nespresso. Even though I was utterly charmed by George Clooney in the ads, I already had a coffee machine.
Being a coffee lover, and a few years back, I wanted a coffee machine with those easy-to-use hermetically sealed capsules for coffee-shop-quality coffee I could have at home. I didn’t want an expensive machine, or one that only produced small cups of coffee, so Nespresso was out (sorry George).
I enjoy a variety of drinks; tea, hot chocolate, coffee, cappuccino, latte and so on. So, I bought a machine, on promotion, which did just that.
However, over time –
- The price of my machines capsules increased while the generic forms of capsules for other brands of coffee machine, were reducing!
- The competition machines were offering a wider range of drink capsules.
My sole sourced proprietary product, was falling out of favour, and was no longer in all supermarkets.
Having bought a low price coffee machine which only used the manufacturer’s proprietary capsule brand, I was now stuck!
In Portugal, one doesn’t mess with the mother-in-law. So I got the Nespresso coffee machine working.
- To my surprise I find that its capsules offer a wide range of drinks, including all those I particularly enjoy.
- Best of all there are generic versions available everywhere, with an even greater variety of drink options on offer.
Nespresso’s capsule patent having run out a few years ago, enabled imitators to flood the market with similar machines and capsules, thus increasing choice and competition whilst improving the price point.
Bad for Nespresso’s business; actually no, their market share of the capsule market is growing, and they dominate the market in Europe.
So as a consumer, I’m happy. I now have access to a wider selection of goods at better prices. Meantime Nespresso have to work hard to keep ahead of the market and, as a consumer, this means more innovation, quality and better price.
So I was able to tell my mother-in-law, quite honestly, that her gift was great.
The interoperability of these drink capsules breeds variety, stimulates innovation and quality and, in the long run, makes it more likely that my fix is guaranteed. In order to differentiate itself, Nespresso has turned to issues that consumers care about, such as sustainability, quality and variety.
So why is this emerging coffee machine success story not repeated in the intelligent lighting solutions space?
The traditional lighting controls industry still dominates the global market, even though this means that “end clients” (building owners, managers, users) are faced with the same problems as me and my old coffee machine; while the initial cost of the system may seem attractive, down the line there is a price to pay;
- proprietary, sole sourced parts
- limited (or costly) access to all device value data
- inflexibility or increased expenses when changes are needed
- technology which is quickly out of date and is no longer the most innovative solution which is neither really smart or converged
However, in the last few years new smart IoT lighting control solutions have appeared. These are highly vendor independent both at point of delivery and in future operation and maintenance, thus offering end clients what they really want:
- Choice of who delivers, who maintains over time and what equipment is used.
- Simpler architecture means less installed equipment.
- Super-fast automatic commissioning, which means installation and changes can be made quickly and inexpensively.
- Full, direct access to all the device-level value-data seamlessly and freely
- An IoT solution you can access from anywhere on the planet.
All this whilst leveraging today’s and the future’s expected benefits of smart IoT converged solutions.
The other day, while I was buying my generic coffee capsules, I found someone I know, a maintenance manager of a local supermarket, who was staring in dismay at the defunct ballast in his hand. “This should be a cheap product” he sighed. “But I can only use one from the place I bought it, and it costs a fortune!” I smiled, sympathetically.
“Let me tell you a story over coffee” I said…
Lighting control systems, like many other commercial amenities, are considered to be something out of the control of the day-to-day users and, in some cases, even the premises or facilities manager. Managed and maintained by an engineer who visits the site every six months or in the case of an issue, lighting control systems are traditionally difficult to navigate and require specialist training to operate.
Commonly vendor dependent, lighting control solutions typically rely on a single source of supply for both system components and maintenance. This means that specialist manufacturer-based skills are required to install, maintain and importantly, manage a system. Consequently, for simple requests that do not fit within the standard package, substantial additional costs can be incurred.
However, with open standard, vendor independent lighting control solutions available today, this needn’t be the case. Based upon open standards and convergent technologies, lighting control solutions can be incorporated within the building management system (BMS), making day-to-day management much simpler.
