By Stewart Langdon MSLL, business development director, Mackwell Electronics
So, the scene has been set, we have our smart tool, the phone or tablet; we have Apps and we have wireless, 4G and other smart networks which is great news, but what does it really give us? Well to be honest, this is where the hype kicks in and perhaps the confusion. For a definition of the Internet of Things I refer you to this definition from Wikipedia; the Internet of Things is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as ‘connected devices’ and ‘smart devices’), buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data
Well that’s nothing new as we have been networking devices for many years and so called smart systems have existed for decades, allowing users to communicate over vast distances, to measure and record information and to act upon that information. What is new is the way we interact with this data and how we monitor, record and report this information.
Smart spaces, where you can control your office or home via a phone, pc or tablet already exist, but it’s the connectivity of these systems to a wider network where we can manage services for the supply of energy, space, and resource generally.
Mackwell looked at the trends in the market towards connectivity and the growth of LED’s and made the decision to develop a platform that would be purely LED focused, flexible and would also be at the forefront of the growth of the IoT.
Being a UK designer and manufacturer of emergency lighting our in-house design team enables the electrical design and dedicated software teams to manage both the embedded and operating software. The latter points being perhaps the most important when selecting a smart emergency device. Security is perhaps the number one issue that the IoT must address and smart devices that have default engineering codes as standard can be hacked and pose a risk.
Mackwell works in a sector where safety is required, not desired and emergency lighting must both operate and deliver safe egress from a building. Increasingly, this is not only due to power outages and fire, but also the ever-present risk of terrorist activity. Public spaces such as airports and mass transit rail systems must consider all possibilities.
The IoT promotes the connection of sensors, switches, vending machines and even kettles to a building’s wireless or Wi Fi network. The security of your system can be compromised by a low cost, poorly protected device such as a kettle, where security wasn’t high on the agenda of how that device should operate. It’s one of 90 billion Apps that connect you to a device. In the wrong hands, it connects someone to your network.
The Mackwell Origin platform has been developed to be part of a sophisticated emergency test and monitoring system that is scalable. It can offer basic data or the ability to provide very high levels of information and diagnostics, but this only works because we are the gatekeepers of the system, we validate and protect our software and operating systems to ensure that the IOT functions safely and securely. So, consider this when selecting emergency lighting to connect to any form of control system; does the supplier of that product write or truly control their software.
Connectivity is great and we are partly there with smart phones, sensors and wearable technology but when we consider the security of these systems and in particular life safety systems we can we be confident that a bought-in product has the necessary support and security built in. Also, lighting as a service will offer technologies such as LiFi as a means of connecting such smart devices, thus providing a direct link to the building network.
In theory the IoT should be straightforward, but the selection and validation of tech has become more difficult with the advent of so called smart devices. Smart doesn’t always mean safe and if, for example, an individual hacked your office lighting and dimmed or turned it off it would be a nuisance but something you could ultimately secure. Don’t forget that most lighting management systems are never truly commissioned. They have a basic configuration that should be tuned once the building is occupied “Post Occupancy Evaluation” another interpretation for POE. Systems that are not properly set up could be a real risk.
Life safety systems must work and must be free from interference so select wisely and talk to the experts. Stick to the design specification and understand that with the rise of the IoT, ‘equivalent to’ isn’t a good enough measure.