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Taking stock

Lighting solutions company Tridonic celebrates its 50th birthday this year. SCW talks to Simon Blazey, the company’s strategic solutions sales manager, about the impact of new technology on the business and wider industry

Tridonic at 50 has observed the 'perfect storm' in lighting technology
Tridonic at 50 has observed the 'perfect storm' in lighting technology

Tridonic is a global provider of smart and efficient lighting solutions. Its raison d’etre is to make its customers and business partners more successful by the deployment of smarter, more exciting and sustainable lighting. This year marks the company’s golden anniversary. SCW speaks to Simon Blazey, the company’s strategic solutions sales manager, about the impact of technological advancement in lighting for the business and wider industry


SmartCitiesWorld: It is the 50th anniversary of Tridonic this year. What have been the company’s greatest achievements thus far?


Simon Blazey: The successes and achievements of the company over the last 50 years have been many and varied, and are a reflection of how the wider lighting industry has evolved.


In the late 1970s, Tridonic was one of the first companies to introduce fluorescent fixed output electronic ballasts which allowed the lamp to be operated at its optimum efficacy giving a better light output, whilst also saving energy.


Twenty years later this was followed by the introduction of the first dimmable electronic fluorescent ballasts along with pioneering work on the now standard Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI). Finally accepted as the internationally recognised lighting management protocol in 2002, DALI is still a main stay of building control systems used throughout the industry.


In 2000 Tridonic added another string to its bow by taking over Atlas Lighting, renowned for its strong product portfolio of emergency lighting components. This was followed by investment in a new factory site at Spennymoor, where Atlas was based, and the introduction of a range of combined emergency and control gear products.


Over time Tridonic has established itself as one of the leading emergency component suppliers in the UK and this puts it in the enviable position of being a one stop shop supplier of control gear for the luminaire manufacturers.


More recently, the company has achieved an apparently seamless transition from conventional control gear to the LED technology both in control gear and LED light sources that now dominate the market. This has required the development of a whole new product portfolio, which now accounts for around 70 per cent of Tridonic UK’s business.


The company is now embracing its next evolutionary stage; stepping into the world of cloud software management (ConnecDim) and IP Connected Lighting. With a proven 50-year record of close cooperation with OEMs, luminaire manufacturers and specifiers, the company is using these key relationships to expand the learning and understanding of how the role of light is going to change and supporting these partners in the development of their own new products and solutions.


SCW: What will characterise the next phase of the Tridonic story?


SB: Tridonic has been a cornerstone and pioneer of improved efficiency and quality of light to the global lighting Industry for over 50 years. This will continue, however the perfect storm of reduced power consumption and higher efficiency of LED modules has meant that lighting can now operate on an IT infrastructure. What can be leveraged from this kind of lighting infrastructure is data not only from lighting but also from systems co-existing and interoperating with lighting devices.


So to answer your question, I see two parallel paths which will characterise the next phase of the Tridonic story; the first being our continued journey of being a global leader in managing and creating luminance, the second is the most exciting advancement to impact lighting since the creation of the light bulb. In the future, lighting will be the low power mesh network that IoT devices will use grow, thrive and communicate, inside the buildings and smart cities of the future.


SCW: How key is lighting to smart cities and the IoT, and why?


SB: Lighting will be key to Smart Cities and IoT devices because of two main reasons. The perfect storm that I mentioned earlier enables lighting to be powered over an IT network using PoE (Power over Ethernet) or an IP Wireless network; the first reason why lighting is key. Constrained IoT devices can use the low power mesh lighting infrastructure to reach its service application. The second reason is really tied in with the first in that lighting is ubiquitous, it is everywhere, inside a building and when you walk through the front doors it is everywhere outside, too.


SCW: Interoperability is a word that is often used when talking about smart cities and the IoT, but what does true interoperability mean, and how will this affect current business models?


SB: Yes, you are right Interoperability is often used, like the word integrated but as you know with technology today to get system A to interoperate with System B is actually straightforward. Advancements in technology have allowed us the confidence to make such bold statements.


However, to make an integrated, interoperable system really smart is to make it intelligent and this is when you bring in the human element. Smart cities will need intelligent systems where the behaviour of humans is supported by intelligent systems to make our lives more efficient and decision-making easier by providing data from IoT devices from various different systems.


SCW: What needs to happen to faster facilitate the scale-up of connected cities?


SB: In the past, there has been a lack of clarity between clients, the customers and the end users around what it is they are expecting from the technology. Following on from the ideas raised above of new approaches, what is needed now is for clients to create outcomes based on user experience, outcomes based upon how its users will interact with the built environment.


When they, the clients, are clear on their outcomes they need to go and find the partners they feel can best deliver on these outcomes and create an eco system based on collaboration, an alliance that is able to deliver these outcomes. Smart connected cities cannot be delivered using the traditional specification, tendering and procurement methods to which we have been accustomed.


SCW: How significant is public smart lighting to society and what other future opportunities could it afford?


SB: The opportunities that will be afforded by the development and activation of smart lighting are only going to be constrained by our lack of imagination and/or a reluctance to accept and embrace new ways of thinking and society’s willingness to change. In years to come I believe that smart cities and smart lighting will be viewed in the same way that we now look at the industrial revolution and in both instances it was a ’perfect storm’ that brought about changes that previously had been unimaginable. The key changes both then and now are:

  • Increasing numbers of people moving to urban centres, increasing population densities and requiring new solutions for housing, transport, social care etc.
  • New technologies becoming available and organisations and individuals recognising the opportunities that these can present and being willing to invest and explore these new scenarios
  • Resistance from some sectors of society and business whose traditional ways may be threatened and can see themselves or their services becoming redundant

However, we have one advantage over the people facing these challenges all those years ago. We can see the change happening with more and more real life examples. We can learn about it and grow with it, allowing us to understand that it is not something to fear but something to embrace.


The storm that has put us to this point in time combines three key elements; the development of the Internet of Things, the decrease in wattage at the same time as lumen capacity has increased, and the improved collection, collation, analysis and an understanding of the potential of data.


Until recently IoT devices were constrained by this lack of a lower power mesh but now lighting, which is ubiquitous, can provide that network, hence giving it its pivotal role in the Internet of Light and opening up new opportunities for our society.









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