Utilising a truly interoperable network and ethos, such solutions enable the end client or user to influence the systems’ design and user interface, both at point of delivery and over the solution’s lifetime.
Offering this unique flexibility to the end client and user is elitedali™ smart lighting control. Easily accessible via any Internet browser, elitedali transforms any suitable Niagara BMS platform into a secure smart lighting commissioning and control product, connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Capable of visually displaying the lights on the DALI network, an easy to navigate web user interface can be created, with buttons built for specific actions such as turning on all lights on a floor or a particular floor or initiating specialist sequences, dimming etc.
Based upon open, international standards, system flexibility is at the core of elitedali. Implemented by any suitably qualified Niagara installation and commissioning engineer, elitedali provides end clients with total choice surrounding their preferred commissioning partner.
Furthermore, physical input devices such as dimmers, traditional light switches, wireless energy harvesting and smart mobile products can be incorporated into the system design to further aid control.
Creating a bespoke solution for each application, individual client’s needs are met at the point of design, taking into consideration on going management and maintenance. In addition, the flexibility of the control solution enables it to be amended and adapted at any point during its lifespan.
In turn, an easy to use interface, ideally suited to the client, can result in less call outs to site for system modification and control clarifications. And for those instances where an engineer is required, IoT capability enables instantaneous changes without the need to be onsite.
A unique control solution, elitedali transforms the standard Niagara BMS into a world-class smart IoT lighting commissioning and control device. Thus enabling end clients to step out from the dark with secure and seamless access to all light fixture and sensor value data. This is particularly useful for both local and cloud based analytics to optimise operations in real-time.
Lighting control solutions are essential to reducing building energy consumption and creating the ideal working environment. To ensure this control is not misplaced and remains with the end user, vendor independent solutions that enable the end users needs to be fully considered should to be sought.
To locate your nearest Certified elitedali Partner, please click here.
In any sector, one would imagine that as technological capability develops and improves it brings with it more choice, flexibility, greater efficiency and less cost for the end user.
For example, think of the smartphone that you probably have in your possession right now. We use our smart phones for seemingly endless array of divergent applications. The phone interacts and integrates with a variety of software and hardware, allowing you to change channel on your TV, control the temperature in your home, play music from a Bluetooth speaker and even start your car remotely.
Now imagine that you could not perform these actions unless your smartphone was the same brand or from the same product manufacturer as your TV, thermostat, speaker or car. This wouldn’t make any sense. The technological power and potential of the device would be rendered worthless.
For far too long, this has been the case in the world of building and lighting controls. The perceived ‘big hitters’ have driven their own self-serving agenda, stifled innovation and most importantly put up barriers that negate the improvements in technology and interoperability.
However, having successfully exhibited at several Middle East and Asia-Pacific events with our partners, we found that those employed within the building services industry in these regions are seeking and employing the most cost effective, convergent controls solutions available today.
Interoperability is perceived as a key requirement, ensuring the building control systems can effectively communicate with all system components. This intrinsic value, achieved by adhering to open standards, increases system flexibility and its ability to evolve and adapt to changes in the building’s use throughout its lifespan.
In fact, at CNS, we have found demand and interest for our vendor independent, lighting solution, elitedali™ and vendor independent control solution, cns-enocean to be extremely high in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific areas.
Personally and professionally, I am delighted by this development but hardly surprised. After all, why would other regions seek to implement an inefficient, ineffective, overpriced and out-dated template of building and lighting controls?
The penny has dropped in the east that we should not be selling end-users individual products but providing them with convergent, interoperable solutions. As members of the building and lighting controls industry, we must take a holistic approach, focusing on the elements we can offer from a macro perspective, while offering building services professionals and end users with more choice, flexibility and accountability at more agreeable and greater levels of cost and efficiency.
Standards on their own have limited merit if there is not an ability to interoperate with multiple vendors of the standard. For example, there are many standard languages in the world, all with their own way of speaking, writing and grammar. But communication only happens when the speakers or writers interoperate, that is, when they can understand and respond to each other. Such is the same with lighting controls.
