Intelligent lighting solutions not only improve comfort for building occupants, they also deliver significant energy savings. Karl Walker, market development manager at Beckhoff Automation explains why smart lighting is now a crucial component in building automation systems.
It’s no secret that employees who feel comfortable in their workplace are generally more motivated and more productive than those who feel that their work environment falls short of expected standards.
Lighting is intrinsically linked to our wellbeing due to our body’s reliance on circadian rhythm, a biological process that controls energy levels, mood and sleepiness based on cues from the surrounding environment. The circadian rhythm naturally dips and rises throughout the day but when it is thrown off sync it can slow our responses and make it harder for us to focus. The theory goes that by creating an environment that accurately mimics daylight hours, occupants are less likely to feel these effects during their everyday working lives.
Since 2015, when the WELL Building Standard was introduced in the UK, the wellbeing of occupants is increasingly being linked to smarter design and construction practices. The Standard sets out seven categories to consider – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Though commonly overlooked in the past, research suggests that light and lighting is a now a key factor in the drive to improve general wellbeing in commercial buildings, giving rise to the term ‘human centric lighting (HCL)’.
Put simply, HCL is all about delivering optimum levels of light at the exactly the right time and in exactly the right place, by smoothly controlling the colour temperature and the spectral power density in the blue region throughout the day This may sound like a fairly straightforward goal, but very few properties display identical characteristics in terms of layout and patterns of occupancy.
By combining modern LED technology, advanced automation technology and the IoT and incorporating natural light wherever possible, HCL can also deliver significant energy savings, allowing users to continuously monitor, analyse and optimise their set-up to ensure that the system is consistently realising its full potential.
Control is a fundamental requirement in any HCL or intelligent lighting system and after successfully embedding smart lighting into a smart IoT environment, HCL quickly becomes a holistically integrated part of the building automation platform.
Beckhoff, in partnership with Osram subsidiary Siteco, have been successful in developing a solution that provides connectivity via the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, making data available for location-independent analysis and ongoing system optimisation.
PC based control systems for building automation can maximise potential savings. The key benefit is that PC control not only enables end-to-end automation solutions for all technical building systems, it also offers retrofit options for IoT-enabled products to implement simple and secure cloud connections. The lighting benefits from IoT integration in building control systems, fast engineering, centralised and cloud-based energy data analysis, trend mapping and simplified big data handling.
The data acquired by power measurement terminals can be accessed in the Microsoft Azure cloud but can also be stored in any other cloud system if required. The presentation of data can be altered depending on the user’s role and it is possible to integrate visualisation for PCs and mobile devices by using ‘Power BI’ – a Microsoft business analytics service. It is also possible to achieve integration with a wearable device, offering clear mobility benefits in that data is accessible at any time and in any location. Lighting can also be controlled using process data from the cloud, making it simple to manage energy efficiency.
Accessible and secure
The automation of buildings and real estate is not always possible without access to remote diagnostics, remote maintenance and remote control. Swift support from specialists is essential for troubleshooting, software maintenance and installation of updates in order to avoid unnecessary costs caused by system failures.
Information on process variables, along with warning and error messages, is also helpful in the ongoing operation and optimization of building systems. All this information can be made readily available by cloud services.
Cloud offerings such as Azure can be trusted to deliver the highest levels of data security and privacy, empowering IoT scenarios such as intelligent lighting solutions. Remote connectivity functions enable users to monitor the status of systems and devices, while predictive maintenance can anticipate the need for service to avoid unplanned downtime.
Intelligent lighting solutions can monitor the status of an entire lighting system, or even an individual light, in real-time, from anywhere in the world. Information on energy consumption, service life and maintenance requirements is available at any time. In fact, there are virtually no limits as to how the data from the building can be analysed. A holistic control system that intelligently connects all devices and assets can provide enormous amounts of data for analysis.
Control of buildings spread across a number of different locations can be centralised, offering significant benefits for facilities management. This also allows for comparisons of performance data, helping users to identify key differences and devise a course of corrective action.
The combination of efficient HCL and a powerful control and communication solution has already proved successful in a number of applications and a collaborative approach from companies that are experts in their respective fields is vital if optimum solutions are to be realised on a consistent basis.
The amount of money that can be saved with efficient lighting control can quickly add up. For example, in a warehouse with several thousand lights, the lights can be set up to follow a moving forklift as required and energy is consumed only in the area of traffic or activity, resulting in huge energy savings.
Each project is end user-specific and a solution needs to be developed with the end user according to their individual needs. Partnerships are paramount and new ideas for building automation are developed with the customer and between different companies, resulting in cross-system, holistically integrated solutions that deliver tangible results in commercial buildings.
Productivity and energy savings
The IoT continues to attract a lot of industry hype and while certain claims attached to it remain unfounded, there is no doubt that it can help to clear the path for progressive technologies such as intelligent lighting, helping to provide a comfortable working environment whilst optimising energy usage and providing essential data for predictive maintenance.
Lighting is an integral component in a building automation system and by taking into account the needs of occupants and the building architecture it is now possible to develop a fast, affordable, fully embedded system in any workplace.