Bluetooth mesh: A new backbone option for smart buildings

August 20, 2018 //By Russ Sharer
Bluetooth mesh: A new backbone option for smart buildings
The evolution of intelligent LED drivers is doing more than just enabling control over lighting systems in commercial buildings. Using embedded intelligence in LED drivers has opened up a new strategy for building management. LED luminaires equipped with sensors can form a building management infrastructure capable of managing systems for an entire building. The challenge is communications – what’s the most effective way to link digital lighting fixtures into a single connected infrastructure?

Many vendors are beginning to standardise on Bluetooth mesh as an open and robust wireless approach that can scale to handle control, monitoring and management in any building.

Intelligent LED drivers have become the enabling technology that forms the backbone for smart buildings. Drivers include microcontrollers so they already have the embedded intelligence to customise lighting. For example, they can be programmed to match installed fixtures from different manufacturers by changing light intensity and hue, or can be programmed for specialty applications such as indicator lights.

LED luminaires are ideal for building management since they are the most prevalent electrical devices in any structure. Lights are everywhere in a facility, and when equipped with sensors can monitor building conditions as well as luminaire performance. Sensors can be configured to detect fire, smoke, CO2, specific sounds, and other hazards, including a programmed response to trigger a fire alarm or alert security services. However, to be effective, luminaires have to be connected into a single infrastructure with two-way communications, all manageable from one dashboard or console. This is where Bluetooth mesh plays a role.


Wireless lighting controls save energy

Buildings already are being retrofitted with LED luminaires to save energy – switching to LEDs can deliver an immediate lighting energy savings of up to 75 percent. LED drivers also can be programmed to manage heat and power output for further savings, but it’s impractical to program lights one at a time. You need some form of network infrastructure to centralize lighting control and optimise energy savings.

If wired infrastructure is desired, DALI has been a standard for many years. Lately, Power over Ethernet (PoE) is gaining acceptance to both power and connect LED luminaires. LED lighting can be connected using Category 5 or 6 cable, and PoE lets you eliminate the LED drivers needed to convert DC to AC. While networking luminaires with Ethernet simplifies creation of a building management infrastructure, PoE is really only applicable for new installations; few would want to rewire an entire building with Ethernet cable as part of an LED retrofit project.

If wired networking solutions are impractical, wireless connectivity is more than viable. LED lighting manufacturers have started to successfully implement Bluetooth mesh to create an interconnected lighting system. SIG-qualified Bluetooth mesh is an open standard so vendor interoperability is assured, it's scalable, and mesh topology is robust with built-in failover.

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