Lights. They’re pervasive in our homes, highways, public buildings and workplaces. So pervasive that we probably take them for granted. We flick a switch and our office or workshop is illuminated. And we don’t really think anything of it unless we flick that switch and they fail to turn on.
But lights are a big deal for facility managers and building owners. For a long time, they’ve been responsible for high energy costs and wasteful energy use.
We’ve all done it or seen it done – lights turned on to their brightest settings when it’s been sunny and bright outside. Or, we’ve seen lights left on after work has concluded on a Friday evening, ensuring that they’ll stay lit all weekend. If you’re a building owner or facilities manager, this type of behavior is infuriating…and expensive. And this is why lighting control systems are becoming so popular.
Lighting control systems make it possible to control an entire lighting system from a single, centralized controller and can also enable the automation of lights and lighting systems. They can enable daylight harvesting to utilize available ambient light to illuminate a space – turning off or dimming lighting systems when they’re not fully needed. And they can also be used for other exciting implementations, as our most recent interview subject, Jamie Britnell, explains.
Jamie is the director of product management at Synapse Wireless, a technology company that creates IoT solutions and applications, including lighting control systems, that can enable facility managers and building owners do some amazing things. We recently sat down with Jamie to talk about Synapse’s solutions, the benefits of embracing lighting control systems, the cloud-enablement of commercial equipment and how data aggregation and analysis can make buildings greener and more efficient.
Here is what Jamie had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM): Can you tell our readers a little bit about Synapse Wireless? What does the company do and what industries does it service?
Jamie Britnell: Synapse Wireless is a technology company based in Huntsville, Alabama. Over the past decade, we have worked with our partners to develop a number of IoT solutions built on the foundation of our robust, wireless mesh networking technology.
In addition to enabling our partners to build IoT solutions, we’ve developed our own set of Industrial IoT applications for lighting controls and energy management applications. We team up with best-in-class LED luminaire manufacturers and select energy solution providers to embed and deploy our technology to commercial sites and facilities across the U.S. and Canada.
MEM: Why are lights and lighting systems something people would want to be smarter and more connected?
Jamie Britnell: It goes without saying that lighting is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, allowing us to be more productive, making us feel safer, and enhancing the environment around us. Because lighting is so pervasive, it is a logical infrastructure to utilize for other purposes, if it can be done efficiently and without disturbing its primary goal – illumination of the space.
Recently, the main driver to connecting lights and making them smarter has been to meet stringent energy code requirements. Zoning, task tuning, daylight harvesting, and other applications that help reduce energy all drive the need for lights to be connected and respond in real-time to the changing environment.
However, beyond the regulations and energy-savings strategies for the lighting network, there are other applications for smart, connected lighting.
When lights are connected, the data retrieved from the operation of the lights can be utilized to drive additional savings or provide visibility into the maintenance of the lighting network. For example, when lights are connected, they can provide data back to a centralized location about their power consumption and operating state. This allows a facility or property manager to submeter the lighting in various departments or outdoor areas and also provides insight if a light has failed and should be replaced.
Furthermore, when you have a smart, connected lighting network you have the possibility to utilize this wireless infrastructure for purposes beyond lighting control. Synapse has pioneered the collection of data in compressed air, air filtration, and inventory management systems and the transporting of this data across the connected lighting network to cloud-based services. This method of unobtrusive data collection prevents costly wiring of new network infrastructure and the data helps provide the insight needed by operations managers to improve their factory’s resource productivity.
MEM: What is SimplySNAP? What does it do?
Jamie Britnell: SimplySNAP is Synapse Wireless’ unique combination of software applications, hardware, and services that fully empowers site managers, facility managers, and operations personnel to improve the facility with 21st century technology and innovation. The primary IoT applications that SimplySNAP supports are lighting control, power monitoring and submetering of a facility, compressed air system monitoring, and generic data collection from a plethora of standards-based industrial sensors.
SimplySNAP has been developed to address intelligent industrial lighting controls, energy information systems (EIS), energy management information systems (EMIS), compressed air management and material flow management.
These applications can be combined with each other, and with other existing systems, to provide deeper insights into the activities that are happening underneath the lighting system.
MEM: What are the benefits of SimplySNAP to building owners and equipment owners?
Jamie Britnell: SimplySNAP provides the infrastructure to control lights, save energy, and enable applications for industrial settings. At a minimum, SimplySNAP can provide a robust, reliable networked lighting control solution that meets the requirements for stringent energy codes and other energy savings initiatives.
Beyond lighting control, SimplySNAP can be used for monitoring the amount of energy being consumed in the facility. This obviously includes the lighting network but can also extend to monitoring other equipment within the facility, allowing the facility manager to submeter the facility, regardless of the layout of the physical electrical circuits, to get a complete cost of energy for departments.
With SimplySNAP, one can also monitor other equipment or resources within the facility utilizing a standard 4-20 mA interface which is available for a wide variety of sensor types.
MEM: What benefits could equipment and building owners get from IoT-enabling other devices and systems, aside from lighting systems?
Jamie Britnell: SimplySNAP Power collects power usage data and stores it for up to two years. This enables customers to compare power usage across sites or look at specific areas to measure the impact of adjustments to occupancy sensors, the impact of adding daylight harvesting, or adjusting different location or zone schedules.
Synapse’s compressed air energy information system monitors the compressed air flow and corresponding electrical energy usage throughout a facility. Our advanced analytics can even detect waste in the system such as leaks, stuck valves, and compressors that shouldn’t be running.
Silo monitoring can be a critical part of production planning. With SimplySNAP, the solution enables you to wirelessly monitor frequent high-resolution samples which provide a near real-time picture of material levels in the silo.
MEM: We’re seeing an increasing trend in companies working to not only connect their systems to BMS solutions, but also to cloud enable them. Is this something that Synapse enables for its customers?
Jamie Britnell: Yes, Synapse recognized early on the emerging need to have our solutions compatible with other systems and leverage the benefits of cloud connectivity and the applications that could be developed with third party integrations.
SimplySNAP works with Sierra Monitor to provide integration with a customer’s existing BMS system via standard BMS protocols. This allows seamless integration between a modern lighting control solution and the facility’s established BMS system. In addition to that compatibility, the on-premise version of SimplySNAP can be extended to leverage the data collection, storage, and processing capability of cloud-based systems.
MEM: How could lighting companies and equipment manufacturers benefit from cloud enabling the products they sell?
Jamie Britnell: A cloud-based infrastructure allows the efficient collection of vast amounts of data needed for IoT applications. This architecture also supports the ability to respond quickly to new applications and the processing power and scalability that may be needed in the future.
Also, as organizations add more and more systems to help automate and improve various aspects of their operations, a cloud-based architecture is critical to enabling the seamless integration of these systems via APIs.
For additional information about Synapse, click HERE. To learn more about the benefits that cloud enabled devices can deliver to owners and manufacturers, click HERE to download the eBook, “The HVAC as a Service Revolution.”