The Democratization of Building Controls

Yesterday I read an interesting article that focused on a cleantech startup’s recent venture capital funding success story. The company, Enlighted, provides smart lighting sensors and software that reduce a building’s power consumption. This concept is nothing novel to the building automation industry, however, according to the article, Enlighted has taken a bit of a different approach in that much of its system’s “smarts” are located in the sensors themselves. Their sensors not only control lighting fixtures much as a traditional lighting control sensor would do, they also monitor light levels, temperature, occupancy and power consumption for the 100 sq. ft. of floor space directly beneath them.

I raise this up as an interesting point in that historically a building automation system’s intelligence has been a monopoly for the central controller (or controllers if the mechanical and electrical systems were controlled independently). With the rise of systems and sensors like Enlighted’s, we may be seeing a major evolution toward decentralized, distributed “smarts” where sensors are tasked with more (and potentially disparate) duties and embedded with sophisticated decision making capabilities themselves. Tomorrow’s sensors may very well be analogous to what we call “controllers” today.

Another exciting trend we may be seeing, as I alluded to above, is a further blurring of the lines between historically separate building controls systems (e.g. HVAC, lighting, fire, security & access). This “systems integration” isn’t exactly new in our industry, but with smart and powerful multitasking sensors like Enlighted’s, integration of a building’s controls systems could be accomplished much cleaner (and hopefully less expensively) where each node (i.e., point) accomplishes what might be required of three separate sensors and their respective controllers today.

We’ll keep an eye on this technology and on the ever evolving nature of the building automation industry to make sure our customers have the best solutions for their clients. Please let us know of trends you see affecting our industry today and in the future and how Kele can better help “make it easy” for you!

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