Limits and Possibilities of Wireless Technologies

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Exploring this trend with a critical eye

Originally published on Control Trends

Wireless Technologies: Limits

In this new digital age, wireless technologies can’t help but sound sexy. Where would you be now if you had to plug your computer into an Ethernet cord every time you wanted to watch a movie on Netflix? But while there are extremely useful consumer applications for wireless technologies, building automation systems are not always one of them.

Before even touching a wireless controller, a designer/installer should understand the benefits and still consider the negative possibilities of using the technology in any application, but particularly a lighting application. Working with wireless technologies requires a very specific working knowledge and understanding of the limits of such technologies like distance, obstructions, and installation. With these limitations come increased costs as work-arounds frequently become necessary and project timelines get extended.

Lighting can be very tricky, because there are certain places where you just can’t risk a lighting application not working properly, like in a parking lot – the liability is too great. A less prickly place to start might be with HVAC units for wireless technologies (but you still have to consider the aspects of the building structure that might interfere with, and thereby limit, the signal strength).

Despite these limitations, we do see more and more clients asking about wireless solutions. This is good because as the user becomes more aware of the technology, the manufacturer will continue improving the product. And we’ll keep gathering experiences with all the new technologies to provide real hands-on expertise to clients.

Wireless Technologies: When it’s a good fit

In general, we do believe wireless solutions have a place in the commercial and industrial market, it’s just that we’ve seen that, where possible and cost-effective, a hard-wired solution is more reliable and in many cases, the same price or less than a wireless solution. But here are some ways you can determine if wireless is a good fit for your application:

  • GO WIRELESS if you only want to add one lighting panel in a structure that is not physically connected to a structure where the master controller resides.
  • STAY HARDWIRED if network design and cost are of utmost importance to you
    • With new technologies comes lots of trial and error
  • STAY HARDWIRED if you suspect your controls may pick up interference
    • In most cases, controllers need clear lines of sight to transmit signals
  • GO WIRELESS if you’d like to explore vav controllers in tenant spaces:
    • Depending on the floor plate, interfering structures like column or elevators, and how many controllers would be installed and where these controllers are in relation to the master.

Ultimately, cost, reliability and technology all play a factor in determining a solution, wireless or not.

We do believe that there are appropriate applications of wireless technologies but each application should be investigated thoroughly for cost-to-risk ratio and reliability. But that’s what we’re here for, to talk you through the tough stuff.

Questions about whether or not wireless is right for you? Contact us at www.controlco.com anytime.

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