If walls could talk… the emergence of EMIot
In the emerging era of building-to-building communication, one Australian company is keeping step with technological advancements through the commercialisation of a new wireless lighting solution developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The technology allows buildings to monitor themselves and report problems autonomously. It is known as EMIoT– the network emergency lighting service covering buildings and facilities.
EMIoT relies on LED exit signs as the backbone of a low-power meshed network that covers 99.9 percent of a building, extending coverage to areas such as car parks, pump and HVAC systems.
WBS Technology is commercialising the technology, with over 10 apartment complex installations completed in Australia.
“All you need is to install the emergency lights, and they all automatically connect to each other, and that creates the network,” says Dr Wen Huof, from UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering. “The emergency lights can then be networked with other devices via various wireless technologies, including Bluetooth, which allows them to be controlled locally with a smartphone or via the Internet from anywhere in the world.”
How it works
Each exit sign or emergency light acts as a node in the network, passing information back and forth across a building. Once operating, other devices can be connected to the network – ventilation and pumping systems, security cameras and sensors, access doors to common areas and halls – allowing all of them to be controlled and monitored remotely.
EMIoT is an example of the Internet of Things (IoT) network, in which all manner of devices such as computers, lights, cars and appliances can connect, interact and exchange data seamlessly with each other and across the Internet.
Sensors as a service
At one of the retrofitted apartment buildings in Sydney, lights in the underground car park dim when there’s no movement and brighten when there is, as do lights in hallways and common areas. If a light fitting fails, building managers know which one and how long it has been inoperative.
As the network expands, energy usage and the status of heating and cooling could be tracked, flow gauges report back on water usage and identify leaks, ventilation and pumping systems monitored remotely, and hot water systems checked for faults. Even residents trapped in an underground car park would be able to communicate with building managers via an app.
Smart building ecosystem
“We’re actually creating a smart building ecosystem,” says Luke Gibbeson, WBS Technology. “There’s 14 buildings in this apartment complex, and we’ve installed a networked emergency lighting solution throughout them without any cabling and with no supporting network infrastructure.
“Our communications gateway looks like a standard exit sign, which relays other emergency lights communication to the cloud and acts like a normal exit sign – so it’s a plug and play system. You can install in a new building or retrofit into an older one, like this one,” he adds. “As more IoT devices are installed, they can be added to the network, and all managed remotely via a cloud-based service, or locally through a smartphone app.”
The meshed network
Professors and PhD students at UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering worked on developing a meshed network of different communications technologies that could work seamlessly and provide a reliable network across a plethora of locations. They eventually hit on a meshed combination of LoRa used by wireless sensors for health care monitoring; 6LoWPAN, a new Internet protocol for small devices; and RPL, an experimental network protocol for point-to-point communications where stability and low data rates are an issue. They then created a gateway that bridges the different technologies with cellular telecommunications networks, allowing it all to connect to computer servers in the cloud. They then added Bluetooth to provide localised control via smartphones.
Image credit: Quentin Jones (UNSW)