Smart lighting solutions continue to flood the UK market, bringing with them promises of enhanced functionality, connectivity and capabilities beyond illumination. However, as Russell Parr, sales & marketing director at Prime Light explains, intelligent components are also now making their way into emergency lighting systems.

The evolution of smart emergency lighting may have been far less documented than its more traditional illumination counterparts, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t been as rapid in its ascent. Indeed, the latest generation of solutions now support an expanding array of functionality while also delivering on the common expectations of high-level performance, optimum efficiency, reliability and full compliance.

Emergency lightings primary function has always been, and will remain, guiding individuals out of the building in the event of a fire or similar crisis. So naturally, given their potential life-saving role, such evacuation systems are an ongoing concern for building maintenance and facilities management teams.

Should a power outage occur, regardless of whether it’s a result of mains failure, fire or circuit error, it is critical that emergency lighting provides reliable and adequate lighting output to direct the occupants out of the building to safety. Where the system is ineffective, people’s lives are put at risk and the outcome can be devastating.

Equally, though, particularly as safety and compliance standards become more stringent – and buildings come under further scrutiny for the reliability of their emergency lighting systems – facilities management teams are seeking further assurances of quality. It is for this reason that independent quality marks such as ENEC Mark and Kitemark approvals are assuming even greater importance.

Depending on how a site is managed, it is also important that managers have an offering that is scalable across all technology platforms. The value beyond simple illumination that intelligent emergency lighting components can deliver, therefore, is now more important than ever before.

Self-testing functionality

Perhaps most pertinent for FMs are developments in the automated testing capabilities of modern systems. The latest generation of smart emergency LED fixtures and drivers incorporate on-board intelligence and self-testing features to ease the burden of monthly testing, limit maintenance and reduce the possibility of fines for non-compliance.

In the event of failure to a key component of the emergency luminaire, be that the inverter, light source, or battery, a built-in LED indicator omits a red light with a binary code displaying a particular speed of flashes which shows the facilities manager a visual indication of failure.

The automatic testing regime limits human error and ensures compliance of the installation.

The adoption of the automatic testing technology into the DALI protocol gives options to further enhance the reliability of the emergency lighting scheme, with tailored management of the testing regime. More fundamental options are available with things like built in test switches.

Although the smart self-test functionality doesn’t replace general site maintenance, it does significantly reduce the time required to perform regular testing. The automation of the testing means the monthly process can be visually inspecting the status of the LED indicators of each of the emergency points. In addition, this process also protects batteries as they are not being discharged unnecessarily, helping to alleviate any potential over-testing.

Automatic testing technology also helps reduce the compliance burden for facilities managers, with testing, maintenance, and documentation regimens simplified. Self-test luminaires can be programmed to meet the stringent compliance standards stipulated in regulations such as BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004, for instance, which require each luminaire to be tested at monthly and annual intervals and the results to be manually logged.

In case of emergency, seek smart lighting

Already the foundation of a multitude of LED fixtures, programmability has increasingly grown in prominence in intelligent emergency lighting components. This presents an array of benefits from allowing manufacturers significant flexibility in luminaire design, the ability to integrate more efficient modules in fixtures, and even the capability to incorporate intelligent features. More so, there is a wide array of standalone products which have been designed with programmability to cover all aspects of a potential emergency lighting scheme.

In fact, programmable intelligence with the DALI protocol, and now expanding wireless connectivity platforms of today’s emergency lighting, has the potential to deliver everything from the ability to remotely test systems from any location, anytime, to real time remote monitoring and maintenance alerts, and, full integration with other mains lighting, emergency and BMS (Building Management Systems) in place, plus much more.

What’s more, the flexibility of today’s emergency lighting solutions provides arguably the most logical solution – both technologically and economically – to create a connected ecosystem of lighting systems and building automation, in a smart building infrastructure.

Inside a smart building the ability for all lighting systems to communicate with one another-offers a distinctive advantage, not only to meet energy, environmental, and economic goals set by building owners, but also to facilitate the integration of monitoring systems for lighting, climate control, and wider BMS to aid heightened energy performance.

The greater flexibility offered by the interoperability of the latest generation of emergency systems also means a simplified and less costly solution for retrofitting existing buildings, as building and facilities managers have a broader range of compatible lighting devices to choose from.

Lighting technology is constantly evolving and the latest advancements in emergency LED lighting technology continue to push the boundaries of what can be achieved from ‘escape lighting’.