What’s the Difference Between Lighting Control System and Advanced Workplace Sensors?

by | May 1, 2020 | Comparisons | 0 comments

Understanding the difference between lighting control systems and Advanced Workplace Sensors is critical for commercial office stakeholders in 2020.

To properly inform buying decisions for healthy and efficient commercial office tenancies, buildings or entire property portfolios, having clarity on these differences will lead to the creating of more intelligent buildings.

We are at a technological tipping point in commercial office lighting applications. About 30 years ago we saw something similar, when many of the incumbent, now legacy lighting control systems were first released on the market.

This includes systems like Dynalite™, CBUS™ and KNX™ which all use essentially the same topology and framework for controlling lights and other devices.

The Same Installation Process for All Legacy Systems

All of these 30 year old systems have the same connectivity and control concept: Controllers in a board connected to the lighting circuits with inputs connected on a BUS cabling system in the field – add an abstracted software layer for ‘patching’ lighting together.

Importantly they are lighting control systems, designed to control lighting, and over time have adapted to control other common services like blinds, and simple interfacing to HVAC and other solutions. Some do more, some do less – its brand-specific.

1. Lighting circuits are centrally cabled from the DB out onto the floor – this follows standard wiring practices.

2. All the ‘controllers’ are mounted in these distribution boards and input devices like sensors and switches are mounted in the tenancies.

3. All these systems use some form of bus cabling that carries power and data on a single cable whether its daisy-chained, star wiring etc.

4. All of these systems use DALI™, the international standard for lighting control, as their primary dimming for commercial luminaires. Some of them do this in a compliant way – that is they use DALI™, compliant controllers, some pretend and offer compatible interfaces only.

The rapid commercialisation of DALI2™ should see an end to these pretenders no matter if you are using legacy systems or Advanced Workplace Sensors.

5. Any integration to BMS and other 3rd party systems is typically achieved by adding extra hardware components into the BUS system that have a specific job. Interface to BMS, interface to KNX™, interface to audiovisual etc.. Add more components and more bus cabling for every integration needed.

Even connecting to an ICN (IP based Integrated Communications Networks) requires a special hardware device, often per floor, and at least 2 of the 3 systems mentioned have essentially no security on their bus system to inhibit or prevent injection attacks.

So that’s the past.

Some newer lighting control systems, like RAPIX™, provide an open API, direct connection over IP without additional hardware and modern security encryptions out of the box without any additional hardware.

Keeping in mind that RAPIX™ is about 5 years old (versus the 30 of the legacy systems) and hence an API is available, which allows for secure, shared comms over IP between all systems, removes the need for this proliferation of hardware interfacing devices and reduces integration costs significantly. But is still a lighting-control-only system.

Advanced Workplace Sensors Change All of This for the Better.

Advanced Workplace Sensors deliver a full suite of energy efficiency, occupancy, comfort and air quality solutions in one unified platform, providing the ability to deliver NCC Section J6 compliant lighting control schemes, but take a very different approach.

Importantly lighting control is just 1 very small part of what Advanced Workplace Sensors provide. Its a small piece of their capability, not their primary function.

Advanced Workplace Sensors are intended to replace existing lighting control systems with a robust wireless Wirepas mesh and introduce additional core competencies required in modern commercial office buildings like climate (indoor air quality C02, TVOC, Temperature, Humidity, PM2.5, PM10, Sound), utilisation, security, safety and lighting.

For buildings that already have a legacy lighting control system in place that have a desire to get more from their facility, its possible to introduce Advanced Workplace Sensor solutions and have them co-exist with this lighting control, at least for a time.

And with this dense sensor constellation its now possible to provide assurance and protection to employees with social distancing measure, contact tracing

How Are Advanced Workplace Sensors Different?

1. Electrically the lighting circuits are of course still required to be centrally cabled to electrical distribution boards.

2. What is eliminated entirely is the BUS cabling between controllers and inputs – sensors and switches and the need to centrally locate control hardware. All systems communications is wireless.

3. Also, the elimination of all of those integration hardware devices occurs. Something like the senseagent Advanced Workplace Sensor solution provides a well documented open API for all vendors to use or to collaborate to create the necessary software API.

4. Finally and importantly from an installation cost perspective there is no DALI cabling between fixtures.

Each fixture is provided with an embedded sensor which is connected internally creating intra-luminaire DALI control- maintaining the quality of the dimming and control.

The contractor simply connects the flex and plug or structured cabling to 240v and that’s it. No electrical switch boards full of control equipment.

Alternatively, a remote sensor is mounted which is 240v powered and connected via a remote DALI2 driver to the light sources or used as a stand-alone sensor for climate monitoring, tracking, utilisation, safety and security.

Australian Green Building Compliance Framework Infographic

Cloud Based Software

The abstracted software layer concept for grouping control, scene control etc. continues to be a sensible and simple way to provide lighting control with Advanced Workplace Sensors continuing that approach and applying this to all metrics not just lighting.

With Advanced Workplace Sensor this software does not reside on the BMS PC in the basement of the building, relieving both the FM and the IT department from patching, updating and upgrading that hardware and software to maintain operation.

Instead, a web-based Cloud enables access from any device from anywhere, with user interface guidelines and technology that requires minimal training

Which also enables enterprise-wide visibility of every tenancy, every floor, every building – anywhere in the world, if permissions allow.

Nor do the ‘system files’ only reside on the system integrator’s laptop so they can be ransomed or used as a tool to extort funds next time the system needs a tweak, upgrade or repair.

The dashboards, analytics, visualisations and control platform resides in the cloud, its always up to date with security patches, new features, speed improvements.

Its never anchored in the past to the date it was installed on an aging PC. Facilities never have to pay for it to be upgraded or have a new version installed.

That all happens automatically.

As this solution has a well documented API, the data can be exported for a low cost of data expert to any 3rd party system the enterprise would like, unlocking the value of that data across the enterprise and across subsystems for deeper analysis if required.

SAL Commercial as the Australia and New Zealand lighting distribution partner for the senseagent solution, delivers this SaaS cloud for 5 years with no additional cost during that period for the cloud service and API.

The Future Demands more than these lighting-control-only system can deliver.

In fact, lighting is only one very small part of what Advanced Workplace Sensors provide.

In Australia we are global leaders in Green Building and GRESB ratings year on year, The Australian property industry market has been recognised as the world’s most sustainable by GRESB for eight consecutive years.

This is a consequence of the legislation we have had in place and our NCC – National Construction Code [link] which identifies, amongst other things, lighting control systems as a core part of the construction process for commercial offices.

The basic requirements, not something extraordinary.

Australian Green Building Compliance Framework Infographic

Add to this the success of the NABERS rating scheme and the work undertaken by the Green Building Council of Australia, coupled with the fact that Australia is now ranked first in the world for WELL market saturation, with the product transitioning from just the top end of town and now filtering into the broader market..

It’s clear that the future demands more than these lighting-control-only system can deliver and that the future is Advanced Workplace Sensor constellations.


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