Lighting control via Bluetooth is becoming a driving force in the built environment, with industry leaders seeking this progressive solution to enhance user experience and ensure high performance and scalability from all fixture controls. Casambi is a professional lighting control technology which entered the market in 2011, was co-founded by Timo Pakkala and Elena Lehtimäki, and is rapidly gaining recognition globally.
The Casambi solution runs its technology off Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Saara Guastella is the Product Marketing Manager of Casambi and is based in Como, Italy. She says that on top of BLE, the Casambi technology provides a mesh network where all the intelligence of the system is replicated in every node and, in such a way, creates a system with no single points of failure. “Such self-organising wireless mesh networks can control a large number of fixtures from any point,” she comments. “It’s more of a consensus-based synchronisation engine than just a mesh network.”
Saara states that this technology works with a range of existing luminaires or already installed wall switches and can be integrated into LED drivers, bulbs or modules. “This creates an optimal solution in terms of ease in installation and functionality, with minimal additional hardware and deployment costs.”
The goal of Casambi is to be straightforward and proactive, Saara explains the primary differences between Bluetooth and WiFi; “If WiFi is needed for the regular operation of a lighting control solution, there is something fundamentally wrong with that lighting control’s architecture.” Besides bringing problems in performance, cost, power consumption and user experience, WiFi adds a high vulnerability for cyber attacks and puts the system’s security at risk. Casambi uses BLE and a tailored mesh network for regular operation so that no WiFi connection is needed. BLE is a wireless technology and the only low power wireless technology in all modern smartphones, tablets and even smartwatches, this makes it the only mainstream and future proof low power radio technology in the world.
“Both operate on the 2.400-2.4835 GHz ISM band. However, BLE is more robust and not as sensitive to interferences as WiFi,” Saara acknowledges. She says that WiFi uses Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) and therefore does not hop or change frequency but remains centred on one channel that is 22 MHz wide. “While there is room for 11 overlapping channels in this 83 MHz-wide band, there is only room for three non- overlapping channels.” Consequently, there can be no more than three different WiFi networks operating close to one another.
BLE uses Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) which means it hops between channels to counteract interference problems. BLE specifies 40 channels, separated by 2 MHz, of which three channels are used as advertising channels, and 37 are used as data channels. Saara says a single point of failure (SPOF) is a critical part or component of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working. “SPOF are, for example, routers, proxies or other physical or virtual web or application nodes. A WiFi network has SPOFs, but a BLE network doesn’t.”
Driver manufacturers have traditionally implemented standardised technologies or at maximum their own proprietary protocols into their devices. It is for that reason that Casambi comes highly requested from the customers of driver manufacturers. Saara comments that it is an accessible technology to implement; “so it has been revolutionising the market on that front too.” She mentions that among specifiers, the electrical department has traditionally planned the lighting control solution and the lighting designer – the lighting concept. Casambi has made it easier to implement so that lighting designers can plan the lighting control solution in projects. Proving its international popularity, Saara adds; “Casambi has been very successful in Germany and the UK. Germany, because of the various luminaire manufacturers and the UK because of a high number of specifiers. Both countries also have an interest in new technologies.”
Lighting control technology has advanced further in the past decade than in the previous century. LEDs allow more sophisticated and precise power than ever before, while wireless technology means it is possible to control lights from a handheld device.
The founders of Casambi worked for Nokia at the time when BLE was developed. “They understood that there was a possibility to implement this technology in the building industry, but they were not sure where,” Saara explains. After a year of researching, they found that the lighting market had a great need for good wireless solutions, so that’s where they focused their attention.
Saara discusses a recent project which utilised the lighting control solution; the project saw 8000 nodes added into a hospital. “Casambi also recently launched a new firmware which supports larger projects regarding memory, more user profiles and the possibility to do all commissioning remotely (except physically pairing the devices to the network).”
The IoT boom has influenced many data gathering software platform companies to enter the lighting industry. “These data gathering software platforms do not, however, provide good lighting control functionality,” Saara observes. She comments that Casambi saw an opportunity to first have excellent lighting control functionality in place before implementing all IoT functionality. “Casambi has not made firmware changes for the future but has exciting plans for this market as well.”
Amongst its efficiency, Casambi positively impacts the market from a cost-effective perspective too, as the wireless solution is more economical than a wired one. “No wires are needed, but less hardware is required as most of the functionality is cloud-based software,” Saara comments. She adds that the Casambi App is entirely free of charge and commissioning and maintenance costs are also lower as less time is needed. “The Casambi addressing process is an automatic pairing one which is extremely fast. After that, all functionality can be done remotely.” Saara confirms that the investment in the lighting control solution is made once and after that, all Casambi updates are made over-the-air.
Another benefit of Casambi is the ability to control the best possible lighting conditions for humans to fit their circadian needs. This lighting needs to be a solution where people get as much natural light as possible and have the electrical lighting complementing daylight when daylight is not available. The Casambi technology allows a lighting designer, with the know-how of how to plan the best possible lighting to fit human needs, to design a Human Centric Lighting concept for each application.
Casambi works in cohesion with Human Centric Lighting in the function that it allows for any sensor to be used, decide the amount and the kind of artificial light needed, based on real measured sensor data. Casambi allows manufacturers to produce luminaires with a correlated colour temperature between 1000 and 10,000K. The solution also provides tunable white and a dimming curve that the planner can adjust to fit the project at hand. From here, scenes and animations can be created with specific values at specific times.
Of course, like most innovations, comes hesitation. Saara comments that there is a lack of knowledge on the wireless cloud-based solution’s security and therefore, a lack of trust in the technology. “A bank might be scared their details can get accessed through the lighting control solution or a school with their student’s records.” Saara reassures that this is impossible, as the lighting control solution is its own network, and not in contact with the building’s systems in any way.
Casambi is best suited for the refurbishment of old buildings where no new wires can be installed. It is also an excellent solution for modern-day offices that change layouts frequently, where the lighting solution needs to be equally flexible. Saara notes that given road lighting doesn’t form a mesh network (as the luminaires are placed in a long row), Casambi is not an ideal solution in this scenario. “The advantage of a robust mesh network loses its purpose.”
Data security is one of the most critical topics for Casambi. “Network data needs to be available for servers so they can fully function, but only authorised people can have access to the data,” Saara adds. Network images are encrypted, and very little personal data is stored. “Overall end-to-end security architecture follows the industry’s best practices.”
Casambi is lighting control for the modern world. Based on BLE, the solution is proving to be the only mainstream and future proof low power radio technology in the world. With a variety of benefits and possibilities for user interaction, it’s no wonder why the technology is shaping the future for lighting control in the built environment.