Illuminating Factors: Lighting Control Steps Up Role in Home AV Solutions
Lighting control and home automation are inseparable, though the former is often subsumed by the latter when discussing custom whole-home integration.
Over the course of the past few years, with energy-saving and green technologies (especially the development of LED lighting) taking firm hold thanks in large part to global measures to curb environmental hazards caused by poor energy management, lighting control’s profile in the integrated home space has moved from a secondary consideration to a primary one, and with it has come several evolutions that are reshaping how integrators and endusers view lighting solutions.
“LED lighting is one of the main drivers for change in the lighting market, giving us much more efficient light-sources, with greater flexibility,” says Sam Woodward, Lutron’s Customer Education Leader for Europe and Africa, who also notes that new communication technologies including Wi-Fi as well as the increased user-friendliness and aesthetic appeal of control interfaces are exerting influences on the company’s latest lighting control products, including Lutron’s new Palladiom keypads and its flagship home automation system, HomeworksQS.
“Lutron continues to develop and update the HomeworksQS product line,” Woodward continues. “We were the first company to announce compatibility with the Apple Watch. New dimmer modules, new keypads and new user-interface options all keep this market-leading range fresh, fully-featured and ensure long-term stable and reliable performance with LED loads.”
Building on its feature-rich ecosystem of control products, RTI has also adjusted to the shift to LED technology. Scott Kelley, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing is quick to note that RTI’s control products provide all-inclusive automation that seamlessly adapts to market developments.
“Featuring application advantages rooted in color adjustment capabilities and energy savings, the rise of LED lighting is the perfect example of how RTI has positioned itself to adjust to new residential automation requirements,” says Kelley. “By drawing on an evolving roster of two-way drivers, RTI allows users to easily control lighting solutions from popular systems such as KNX, Philips, or Lutron. To accommodate shading control requirements, RTI’s two-way drivers enable easy integration and control of systems from companies such as QMotion and Somfy.”
RTI’s XP series of control processors and Ethernet-based expansion modules operate on a completely open platform, Kelley explains, providing customisation flexibility. Integrators also have access to RTI’s large library of pre-written two-way drivers along with the company’s software development kit to create their own two-way interface for any product.
“RTI’s XP processors are also compatible with any RTI wired, wireless, or software (mobile app) interface, letting integrators create a single interface which can control any number of interconnected systems, remaining simple and intuitive enough for anyone to use,” Kelley adds.
Developing third-party integration, in fact, has always been a standard practice within AV integration and has become especially important with the looming boom of Internet of Things applications. Core Brands’ ELAN line, defined now by its popular g! control system, has been forging partnerships with product manufacturers through in-house developed drivers.
“This approach makes the ELAN g! system responsive to changes in the market, such as the ErP Directive [Energy-related Products directive introduced as part of the European Union's efforts to reduce carbon emissions], which is currently transforming Europe’s electronic industry,” says Christopher Bundy, product manager of control at ELAN. “[Our] controllers are top tier in terms of lighting automation. The level of seamless integration they offer includes electronic lighting as well as shades and drapes. ELAN’s latest controllers are ready for the IP revolution sweeping the controllable system industry, which includes the latest generation of lighting products.”
As a major home automation manufacturer, Crestron has always looked to designing keypads and control devices that encompass lighting control, lately spending a huge amount of time considering keypad customisation, according to its UK Residential Development spokesperson, Phillip Rini, than to the control type, for example. With the adoption of DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) becoming more widespread, Rini notes that the standard offers a much smaller footprint when compared to conventional dimming and also offers greater flexibility. To that end, the company’s 3 series of processors stand out as expressions of factors currently driving the category.
“[Our] 3 series processors are the pinnacle of control, capable of controlling Crestron lighting modules, heating ventilation and air conditioning systems via BACNet integration, door entry and security integration and all things audio-visual,” says Rini. “Such a powerful, versatile product with a small form factor it’s a must have.”
While talk of lighting control often zeros in on actual lighting devices, the control of natural light is also of significance. QMotion UK along with other companies including Somfy, have made this a focus along with greater integration of smart device control for their shading systems, which have long been one of the greenest approaches to energy management.
“Using items like QMotion UK shades, which are battery powered and have a variety of energy saving fabric options, are much less of a draw on the environment and utilities than other options,” says Ian Claxton, managing director of QMotion UK. “Powered by standard D cell alkaline batteries housed in the blind’s tube, the blinds are completely free of wires and cords (wired low voltage is optional). We believe that silence is one the greatest strengths of the blinds. Their counterbalanced springs store and discharge energy, which reduces the amount of power needed for operation. This gives the blinds expected lifecycles of anything from two years for large 3-metre wide blinds and up to five years for 1-metre wide blinds, based on 2-4 full raise and lower operations per day.”
QMotion has also developed a proprietary app that can be used to control the company’s line of products directly from a smartphone or tablet, including the operation of shades as groups or individually with presets and finger touches to allow for finer adjustments.
Energy Management and IoT
As energy management becomes a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, the custom home integration players stand to benefit as both teachers and implementers. As Bundy explains, integrators are going to find themselves installing more LED and high-efficiency luminaries as well as designing systems that make the most of natural lighting while eschewing the turning on of lights at all.
Another adoption and integration push is also on the horizon with the development of the Internet of Things driving the creation of even wider control of everyday items, placing lighting control in the healthy position of being an integral element of defining what many are considering a new frontier.
“The ability of devices to connect to each other and feed important information back to us should lay the path for a more holistic way of managing our environments, and smarter living both inside and outside the home,” says Woodward. “While our homes become smarter, it is imperative that we don’t lose aesthetic and environmental control. With the property market currently undergoing huge growth, and the £14 billion home improvement market enjoying a renaissance, installers are seeking ways to incorporate smart technology into both new builds and refurbishments.”
Llanor Alleyne has reported on the custom integration market for more than 10 years and is the Editor of HiddenWires.