Stewart Langdown, business development director with cpn Lighting Controls argues that maintaining a secure system is crucial if IoT is to ever truly work.

When talking about intelligence in lighting and buildings we are probably thinking of a device or building that is able to vary its state or action in response to varying situations and past experience. After all, if we don’t learn from the past how can we hope to develop and ultimately improve?
That statement applies to us, as well as the building we occupy however, the reality is, we often don’t learn from the challenges of the past and continue to use past practises and technologies that, although flawed, we feel comfortable with. Fair enough, if it’s an individual continuing to do something because they have always done things that way, but businesses and users of the spaces we occupy expect more. We are a tech driven society where smart phones, smart watches, smart everything impacts on our lives. Depending on your age and technical knowledge, this may be a good or bad thing. Certainly, for me technology is a good thing with the caveat that its managed correctly and that I’m not chasing one technology down the rabbit hole of oblivion.
Much has been written about smart and especially the Internet of Things (IoT) as a defined measureable “thing”. Well to be honest it’s all a little smoke and mirrors, intelligence in lighting is nothing new, we have been using intelligent lighting since the beginning of the noughties; 2002 to be precise when the DALI standard was agreed and adopted by the lighting industry. Fifteen years on and we are now in a very exciting time for lighting. DALI has been upgraded to DALI-2 and suddenly intelligent lighting has suddenly got a lot smarter.
DALI was always a compromise with controls being very secondary to the protocol
Control DALI as you like and let the system take all of the important decisions. The downside to this was leaving controls engineers alone in darkened rooms which resulted in a mushroom of ideas, all slightly unique and all proprietary. DALI-1 had just become a digital 1-10V alternative with a few add-on’s. Most of the early DALI systems relied on broadcast commands, with no DALI commissioning with sensors and switches connected to a separate bus.
Move on fifteen years and as an industry we realised that this couldn’t carry on, so work was undertaken several years ago to create a more controls and user-friendly version of DALI which has resulted in DALI-2. A separate section of the IEC 62386 standard was created to support DALI-2 as well as the control devices that hang off the network. Finally, we have a framework for controls and have achieve the goal of interoperability. This simply allows the user and engineer to specify different drivers and controls solutions that work on the same DALI line. DALI has been set free and has now become the protocol of choice for lighting management. Feature rich we can now identify manufacturers with a common approach to switches, sensors, emergency testing etc.
The only global standard for Lighting at device level is DALI and DALI-2 gives you the freedom to fully exploit the features and benefits of a DALI based control system.
Further supporting this approach to openness and integration, DALI-AG was disbanded earlier this year and, on the same day, was reformed as the Digital Illumination Interface Association (DIIA). It was an interesting choice of words but is probably best described in the introduction to DIIA on their web site
“The Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA) is an open, global consortium of lighting companies that aims to grow the market for lighting-control solutions based on Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) technology. DALI-2 certification brings the promise of significantly improved interoperability and additional functionality compared with current DALI systems in the market.”
DALI-2 has many powerful new features that enhance the lit experience for the user, but also provides peace of mind for the OEM, Installer and client. Installing DALI-1 today would be a very blinkered approach to lighting and would effectively limit that installation for any future expansion/ development.
We have seen with DALI-2 that we have a protocol that frees up the manufacturers, designers and end users to give them the flexibility to deliver truly future safe controls. However, as with all protocols you need the backbone of a system to manage these intelligent nodes and combine that data into usable bite sized pieces of information.
With increased intelligence comes the flexibility to fine tune, modify and amend the installation over life to achieve the optimum lit environment and to also significantly reduce energy consumption. Using DALI with emergency lighting we also have the flexibility to add the feature of safety compliance as we automate the process of emergency testing and monitoring. These safety features are included within zencontrol as both DALI wired or wireless should the site require or desire a wireless option.
The Internet of Things (IoT) can only be delivered if the networks are open and flexible so that disparate devices such as mobile phones, chipped shopping trolleys, key fobs etc can be tracked and monitored as part of a wider system. Great in theory, but in reality, the decisions these systems make will not be at a local level, more often than not the decision will be part of a software package monitoring the complete installation. A level of integration beyond that commonly used to control and monitor buildings.
Specialists will be required to design, install and manage their particular areas of expertise and lighting is a perfect example of an area where science and art meet and where, with the right degree of integration elements of the lighting management system, can be used to interface and pass information to other segments of a smart building. That said, we need a different approach to how we manage these spaces as IoT is deliverable if the buildings are designed to be flexible, up to date and relevant.
With zencontrol, cpn Lighting Controls built a system that is DALI-2 compliant, is smart, flexible and able to integrate via BACnet or through other platforms, it’s scalable and secure. It uses enterprise levels of encryption to protect the connected devices and will evolve over time. If we are at the dawn of IoT, then in five or ten years’ time technology will have developed and if we don’t evolve the connected systems over time then we make them obsolete within a few years of ownership. I mentioned security and if we think that in 10 years’ time computing power will have increased to a point where machines could be up to seventy times faster than todays. Security will be a risk, so cpn has made a commitment to upgrade and maintain the security of our systems through life, based on a maintenance/ support program with customers.
As users add devices to their IoT system over time to make them smarter, if not properly managed they may ultimately make them more vulnerable. Maintaining a secure system is crucial if IoT is to ever truly work.
Simply handing over a building and walking away from a Smart building is no longer an option, we need to manage these building through life and work with open protocols that enhance the operation of the building. As I mentioned previously DALI-1 was a compromise with DALI-2 reflecting the changed required to make DALI work. DALI-AG now DIIA is about openness and evolution and is the industries commitment to integration and the growth of IoT. We are poised at a very critical point in the evolution of lighting and as such we must ensure we don’t look backwards to dated practises where designers and end users were restricted before ever taking ownership of their buildings.