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On light autopilot

Automated lighting control systems (ALCS) occupy a key position in organization and maintenance of urban outdoor lighting. The increase in efficiency of the urban lighting engineering sector depends on them greatly. Nevertheless, ALCS is still not widespread.

We asked Timofey Kharitonov, the Executive Director of AtomSvet LLC, to give expert evaluation of the market for automated lighting control systems.

Practical Application

Mr Kharitonov, how can you assess the current market state of automatic lighting control systems?

The АLCS market will receive a new impetus with the introduction of LED lighting fixtures. Due to the fact that the commercial use of LEDs started not long ago, it is still too early to talk about trends, problems and prospects of the market. However, it is only a matter of time, and judging by how quickly the demand for comprehensive modernization of lighting systems grows including both the replacement of lighting fixtures, and implementation of a comprehensive ALCS, we don’t have to wait long.

And such demand has already its supply. For example, one of the leading companies in automated lighting control systems, C2 Smartlite, has recently made the decision to enter the Russian market, considering it to be very promising. That says a lot.

What types of automated lighting control systems currently exist, how can they be classified?

Network management of outdoor lighting can be teledynamic or remote. Thus, teledynamic control is expedient to apply in cities with a population of over 50 thousand inhabitants, and remote control is more suitable for small towns with a population up to 20 thousand people.

It is noteworthy that teledynamic lighting control systems are poorly represented in Russia, and according to experts this is due to the fact that the power quality still leaves much to be desired. So this, as we understand, significantly increases the chance of failure, and as a result, economic and reputational losses.

Today remote systems are cheaper and more efficient, they are widely used worldwide. The most popular are radio channel solutions: they can be connected to most known protocols and interfaces that currently exist.

Thus, the C2 Smartlite Company applies a wireless network based on ZigBee technology for automatic control systems with LED lighting fixtures. This technology was developed for the networking of various sensors, devices capable of communicating with each other at high speed with 2.4 GHz frequency.

The disadvantage of this technology is the fact that it is limited on the number of service points and effective range. However, these restrictions can be overcome by supplementing it with the GSM-based communication system that will provide reliable and uninterrupted data transmission over long distances, which is essential for the faultless lighting of such facilities as busy motorways.

Tell us about the practical application of ALCS in urban environments. Where and how the automated lighting control systems can be applied the best way?

In practice, the lighting fixtures installed at the facility form a network. A signal from each network point is wirelessly transmitted to a controller’s console, whose computer displays the status of entire system. With the help of specialized software the controller can keep records, manage and maintain of all the system functions, including cases of illegal connections. In this case the ALCS will help control any change of the status of the lighting system by sending signal to the controller’s console.

Automated lighting control systems will significantly improve the operational efficiency of lighting installations. Due to monitoring and control functions any failure becomes immediately known. Furthermore, control centre experts can determine the form of failure and promptly send a maintenance crew.

What are the technical solutions applied in Moscow for the automated control of outdoor lighting?

Currently, street and tunnel lighting control systems that allow light level to be adjusted are widespread in the city. These solutions help to increase safety and reduce energy consumption through more efficient operation. Such systems usually provide energy savings of up to 30-40 %. These figures may vary depending on weather conditions and mode of operation.

In addition, architectural lighting control systems have gained wide application. Beyond the usual energy-saving features, they allow the use of special lighting, thereby improving the performance of urban buildings. Currently, similar scheme of outdoor lighting is applied on Tverskaya Street.

Always on the bright side

How adaptive and resistant to modern requirements are ALCS?

The basis of most external and internal lighting control systems is a modular principle. Thus, there is the possibility of free and rapid expansion of functionality, as well as integration in almost any project. Installation of this system does not require special staff. ALCS operation does not imply any additional costs. And the ability to control lighting reduces energy consumption by at least 15 %.

An ALCS can also be supplied completed with lighting fixtures. This is necessary if there are any special requirements for luminaire design. For example, moisture protection or improved impact resistance of the housing. It should be noted that it is easier to purchase the ALSC completed with special luminaires than looking for the required equipment afterwards.

Automated lighting control systems are installed in Moscow in many places. This is explained by the fact that there are about 500 thousand lighting points in the city. As a rule, the capital’s ALCS include work and evacuation lighting control panels, special power switches, as well as luminance meters and optical fibre carriers.

The luminance control unit located in Sushchevskiy tunnel can be mentioned as an instance. Experience of its operation has shown it to be highly efficient and easy to maintain. Currently, the installation and commissioning of such systems in other vehicle tunnels is under way.

Examples of effective operation of architectural lighting control systems are Crimean Bridge, Tverskaya Street, and Moscow State University.

What parameters the customer should pay attention to when choosing ALCS solution?

To make the right decision, first of all, it is necessary to determine the type of facility at which the ALCS is to be installed. Luminaire design depends on it (protection against moisture or damage). Attention should be paid to the service quality the customer requires, as well as to the costs the customer is willing to allocate for lighting control.

You should also pay attention to the market component. The point is that at the stage of market development many companies have not established themselves yet, while consumers still do not think to obtain a variety of offers for implementation of ALCS. Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of this. As a result, after purchasing poor quality products, customers project their negative experience on the market as a whole.

What is the direction of development for automatic lighting control systems in the next few years?

Automatic lighting control systems will develop in the direction of solving complex problems and further integration with other systems. After all ALCS can perform not only basic tasks of lighting control at any site, but if we're talking about roadways, on transmission of any information: the congestion on the road, accidents, state of the roadway. And all is done in, for example, an hourly mode. By using a GSM channel additional navigation can be bound to a particular driving situation.

In the near future most likely no breakthrough technologies will appear in the creation of automated lighting control systems. The trend towards more effective lighting control that can provide 10-40% savings depending on operating conditions and characteristics of the particular facility will continue.

Interviewed by Oleg Boltunov

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Video of the manufacturing process and advantages of AtomSvet® LED lighting fixtures

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