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COLUMN - A Wireless World

Written by  Ken Sinclair Wednesday, 14 March 2012 09:33
March 14, 2012 - Wireless is a “now” movement in our industry that we all need to better understand.
The present and future impact of wireless on our industry is huge. If you have not already become unwired this read is a great opportunity to see where the industry is today. Wireless certainly provides an ideal solution for the last few hundred meters in buildings. The softness of wireless makes it a great solution for that part of the building that is always under renovation, the tenant space. Self-powered peel and stick sensors and wireless devices that are part of a strong network that interacts with our existing networks will forever change the building automation industry.

I learned lots about the ways of wireless while assembling our March issue of www.AutomatedBuildings.com, which is a great collection of wireless articles, interviews, reviews and columns, all from many points of view. If you, like me, tried wireless many years ago you found the freedom of wireless was quickly over shadowed by the battery blues, you must look at the new technologies and their innovative self-powering schemes that connect with virtual networks. Combining miniaturized energy harvesters and highly efficient wireless technology creates service-free wireless sensor solutions for use in the extension of our building automation systems.

The new wireless movement is poised to unlock many projects and completely alter the traditional supply chain of the building automation industry by providing networked peel and stick products to anyone wishing to use them.

Below I provide a quick overview of the salient bits from several great articles in our March Issue “The Wireless Way”

Extracted from The Wireless Way
Cory Vanderpool, business development director North America, EnOcean Alliance Inc.
Although wireless building systems are becoming commonplace, no wireless system alone can satisfy all the different, and often changing, requirements. The landscape of offerings includes wireless systems from groups like EnOcean, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth and WLAN. Each of these standards plays a role in the building automation marketplace, but the majority of these players have seen limited success. Factors such as frequency, interference risk, range, interoperability and life cycle costs are all important considerations and will help determine which standard ultimately “wins” the wireless race.

When it comes to wireless, traditional solutions include batteries to provide devices with power, but batteries are of particular concern to facility managers since they are time consuming to replace and costly to dispose of properly. Utilizing batteries is ultimately not a “green” solution. Today, wireless systems can instead make use of energy harvesting technology, as they aren’t required to route messages for other sensors, allowing devices to operate on significantly less power.

Extracted from Breaking Down the Barriers to Smarter, Connected Buildings
Jim O'Callaghan, president, EnOcean Alliance, Inc.
Adoption of building automation has been hindered by many factors, primarily the following:
• Existing buildings have been expensive to retrofit (installation costs, slow payback)
• Retrofitting existing buildings with BAS is invasive, often complicated and potentially risky (e.g., building closures, unknown variables behind walls/ceilings, exposure to asbestos)
These classic barriers have been overcome by an ecosystem of wireless controls that power themselves using energy infinitely available in office building spaces – indoor light, motion and temperature differences. It is now possible, with low investment and minimal disruption, to outfit buildings with self-powered, “peel & stick” sensors and switches that seamlessly connect into TCP/IP communications. The newfound simplicity and low cost are important catalysts to make buildings more energy efficient.

Extracted from Wireless Commissioning and Market Mega Trends
David Lamarche, director, marketing & communications, SCL Elements Inc. / CAN2GO
The direct advantage of using wireless in building automation is to lower the total cost of ownership of systems; which translates into faster payback periods. This can vary depending on the project type, but wireless does reduce labor, repair, wiring and conduit installation costs.

The indirect advantage of using wireless control and networking products is a reduction of collateral costs. Traditionally, installing a building automation system has always been an invasive process that created inconvenience for building owners, managers and occupants. Closing a store, a wing, a floor, a department, a classroom or an office just for system installation means losing productivity; losing money. Wireless allows for speedier and more discreet installations, reducing the indirect costs of productivity loss. Less wires, more value.

The permanent advantage of wireless systems is low-cost scalability and flexibility. Adding more points to a wireless enabled system is easy. It can be done at any point during the lifetime of the system for minimal cost. No need to add gateways, inputs/outputs extenders and pull wire. Just add the new points in range of your existing system. The same is true for point relocation. If a sensor is deemed to be in the wrong place, wireless devices can be relocated with minimal labor.

This is why building owners, facility managers and engineering firms are increasingly specifying wireless components for their projects.

Extracted from Energy Harvesting - A New Frontier
Paul Balazovjech, president, Spartan Peripheral Devices
A change in temperature contains a lot of latent energy. Using “energy harvesting” wireless thermo sensor technology, a sensor can collect and save even the tiniest amounts of energy from the environment to provide enough power to send a radio signal or be amplified and stored to be used to move a control valve actuator.

Until recently, remote-controlled heating valves typically needed a cable on which the power supply was fed to their motor actuator. Some new radio-controlled devices are powered by batteries. However, a heating valve takes a relatively large amount of energy to adjust the temperature, resulting in constant battery swap-outs. In larger buildings, this is not only bothersome and costly but also is a burden on the environment.

Wireless solutions

The alternative is a battery-less or self-powered wireless solution, meaning that the energy needed to power a device is derived from the process itself or the environment. This is made possible by a Peltier element—an electronic component that generates electric current when there is a difference in temperature between its two sides.

Extracted from Wireless Lighting Control
Josh Slobin, director solutions marketing, Daintree Networks
Lighting typically accounts for up to 40% of commercial buildings’ total energy cost. Reducing this energy consumption has become a major goal for building owners, governments, utilities and many other stakeholders. But how do you manage something with so many diffuse points?

Answer: You network it. Wirelessly. Advances in wireless communications standards and energy-efficient lighting equipment have made it possible to effectively combine mesh networking with lighting control to create reliable, large-scale, vendor agnostic wireless lighting networks. The results are impressive, providing enhanced control and reductions of up to 70% in lighting energy consumption for commercial and industrial buildings. And here’s an interesting side-effect: when done right, if each of your lighting devices is a node in this mesh network, you now have a robust and pervasive infrastructure through which other components of your “intelligent building” can communicate.

                                                           ***

This is just a sampling of many points of view from our Wireless Way issue. If you are interested in our evolving wireless world, please give our March issue a read.

Ken Sinclair is the publisher of AutomatedBuildings.com and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Last modified on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 11:49

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