The “Internet of Things” IoT has the potential to transform how emergency lighting is managed, tested and maintained – but this must not be at the expense of buildings becoming non-compliant or owners overly-reliant on possibly vulnerable internet connectivity.
That was the conclusion of a panel debate at LuxLive on “emergency lighting’s role in IoT”.
The panel comprised Peter Earle, business development manager, Philips OEM Technology at Signify; Stephen Thomas, business development manager at BSI; Ashley Bateup, head of technology connected buildings at FM Conway and a partner at Chess Wise; and freelance electrical safety expert Gary Gundry.
IoT functionality could mean much simpler and more effective real-time monitoring, testing and maintenance of emergency lighting, the panel agreed.
But, as Peter Earle also warned, for many building owners, simply being compliant was the first challenge to address. “IoT is a great tool for lots of things. But maybe we could start with getting some of the basics in place first – for example compliance – in terms of emergency lighting. I know there are lots of compliant buildings, but there are also lots of uncompliant buildings. So why don’t we start with there, and then see how far we get maybe with the IoT,” he said.
One of the attractions of IoT is its ability to bring real-time data analytics to the emergency lighting space, said Ashley Bateup. “We can see that everything is functioning as it should be without manual intervention, without the cost of people having to walk around buildings on a regular basis. To bring that data digitally, securely, to the Cloud, where we can run analytics.”
“Within Philips, we think emergency lighting is one of the best use-cases within the lighting industry for IoT,” agreed Earle. But he added: “You can’t forget that it is a safety product; it is meant to save lives – it does other things as well, but ultimately that is its intention.”
The security of IoT and its potential vulnerability to breaches and hacking were also worries in this context, suggested Stephen Thomas. “Adding IoT can create additional layers of vulnerability and security issues.”
Robust protocols and good education were therefore likely to be critical, argued Gary Gundry. “Joined-up thinking is the way to do it, and working collaboratively.”
“First and foremost, emergency lighting should do the job it should do,” emphasised Thomas. “It should not be dependent on connectivity. And that should be the same across any market and any industry. It should not be dependent on connectivity; it should function correctly. What it [IoT] should be giving you is efficiencies and great functionality.”
“It is beholden on the industry very much – so manufacturers, system integrators, engineers – to make sure we are helping our customers to understand this. So I think there is a large education piece to be done with customers, not about IoT but just on some of the basics,” agreed Bateup.