light + building 2014: building controls and visualization

The past year I spoke at several events about how smart industry standards are needed to open up second-level innovations in the lighting industry that are hard for many industry insiders to appreciate.  Specifically, communication and data standards for lighting and controls components will open up new opportunities for smaller companies to innovate new solutions for lighting design, simulation and commissioning interfaces.

The building automation half of L+B is overwhelming in its own right, but nevertheless I always try to take a spin through the halls just to get a feeling for the trends.  And it quickly became apparent that my prognostications are coming true at a blindingly fast pace.  Take these three examples:

The KNX communications standard is definitely a major and growing trend…it seemed like everyone was launching products that work on the KNX communication bus.  The KNX Association has a huge number of participants from all around the world.  KNX is really just a data standard, but one that spans all the common communications hardware platforms.  According the KNX website:

Via the KNX medium to which all bus devices are connected (twisted pair, radio frequency, power line or IP/Ethernet), they are able to exchange information. Bus devices can either be sensors or actuators needed for the control of building management equipment such as: lighting, blinds / shutters, security systems, energy management, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, signaling and monitoring systems, interfaces to service and building control systems, remote control, metering, audio / video control, white goods, etc. All these functions can be controlled, monitored and signaled via a uniform system without the need for extra control centers.

I also saw a couple interesting start-ups that are working on the interface side of building automation:

The first is called Throne, which bills itself as “the first building control interface based on a 3D-model”.  Its developed by i-Camp, which appears to be a Russian-based development and engineering company.  I was struck by the amazing user-friendly interface and graphical depiction of lighting, climate and security systems.



The second is an app called VIA, which is a cloud-based control system built on the backs of KNX, BACnet, etc. connected systems.



Both of these seem to be early-stage products.  But they are great demonstrations of the power of industry standards to advance the lighting industry.  The legacy companies just have too much invested in tired technology “platforms” to truly try to innovate radical new solutions.  They just keep trying to “update” the old stuff to “comply” with any new technologies.  But the fundamental ways of working — and associated cost burdens — remain.