There are a lot of names for the evolving standards of lighting control – Zigbee, Bluetooth, 802.15.4, Power over Ethernet (PoE), Thread, etc – all of these focused on solving a real problem or set of problems, but most totally unable to interoperate with the other. While options such as wired versus wireless, or control versus power and control can be valuable, unless there is a movement to mix and match them in a building they will not help end users or vendors bring about better control of lighting and energy efficiency.
Imagine if you walked into a coffee shop and had to ask the manufacturer of the WiFi router to know if you could connect your tablet. Or if you had to choose your hotel based on them supporting Samsung smartphones, rather than those from Apple or Huawei. That is what we are asking end users to do today with lighting controls.
For the value of connectivity to appear, and for controls to become integrated into a majority of lighting installations, we need interoperable standards where multiple vendor’s products – LED drivers, switches, luminaires, controls, sensors – can all be placed into the same network and everything works together seamlessly. This is a basic milestone on the road to IoT, and one that end users do not take seriously enough today.
With the exception of DALI, what most lighting control vendors ask today is that the selector trust them to stay in business, continue to migrate the system, and ensure it will keep working in its closed, proprietary way for the rest of the system’s given life. Only DALI is able to mix and match products from multiple vendors, and provide an easy upgrade path if one vendor no longer is your best choice.
Users should be demanding vendors work together. New proposal documents for lighting systems should require multiple vendors to interoperable together. There should be a commitment from the vendors to transition to interoperable standards as they appear, and to actively participate in the multivendor forums and test sites that will arise.
Together, we can create a world where standards are interoperable and meaningful.
View the Presentation
Thomas Keel is a Professor at the School of Building Construction at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a respected and influential individual within the building control sector, having extensively experienced the industry from both an academic and corporate setting.
In this special guest blog, Thomas Keel, Professor at the School of Building Construction at Georgia Institute of Technology, discusses convergence and its impact on engineers and product manufacturers in the controls industry.
To understand the power of convergence, we must first define and determine what convergence truly is. Imagine random strands of unconnected twisted wire. Convergence happens when all those strands of wire are fused together to become one.
Regarding intelligent buildings, smart cities, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the goal of convergence is to have devices that are intended to work perfectly when first connected, without reconfiguration, adjustment, or by the addition of an intermediary device, sometimes referred to as a gateway.
We live in interesting times, for in a way, society and culture push against convergence. Industry is not monolithic; it does not stand apart from the society in which it operates. Industry is part of a multidimensional entity that lives in a sociocultural-political environment that celebrates diversity and individualism. In this environment convergence and integration are almost anathema.
With the advent of direct digital control (DDC) each manufacturer developed their own protocol to monitor and control the myriad of devices that make up what is known as the building-controls industry. Therefore, each building was branded by which controls manufacturer won the contract to install the building’s control system.
What was lacking was open interconnectivity/integration between disparate systems. This anchored each building to a specific product manufacturer and unless the building owner was prepared to entirely change out systems, they had to continue purchasing additional equipment, software, and firmware from the manufacturer of the originally installed system. Personally, I was involved in one of those wholesale system changeovers whereupon the initial phase took three years and continued being an ongoing ordeal as new interconnectivity/integration problems were discovered.
Understanding this dilemma, building owners began demanding “plug-and-play” interconnectivity, forcing controls manufacturers to begin working together. In other words, they demanded interoperability. Now, it is reported that many control device manufacturers are collaborating to pre-integrate their systems, although hard verification is not easily available.
This has opened up an entirely new industry known as systems integration with a new class of industry professionals known as system integrators. System integrators, act as a bridge, connecting disparate systems by locating or manufacturing gateways that translate signals from one device to another language of the device to which it is connected. System integrators and system integration can reduce the risk of system malfunctions but are not the solution; integration and integrators are merely temporary, yet necessary, Band-Aids/plasters.
The real solution is found in universal standards and protocols. What if every computer manufacturer had their own set of peripheral requirements forcing the consumer to purchase all of their peripheral devices from the manufacture of their computer?
