There is an overarching trend among the manufacturers of industrial and commercial equipment to make their products and solutions smarter and more connected. It was a trend that we heard discussed extensively by HVACR manufacturers at the 2019 AHR Expo just a few short weeks ago, but it’s not limited to just that sector of the industry.
One company, Douglas Lighting Controls, is working to make the lighting systems that are installed in offices, schools and other large facilities – including sports stadiums and arenas – smarter and more connected as well. And, while that may seem unnecessary, the company’s attempt to make lighting smarter is paying dividends for them, and for their users.
To get a better idea about the benefits that building owners and facility managers can get from smarter lighting systems, and to learn more about how Douglas, itself, is benefitting from the data they’re harvesting from their solutions, we sat down with Rob Mahaffey, the company’s general manager.
During our discussion, we talked to Mr. Mahaffey about the company’s solutions, why centralized lighting control is beneficial to building owners and how the company is using data to get ahead in the industry. Here is what he had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM): Can you tell our readers a little bit about Douglas Lighting Controls? What is the company’s relationship with the Panasonic Group and Universal Lighting Technologies?
Rob Mahaffey: Douglas Lighting Controls (DLC) is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company was founded in 1962. DLC services both the US and Canadian market and is a leader in pioneering lighting control solutions including code compliant Bluetooth® wireless products.
DLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Panasonic, as is Douglas Lighting Controls’ sister company, Universal Lighting Technologies (ULT). Together, we comprise the lighting business for Panasonic in North America.
MEM: What types of solutions does the company manufacture? What types of industries does Douglas serve? In what types of facilities would one find Douglas’ solutions?
Rob Mahaffey: The company creates some of the world’s most advanced and capable lighting control solutions that are used across multiple different types of commercial and public buildings. Some of our solutions include:
- Standalone Occupancy Based Controls
- Wired Centralized Controls
- Wired Decentralized Controls
- Wireless Decentralized Controls
- Cloud Based Energy Management and Controls
Our solutions are sold exclusively to the commercial sector and can be found in public institutions – such as schools and other government buildings – commercial offices and even sports venues such as stadiums and arenas.
MEM: Why would a building owner or facilities manager want a Douglas Lighting Control System? What are the end benefits to the user? How do users benefit from IoT lighting systems that are controlled centrally?
Rob Mahaffey: Douglas products and systems are among the easiest to install and use across the industry and have proven reliability. Douglas treats all projects as partnerships with the owner/operator and ensures responsive delivery, startup and after-sales support.
IoT Lighting is all about optimization; optimization requires centralized data analysis. We don’t think all controls should be centralized, but for controls that can be centralized, it provides an ease of use to end users.
End users have the ability to control all – or most – of their lighting in one place, and in some applications, by their smartphone.
MEM: The company has pioneered and implemented some exciting technologies. Can you tell our readers about “daylight harvesting?” What is it and how does it benefit the user?
Rob Mahaffey: Daylight harvesting is actually pretty exciting and intuitive. Instead of wasting energy by creating light, daylight harvesting allows us to generate light based on available light.
Lighting sensors and controls adjust in response to available daylight. By using available light, energy consumption drops dramatically. Reduced energy consumption means reduced energy costs, which is certainly a benefit.
Also, harvesting of natural light means, regardless of outside weather conditions, businesses can enjoy a consistently lit environment. This happens because artificial lights automatically dim and natural light becomes the top source of interior light on days with a lot of sunlight. On cloudy, overcast, or rainy days, the opposite occurs. We are beginning to see studies demonstrating the impact of natural lighting on raising productivity and morale.
MEM: Why is wireless control a smart investment for users? How is it more cost effective? How does it benefit them over time?
Rob Mahaffey: Utilizing a wireless control system is certainly a smart investment for end users. First, wireless control systems come with a lower install cost in new construction. Second, wireless control systems provide greater flexibility in reconfiguring the controls when the spaces adapt; we see this in more modern, open workspaces.
Wireless control systems are beneficial over time because they provide consistent energy reductions. When your energy consumption is reduced, the costs are reduced as well.
MEM: We’re seeing a movement towards cloud-enabled devices that take this data and push it up into the cloud. Are there plans to do that at Douglas?
Rob Mahaffey: In order to meet growing demand for enhanced technology within the marketplace, DLC looks forward to offering customers more cloud-based solutions in 2019. These advancements allow DLC to a pursue a more consumer focused approach by providing energy management solutions to multiple buildings and sites, automatic demand response integration to lighting controls systems, remote cellular system startups and real time fixture monitoring.
MEM: How does DLC, as a company, benefit from harvesting that data? What kinds of advanced capabilities would that deliver for the user? How can the lighting data from these systems be harvested and utilized by the owner? What can they do with that data?
Rob Mahaffey: Douglas Lighting Controls is consistently committed to being a value-added partner for our customers. By utilizing data from the controls solution we can best inform our customers about the performance of their lighting, and help them optimize the delivery of light to their occupants.
The two-way data stream provides facility managers with a wide variety of valuable information to inform the decision-making process. Users can quickly and remotely respond to immediate events, as well as analyze historical data and better tune the lighting control system to conserve the most energy.
In addition, faults can be automatically raised to maintenance staff or even preempted by alerting staff to impending service intervals on hardware, significantly improving maintenance service levels. Finally, the ongoing stream of energy management data can be used for measurement and verification of energy savings.