In the Field with Mark Gedrych of Baulogic
Mark Gedrych of integration firm Baulogic based in Cambridge, UK.
Company Director / Project Engineer
Specialises in: KNX home and building controls
When did Baulogic open its doors? When did you join the firm?
Baulogic has been running for eight years. I set it up with two friends, Neil Robinson and Stephen Chard (who own a portfolio of property development businesses), together with my colleague Craig Whayman. We all had an interest in home automation coming from slightly different angles, me from my home renovation projects, Neil and Stephen from their property developments, and Craig as a project manager and custom installer. We saw a big future for home automation in the UK and decided to setup Baulogic to address this fast-growing market.
What is your main focus in your current role?
I’m primarily responsible for design and software development at Baulogic. As a company we are focussed on all sizes of KNX project in the residential and commercial markets. Our residential projects usually involve lighting and heating control, plus some level of AV integration, including whole-home audio and AV distribution. In the commercial market we tend to focus on lighting controls, and specialise in KNX-based building management systems.
Baulogic’s integration portfolio is built on home automation and building controls. How has the integration of lighting and shade control evolved in the past five years? Have these changes impacted how you pitch this particular kind of control to potential clients?
In terms of lighting controls, we’ve seen a big increase in DALI-based work over the last five years, primarily as a result of the large-scale introduction of LED light fittings. DALI is a great way to dim low-energy LED lights without flicker—and beats other control methods hands down. KNX is the perfect partner to DALI, which is why we became specialist in KNX plus DALI.
In the early days of LED lighting, it was the integrators who had to deal with the poor dimming performance of LED lights, and explain it to their clients. Nowadays, most of our clients have experienced LED flicker for themselves and we’re pitching DALI more and more as the best solution to this problem. In many cases we’re buying light fittings that are DALI compatible out of the box – pushing the responsibility for dimming performance on the light fitting supplier rather than the integrator having to test the compatibility of an individual driver and dimming system with each LED fitting.
In the commercial market, we’ve seen daylight compensation move from drawing board to wide-scale implementation, especially in our work with schools and colleges. Our pitch has changed to the extent that it’s now possible to demonstrate installations that work well, and are helping to maximise our clients’ energy savings, without annoying the occupants.
When it comes to lighting/shade control, what is the feature that your clients request the most? Why?
Taking for granted the use of low-energy light fittings, good dimming performance and scene-based mood lighting, I think our most frequently requested feature in the residential market is smart phone control, including the ability to check on the status of the lighting and heating when away from home. Our installations tend to have an abundance of light circuits in order to create a variety of moods and to maximise the number of uses for each room, such that it becomes impractical to have a light switch per circuit. So the only way to set up a scene, and the best way to make a local adjustment, is via a smart phone or other mobile device. The remote control comes into its own for heating and shading control — our customers like the way they can turn the heating/cooling down when they’re away and back up again in advance of their return — quickly and easily through their smart phone.
Can you tell us about a lighting control project that posed a particular challenge? How did you overcome these obstacles?
Our project for the conversion and extension of a large villa for Education First School in Cambridge had a particularly challenging M&E specification (pictured throughout). This included daylight compensation to automatically dim the lights when sufficient sunlight is available and to turn them off when each classroom is unoccupied, as well as requiring passive ventilation to automatically reduce CO2 levels in all classrooms.
A notable challenge was the way that the specification called for the skylights and automated windows to be controlled: to reduce CO2 levels to acceptable levels whilst keeping the window movements to a minimum so as not to unduly disturb the teaching. Our solution was to control the entire school from a comprehensive KNX lighting control and building management system, including CO2 sensors from Theben, DALI gateways from Siemens and a plant control PLC from WAGO.
The building automatically changes mode over the course of the day and responds to occupation levels in each classroom to create the perfect environment for learning. The control system is pre-programmed with the school’s timetable, and resets the lights and passive ventilation in the breaks between classes.
We made full use of the biggest benefit of KNX—access to compatible products from over 100 manufacturers—by choosing the best product for each function from multiple manufacturers, safe in the knowledge that they would all work nicely together. A Facility Server provides a comprehensive log of the status of each classroom throughout the day together with each action that the KNX system has performed. We continue to use its graphs to tweak the control settings to optimise the environment within each classroom.
Part of the larger conversation about the future of customised AV automation and control is how integrators will handle the increasing focus on the viability and security of home networks. What do you believe your fellow integrators have to do stay ahead of the curve?
There’s a lot going on in the KNX world to address security of home automation systems at the moment, following a well-publicised “hack” of a hotel room in China. The truth is that even the simplest of safeguards would have ensured that this hack could have been prevented. Nevertheless, KNX is introducing advanced encryption techniques to further increase the security of the systems. For a home network, unless the automation bus extends outside the property, the weakest link is the Wi-Fi signals that can be intercepted outside the house. At the same time, many householders struggle with poor Wi-Fi signal strength within their property!
The solution to both is to implement a robust and secure Wi-Fi system that separates home automation traffic from other traffic, and provides separate access for visitors so that you don’t need to expose the workings of your house to your dinner guests. It’s nice to be able to let your guests play music through your whole-home audio system, but not to let them turn your heating off, play with your lights or reconfigure the home automation installation.
What do you think will have the greatest impact on the wider integration of lighting and shade control systems in domestic settings? What would you like to see happen during this evolution?
We have already seen how the take-up of LED lighting in homes, coupled with the home-owners desire to be able to dim them (now that they are powerful enough to warrant dimming), has led to the adoption of technologies, like DALI, that require there to be an intelligent lighting control system within the home. It is legislation that is driving this and I suspect it will be legislation that powers the next revolution in lighting.
From September 2016, the sale of directional halogen lamps will be banned, with non-directional halogen lamps following in 2018. At that point all of the lighting in a new home will be powered by low voltage DC, and it will then make sense to wire new homes solely for low voltage DC lighting rather than sending 230v around the house to be transformed at each light fitting. This PoE lighting revolution will undoubtedly start in the commercial world, but I predict it will rapidly force the adoption of lighting control systems within the home. As you'd expect from someone who sings the praises of KNX (the multi-vendor, worldwide standard for home and building control) on a daily basis, I want to see the adoption of international vendor-independent standards. Only in this way can the humble light bulb become a worthy controllable device in the Internet of Things (IoT).