Leading and influential figures from the controls industry profess to the importance of convergence and the interoperability of standards, with Jim Brandt Vice President of Product Management at wot.ie saying: “the proliferation of standards means that no single standard has yet become the one and only standard. Only time will tell which standard(s) will emerge. Until then, openness to different standards is the order of the day. Given the varied landscape, there are a few approaches to get some value from the available standards and avoid possible incompatibility between different parts of the infrastructure.”
The search for standards of interoperability, interconnection, and integration within the global building controls industry is vital for its future. Those working within this sector need to have a full understanding of the terminology of the intelligent building/smart cities industry and successfully transverse the minefield of convergence, integration, interconnectivity, and interoperability with deft skill so as to emerge on the other side with a fully functioning system while working towards the day of total industry-wide convergence.
While presenting a recent lecture for students of Georgia Institute of Technology, the similarities between these young people’s probing idealism and inquisitive nature struck me as very similar to our own ethos at CNS.
The students, accompanied by Professor Thomas Keel of the School of Building Construction at Georgia Institute of Technology, contributed to a lively lecture, debate and Q&A session on the topic of convergence. Hailing from different but complementary disciplines within the built environment, the stateside students made the afternoon session, which was generously hosted by One Sight Solutions at their premises in Hampshire, a thoroughly thought-provoking, engaging, and enjoyable experience.
During the session, we explored how convergent technology has changed and continues to shape nearly every aspect of our modern life; before narrowing our focus to examine how convergent technologies will help develop the building and lighting control industry.
Convergent technology involves the integration of two or more different technologies into a single device. A great example of convergent technology is the smart phone you probably have on, or in near proximity, to your body right now. Instead of carrying separate devices, the invention of the smartphone has enabled us to amalgamate and harness the capabilities of a phone, MP3 player, camera, personal organiser and much more into one single device.
Within the building and lighting controls industry, convergent technology allows different components of a facility’s Building Management System (BMS), such as air-conditioning, heating, access control and lighting to integrate and speak to each other. This allows data and information to inform the end user, resulting in increased cost savings and energy efficiencies.
Furthermore, these convergent smart web-based solutions remove layers of unnecessary equipment that drain energy and money and give the end user more in terms of flexibility and choice. This means they can choose who delivers, operates and maintains their system, as well as having full control over future equipment and software preferences.
Additionally, smart Internet of Things (IoT) based control solutions can deliver valuable real-time data to connected devices. This can be of particular value in sectors such as lighting control, where growing research highlights the impact that factors including the colour and intensity of light can have on employee productivity and health. Thus, full access to this analytical data can enable facilities managers to optimally deliver lighting control that can positively affect their company’s bottom line.
However, there is a major disclaimer here. All these benefits are contingent on a vital condition. To fully extrapolate the value of convergent technology, the building and lighting controls must operate to truly open and interoperable standards.
This issue of vendor independence and interoperability (or lack of) is still very prominent, especially in the lighting controls sector, where unless all the components on the system are from one manufacturer, effective communication and operation is not likely. By not allowing similar devices from different manufacturers to communicate within the same lighting system, end-users and facilities managers have no choice but to choose a single manufacturer’s offering.
Consequently, the building and lighting controls industry can sometimes feel quite closed. With the ‘big-hitters’ controlling a large market share and attempting to enforce a droll hegemony that can stifle technological innovation as well as the quality of end product offered to the client, the sector can be very frustrating.
However, there does exist vendor independent, smart IoT based lighting solutions. For example, based upon a building’s existing BMS, CNS’s elitedali™ is an example of a flexible and truly interoperable lighting control system. Integrating with an existing Niagara BMS, elitedali enables the BMS system to control the lighting and connects it with the IoT – allowing end users to fully harness the benefits that convergent technology can offer.
As a company CNS is proud to be at the cutting edge of innovation, helping to bring convergent technological solutions to the market. Much like the students I encountered during our presentation on convergence, CNS will continue to push against the status quo when necessary, challenging stagnant and out-dated mentalities when it comes to open standards and strive to deliver top-class building and lighting solutions that benefit the end user.
View the presentation given to the students of Georgia Institute of Technology.
