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Connected Emergency Lighting
- Published: Wednesday, 03 October 2018 09:01
The days of maintenance and operations personnel walking the building, pressing buttons on individual emergency lights to make sure drivers are working and batteries are charged are coming to an end.
Today’s emergency luminaires are being replaced with more advanced units equipped with automatic, self-testing features in accordance with BS EN 62034, which specifies how to test emergency lighting. Automating emergency light testing becomes more interesting when you connect those emergency luminaires together to centralise monitoring and controls. Now you have an infrastructure that can be expanded into a larger ecosystem capable of supporting the Internet of Things (IoT). More importantly, you can make buildings safer and more secure by extending emergency luminaire functionality.
What you need to create this ecosystem is a combination of smart components and connectivity. Advanced processing features in emergency LED lighting allows you to schedule regular self-tests and diagnostics. When you add in connectivity using wireless technology such as Bluetooth mesh or wired networking support for DALI or Power over Ethernet (PoE) you have the means to monitor and log the automated test reports in a central database. You also can run real-time tests and diagnostics from a central dashboard, and even monitor power consumption, temperature, and other characteristics for predictive analytics.
Once you have connected emergency lighting infrastructure in place, you have a ready-made platform for other safety information. Installing shared intelligent sensors in a building and connecting them to the emergency luminaires makes it possible to detect smoke, heat, carbon monoxide, and other dangers. Monitoring for occupancy, for example, makes it easier to locate people in the event of a fire or other emergency. It also can make your emergency lighting smarter, such as illuminating exit lights that direct occupants away from a fire (Fulham EZ Exit lights safe path - shown opposite).
Many commercial buildings will be too large to make rewiring to connect emergency lighting cost-effective. Rather than physically connecting emergency light sensors, many manufacturers are adopting Bluetooth mesh for wireless connectivity. Bluetooth is an established standard for device-to-device connections, and as an open standard any vendor can create Bluetooth-compatible devices that are guaranteed to be Bluetooth compatible. Bluetooth mesh is a relatively new standard that applies the open Bluetooth standard with a broadcast mesh so any Bluetooth mesh device can be added for two-way communications. Installing Bluetooth mesh in emergency luminaires makes it possible to create a connected emergency lighting system that can scale to suit the size of the building and have built-in failover for greater reliability (diagram of mesh topology - shown to the right)
Once the emergency lighting management system is in place you have a system that can be used for a variety of applications. Air conditioning can be controlled through the luminaire sensors so you can activate HVAC remotely or using a Bluetooth app on your smartphone. You can monitor building occupancy to make allocation of building resources more efficient. You can measure ambient light to automatically adjust the blinds. Sensors can be used for building security, granting visitors temporary access to parts of the building or detecting intruders. Strategically placed sensors can even be used for asset tracking, such as located vital equipment in a medical care center (Office mesh example - shown to the left).
To deliver real value, however, you need to consolidate emergency lighting and building management into a central control console using a platform such as elitedali. Using Tridium’s Niagara framework, elitedali provides direct integration into the building management system. (BMS) and building automation system (BAS). Since emergency lighting and the other building systems are using the same BAS language they can communicate. The infrastructure can include virtually any device that connects via IoT. Since communications is two-way, connected devices can learn from one another so data can be shared in a number of ways. For example, emergency lighting sensors can be activated in such a way that it isolates the dangerous area of the building and directs occupants the other way.
New technology is making old emergency lighting systems obsolete while enabling new applications that can make buildings smarter and safer. The first step is adding intelligence, including smart sensors, as part of emergency lighting retrofits to create an emergency ecosystem that creates more value and functionality, and promotes better safety. Using the same infrastructure to converge into a single building management system makes emergency lighting a foundation for diagnostics and analytics. The new generation of emergency lights are no longer a nuisance but the backbone of new building monitoring and control capabilities.
By Jeremy Ludyjan, LC, Senior Director, Field Marketing, Fulham (presented at LpS)