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Smart living: the intelligence behind the automation

Automation has the potential to achieve superior results compared with similar processes that rely on manual intervention. In recent years, this concept has been progressively insinuating itself into many aspects of our lives, including the spaces in which we work and live. Here, automation can accomplish greater levels of usability and enjoyment for the occupants, all while saving energy.

One of the leading technologies making this possible is KNX, a standardised worldwide network communications protocol for building-management systems, developed though the KNX Working Group and KNX Task Forces by KNX Members, such as Legrand, a company which offers a wide range of KNX-compatible products, including sensors, touch-panels and wiring accessories. Quality is assured for the end user as only KNX Members can legally use the KNX logo and only on their KNX-certified devices.

As an open, interoperable standard, KNX has been designed to be independent of specific hardware platforms, thereby future-proofing installations and providing end users with great freedom of use. The KNX protocol delivers control solutions for buildings—through the supervision of lighting, emergency lighting, shutters/blinds, socket outlets, HVAC equipment and fire alarms—to optimise operating procedures and minimise energy usage. KNX can employ a simplified, distributed or centralised architecture, with a choice of line, star or tree wiring topologies. System hardware comprises a combination of sensors, controllers and infrastructure devices, connected with KNX cable.

Sensors provide information on usage/activity, with passive infrared detection (PIR) used for detecting wide-amplitude movements such as walking, and combined PIR/ultrasound (PIR/US) for detection of smaller movements. The controllers—also called actuators—receive commands from the control units and have different outputs to manage lighting and other loads. The infrastructure devices power, connect and interface the various system components, and also allow integration with third-party platforms.

Enhanced user experience

Interoperable with all applications commonly installed in commercial sector buildings, KNX infrastructure devices enable integration into active building management software. This makes it possible to measure power consumption by area to identify how energy is being used, and also helps provide alerts when faults occur.

Energy saving and occupant enjoyment are closely related. Generally, an intelligent building only needs to utilise energy for lighting, heating and cooling for occupied spaces, and KNX solutions can be fine-tuned to automate these in a way that enhances the user experience. For example, with an ability to manage all types of light sources—including LEDs, DALI and 1-10 V ballasts—KNX systems can automatically adjust lighting in response to changing requirements.

‘Daylighting’ is an approach that utilises natural light to save energy especially in office environments. Typically, each section of an office will have a designated target lux levels appropriate to the activities carried out there. As natural light levels increase, the artificial lighting adjacent to windows can be dimmed down to balance the overall level. A further level of sophistication can integrate blinds or shutters into the equation to help minimise excessive heat gain and glare, thereby improving working conditions and reducing the requirements for air conditioning during summer.

Areas away from windows can also benefit from occupancy, vacancy and dimming strategies in order to reduce energy wastage. The lighting/HVAC in habitually unoccupied rooms can be programmed to activate only when human presence is detected, while services in generally occupied sections can similarly be instructed to dim down or turn off after the last person has vacated the area.

Flexible future

Extremely sophisticated outcomes can be accomplished through a combination of these strategies, such as when employees are working after hours. In this instance, the person’s immediate workspace needs to be adequately illuminated, but to enhance a sense of safety and security an illuminated pathway can also be maintained from that area to the building exit. For added convenience, KNX also allows the programming of any number of scenarios to achieve timesaving and consistent outcomes, such as for a conference room where the system can be set up to automatically close blinds and dim lights when a presentation is activated.

However, the ability to save energy and enhance the user experience is not the whole story; there is also the element of flexibility. KNX system integration is simplified through the user-friendly, front-end ETS programming tool, which facilitates the setup, monitoring and commissioning of all KNX products connected to the BUS. Moreover, KNX solutions can be easily reconfigured to meet evolving needs of a building, and are suitable for use in a broad spectrum of installations—including commercial, hospitality, retail, industrial, healthcare, aged-care, education and even residential applications.

Ease of reprogramming is an obvious benefit for dynamic organisations, but of equal value for tenanted buildings where spaces are likely to be used very differently by successive occupants.

Here, without the requirement for costly and disruptive rewiring, KNX can adapt as building requirements change. This versatility means that in conjunction with simplifying the provision of cost-effective and tailored levels of user comfort and convenience today, a KNX solution has the smarts to deliver operational cost savings in our buildings long into the future.

Tags: automation, building applications, BUS, BUS/KNX solutions, electrical industry, electrical solutions, energy-saving, home automation, KNX, lighting control, lighting management system, PIR sensor, sensor