There was an expressively celebratory atmosphere to the Niagara Summit 2016. Buoyed perhaps by the tropical weather of Louisiana, or the colourful vibrancy of the city of New Orleans, the collective energy and passion amongst the attendees, organisers, and speakers was palpably infectious.
The Niagara Summit, which takes place every two years, is a wonderful tech-fest. It enables all channel partners within the Niagara community to congregate in the same space, not only to network and meet in the flesh, but to share their latest news, ideas and visions for the future direction of Niagara and the controls industry in general. It also provides the perfect platform for communal and personal reflection. This year was especially poignant as Control Networks Solutions (CNS) were named by President and General Manager of Tridium, Nino Di Cosmo, during his keynote speech, as one of the top four innovators within the Niagara network.
When I first visited the Niagara Summit in 2006, it was a very different event and experience. The fervent determination and belief in creating a centralised, global network, where innovation lives and boundaries are questioned and pushed, was still present. However, the festival itself was a much tighter affair and had the feel of an emerging technology.
A decade later, and our collective vision has not only emerged but also come of age. Niagara is the de facto standard in converged building and lighting controls. It is a recognised and respected standard of quality and innovation. For example, today Niagara is recognised as a world-class smart Internet of Things (IoT) lighting controls solution. Niagara and Smart IoT lighting controls has commissioned and is controlling more than 100,000 intelligent light fixtures, in more than 10,000,000 square feet of built environment, from state of the art medical facilities, offices, hotels to government buildings.
The main auditorium of the 2016 edition was buzzing as exhibitors showcased their latest products and engaged in lively conversation with stand visitors. The show itself provides a great opportunity to meet with long standing partners, forge future relationships and is the perfect setting to demonstrate to end clients the power and innovation of this unique ecosystem. The presentations, forums and breakout sessions were well attended and sparked lively debate on a host of sector issues.
The summit also provided those within the Niagara community with a glimpse into the near future. There was confirmation that the Niagara 4 platform has been released – with deployment already begun. Niagara 4 will bring more benefits to the end users in terms of visualisation of data, security and analytics. By streamlining data, Niagara 4 will remove the fog and help produce actionable real data. This data can then be harnessed to inform and guide future actions and increase efficiency, productivity and ultimately reduce the operating costs of buildings.
Much like the holistic aim of Niagara, the summit works in galvanising and engaging its community. It brings developers, programmers, building owners, engineers and executives together, creating conversations that bring intelligence and connectivity to the edge of the network and back. As a company, CNS is extremely proud to be a central figure within this innovative network and was delighted to contribute to the summit in such a meaningful manner.
During the Niagara Summit 2016, in my capacity as managing director of CNS, I was involved in a video interview with Eric Stromquist and Ken Smyers of Control Trends, who bring such tireless enthusiasm to covering the controls sector. I also gave a presentation on the specific requirements and needs of end clients for converged smart lighting controls, whilst reflecting on the progress of Niagara as a world-class smart IoT lighting control solution since 2008 and contributed to a session on the merits of the recently launched Niagara Marketplace, and its benefits for the Niagara community. However, the highlight of the whole summit from a personal and professional perspective was when Nino Di Cosmo, President and General Manager at Tridium, during his keynote address, named CNS as one of the top four innovators within the Niagara community.
This honour filled everyone involved with CNS with an immense sense of accomplishment and pride. To be recognised in this manner, in front of a packed auditorium, by a group so illustriously creative and dynamic as our Niagara peers, was an energising and eminently positive experience. CNS will continue to play as pivotal role as is required to further grow, nurture and mature the Niagara network, vision and ideology, and wholeheartedly look forward to the next Niagara Summit in 2018.
The building and lighting controls industry – once quite slow in its evolution – is now rapidly experiencing completely new solution innovations and delivery channels.
Knowing how to find them and making the right choices based upon open, interoperable standards and technology choice, rather than brands, can lead to lower-cost smart control solutions delivering immensely beneficial business results.
Discover the true cost of your building control solutions.
