Tech for tech’s sake: let’s not lose sight of actual customer needs

22 September 2016

This month Chris Bedford, Managing Director of Open Technology and developer of the LiGO System, was featured in A1 Lighting magazine discussing how Power over Ethernet (PoE) has been tipped to change the lighting industry.

Check out the full magazine article here, or pasted below.




Tech for tech’s sake: let’s not lose sight of actual customer needs

With the Internet of Things (IoT) already hyped to become the next big thing for building service management, Chris Bedford the Managing Director of Open Technology and developer of the LiGO System discusses another interesting acronym tipped to change the industry.

Power-over-Ethernet, or PoE for short, is another technological development tipped to change our built environment as we know it.

PoE means passing both power and data by using twisted pair ethernet cabling, enabling a single cable to provide data and electricity. This has obvious advantages for devices such as wireless access points for wifi or security cameras.

The reason PoE is being touted for lighting is due to LED lighting, which has proliferated around the world thanks to its lower energy consumption compared to traditional lighting. With the LED electrical load so low it could be powered with network cables, it was inevitable discussion would turn to powering lights in our built environment via the ethernet.

Manufacturers have already released products using PoE to connect office light fixtures to the building’s IT network. But questions remain about the real benefits for building owners and the industry.

The big selling point of such systems is that building users, namely office workers, will be able to control the building’s services via their smartphones. Lighting fixtures fitted with sensors will capture data on occupancy, temperature and humidity. Building managers can use this data to better set up the building to save energy.

But in terms of lighting, we already have systems such as DALI that can do this.

Manufacturers say one benefit is the cost saving from ethernet power needing less wiring than normal cabling. Begging the question: just how much load is available and at what cost? In a typical office the connected load with sensors and light switch can be over 200 watts – trivial for a lighting circuit at 230volts but that load through an IT switch?

Another promised benefit is that it allows for two-way data communication, from room sensors installed at light fixtures. Again, something DALI does already.

Few or perhaps no luminaires will ever need big data rates and there are much simpler systems that already provide enough data to control a lamp via traditional mains wiring – which, let’s not forget is how we already deliver power to just about every building light in the world.

Ethernet systems don’t come cheaply either, is all this worth it for office workers to be able to turn the heater off with their mobile?

PoE and IoT are certainly interesting developments. But the market for building management systems should be driven by actual customer demand, rather than technology for technology’s sake.

Of course when we discuss the future of lighting systems, inevitably the future of Dali comes up. Lighting control manufacturers embraced it as an open standard, with building owners able to maintain systems through the life of the building. Dali is still the industry’s best standard and with Dali 2 coming this year to fill the gaps in the original standard and to add new features, it has good days ahead of it.

Our industry must look to the future to develop the best solutions for customers and building users, but we can’t lose sight of our industry’s core competencies and how we serve our customers today.