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Blog: integrated lighting controls: start with people, not technology

Integration has been a buzzword in building controls for a long time and in newer buildings multiple control systems are often integrated from the outset. But is this always necessary? What is the best route to take?

In our view, the answer should derive from the needs of the occupants in any given building along with the potential business benefits. It shouldn’t be set in stone before we know who will be occupying the space or what their behaviours might be. It may seem like a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario but, at Prolojik, we firmly believe that identifying the human needs and working back is the best way to identify the right way forward for the technology.

We work with clients to gather data that informs decisions about integration, designing and supplying flexible open protocol lighting control systems that can be adapted and integrated in different ways once the building’s occupied and the data analysed. We supply to CAT A and CAT B projects and whilst we may know a bit about the specific requirements of a CAT B building’s end users, we’d still recommend undertaking data analysis before any major decisions are taken.

When to specify?

This doesn’t mean you can’t specify products until you have the data. But specify open protocol systems that function to a high standard in the first place, that are flexible enough to be adapted, expanded, and/or integrated, once you know what’s actually needed. We prefer to take a collaborative approach from the start, supplying the infrastructure via our lighting control system and working with the building management team and specialist partners in other control areas. As a collective, we are able to use the data we’ve gathered to assess how best to integrate all the elements.

A good example of our people-first approach is our work with a particular client for which we used our Proxima BLE (Bluetooth low energy) technology to track people’s movements. We set up wireless communication between the lighting system and individual security passes that were classified by job title. This means that we don’t know where specific individuals were moving, but we are able to understand broadly the movements of the directors, management, support staff, etc. The data gathered from the passes moving around the premises is available to the client via an API (Application Programming Interface) and has allowed them to identify where tangible business and colleague wellbeing benefits could be delivered – and to adapt the control systems accordingly.

From the data we are able to work out where people prefer to meet, and how they prefer to manage that meeting space with light and heat. This makes it logical to integrate room booking systems with lighting controls, HVAC, AV and other systems to reflect employees’ natural preferences.  We can know when a director is approaching the lift lobby and ensure a car is called and held for them. We can identify unused spaces that can be made more appealing or repurposed. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

Tangible benefits

This type of integration will inevitably deliver energy saving benefits if done well, but this approach is about creating environments that are tailored to the needs of occupants with maximum automation. Environmental and cost benefits will naturally follow. Our example is a major office building but the same principle can be applied across the healthcare, education, public, scientific and transportation sectors to name a few.

Starting with the needs of the people and business rather than the scope of the available technology means that integration of control systems is an ever-evolving concept in the lifespan of a building. And this is a positive thing. People’s surroundings can continue to adapt to their needs over time, rather than forcing a building’s occupants to adapt to its conditions. Beginning with an in-depth understanding of what’s needed is the only way we can make sure these business critical control systems can deliver the optimum environment and deliver maximum benefits to a business’ bottom line.

Find out more about Proxima.