On the surface, cloud based building management systems (BMS) seem to offer an ideal solution for facilities management. Their purpose is to allow users to collect, process and analyse data on a range of services including HVAC systems, energy usage and lighting controls. However, inspecting the finer details can uncover some fundamental issues surrounding ownership, autonomy, security and interoperability, creating an uncertainty that darkens the hue of these cloud based BMSs.
First of all, whose cloud is it? Or more importantly who owns the data held in the cloud? This is a topic that is fraught with ambiguity. Generally, ownership rights fall into three distinct categories of the law – copyright, confidentiality and contract, all of which vary depending on the country. If data is created in one country and then stored in another, the jurisdiction to which it belongs becomes blurred.
Additionally, if for example, data is created and then stored on a cloud, one could assume, due to copyright law, that the original creator of the data is the owner. However, we again enter the realm of uncertainty when we contemplate who owns the data if it is created within the cloud. Here, deciding ownership can become a legal minefield.
An assumption surrounding cloud based BMSs is that they help conserve and streamline energy output and are an environmentally friendly option but cloud platforms are not some fluffy, floating, intangibly infinite data resource. They require maintenance, staffing and a host of technological and physical resources.
By outsourcing to a cloud facility, businesses may not be reducing energy consumption but merely moving it offsite. Using a cloud based BMS can help increase the energy efficiency functions of a facility such as the lighting controls and HVAC system, but how do we quantify this against the exponential amount of power, energy and pollution created in the construction and upkeep of cloud data centres?
A further issue companies should consider when choosing BMS systems is access and security. Large commercial enterprises by their nature hold sensitive and valuable data about their business operations. They might not want this information to fall into the hands of the media, public, or competitors. Cloud data centres hold such a vast amount of information that they are attractive targets for hackers. Additionally, companies sometimes use cloud services to store data they do not immediately have use for but will have in the future. A study from Queen Mary University of London found that the fine print in some cloud contracts means that providers can waive responsibility for data storage or delete data if it is not used within a given time period.
Moreover, a lot of cloud based BMS systems do not provide seamless access to all the installed building and lighting controls device level data. This issue could arise if, for example, a facility manager changes the lighting controls solution provider. Depending on the new system installed, it may not be compliant with the cloud based BMS. This lack of interoperability means that analytics gathered via the cloud are of limited use in informing how the end user can improve their building’s services.
On closer inspection, it seems that cloud based BMSs raise more questions than they answer and are definitely not the utopian, analytical guiding light that many profess they are. Instead, the latest generation of control network solution providers can ensure a level of flexibility and data access that cloud based BMSs cannot match. In addition, they are designed to reduce energy consumption whilst passing on all the benefits provided by the control system to the building owner.
An example of such a system is elitedali™ lighting controls. The elitedali technology enables lighting to be incorporated into the building’s existing Niagara BMS. With the ability to halve total lighting energy consumption, elitedali controls contribute significant energy savings, whilst accounting for less than one per cent of the building’s energy use.
Created with the Internet of Things in mind, the elitedali lighting controls can be controlled both locally and remotely using any suitable web browser and smart mobile device, meaning changes can be made to lighting settings instantaneously.
Requiring less of an initial investment due to it simply connecting with the already installed BMS, elitedali smart lighting controls provide the user with absolute confidence, automony and certainty over the lighting control system and its data.
For more information, and to discover how you can reduce the cost of your lighting, please visit www.control-network-solutions.co.uk or follow @elitedali on Twitter.
Lighting is one of the most expensive costs to a business, accounting for more than a third of a building’s electricity use and CO2 emissions. It’s therefore understandable that many companies and facilities managers are looking towards innovative smart control solutions to manage electricity and lighting usage. However, with the focus still firmly on the light source itself and as energy prices drop, are we actually considering the true cost of our lighting?
A recent report released by the Californian Energy Commission has highlighted the benefits of adaptive lighting solutions in the retail sector. Currently accounting for 13 per cent of California’s lighting electricity use, surprisingly the retail sector in the region has less lighting legislation with which to conform. This has led to innovative smart lighting control solutions being underutilised for energy saving and marketing functions.