Is Wireless Lighting Control the Right Choice for Customers?

"In recent months we’ve heard a lot of talk about the rise of wireless control solutions and what this may mean for the future of lighting control. But is this trend really founded in the needs of the customer, or are we in danger of creating a disconnect between what customers want and what solutions providers are offering them?

Wireless has its place, but we should also remember that it has its limitations. MESH and Wi-Fi networks have been around for more than 10 years, but wireless hasn’t yet become the norm for commercial property control systems. One reason is that copper is more reliable and less expensive. Building owners trust it, it’s easy to specify and it presents little risk to the installer. Introducing new technology always comes at a cost, and silos within the UK construction industry can make the delivery of new technology a challenge.

In the booming connected home market, for example, even headline products like Nest are struggling to deliver on consumer expectation in terms of set up and usability. WiFi connectivity has even caused problems in some cases, with reports of heating systems shutting down after automatic updates. What if the same thing was to happen in a school or hospital?

When it comes to ensuring that performance meets specification, it will be interesting to see whether wireless technology providers will invest in the cost of the proper support required to make this technology win. From the customers’ point of view systems should be open and not tie them to particular manufacturers. In addition, the tools and software to maintain a system should be built into the system cost.

We should also remember that the specification of lighting systems involves a complex delivery chain. System design needs to take into account the available skill set of those who will carry out the work on site. What new tools will we expect tomorrow’s electricians to carry: iPads and wireless routers? If so, will installation contractors accept the inevitable cost of up-skilling the guys on site? If they do, will the potential savings of wireless installation be passed on to the customer?

Dali was originally embraced by lighting control manufacturers as a true open standard, which guaranteed that building owners would get what was specified and that they could maintain that system throughout the life of the building. Lighting a building effectively, running the system efficiently, and ensuring that staff can maintain it correctly is still a real challenge. We should look for clear evidence that customers can fix things themselves and that there is no additional cost to achieve this.  Many of the principles behind Dali still hold true, and we should be mindful of them as our technology evolves."

Chris Bedford, Managing Director, Open Technology

Tags: Open Technology, Lighting Control News, Company News, lighting industry news, e-lec.org