Pioneering lighting control technology for the UK’s green revolution

Jake Bushell, UK Controls Manager at Powercor, talks about the company’s passion for controls technology and how he believes this is often the way forward for both customers and the UK’s green revolution.

“We love what controls bring to the table at Powercor, but it’s about working with clients to see if the technology is right for them,” says Jake. “We sit down with our clients, discuss their needs and what they need to get out of the systems we are installing.”

There are numerous options with controls, including wired and wireless, but it’s about what is right for the client and their specific site.

“Not all jobs will be suited to wireless. If a job doesn’t lend itself to wireless, we won’t go down that route. That said, many customers do want wireless solutions because of how the technology is developing. A good example is the ability to integrate with other systems using APIs to customise applications and make the technology work in the way you need it to,” he continued.

Lighting controls for greater flexibility

Controls mean a new raft of benefits for clients.

Unused spaces no longer have to stay illuminated, with controls able to turn off or dim lights in line with usage levels. Controls can also bring other benefits, such as increasing the ability to utilise natural daylight to maximise benefits and minimise costs.

“The lights react to the level of natural light coming into a space, increasing and decreasing accordingly to create a consistent feel in the room. This helps to reduce costs but is also great for employee wellbeing,” Jake said.

The central booking system in an office can be linked to lighting and temperature control, adjusting to pre-set levels that suit an individual from the minute they walk in. The technology works in a similar way to cars when a seat and temperature adjusts to how the driver personally want it. Office lighting can also utilise circadian rhythms and add human centric lighting to make employees feel better and sleep better.

“With COVID, the nine to five in the office every day doesn’t really exist any more, and you can’t guarantee who’s going to work in what location or when. So you need to have that ability to make lighting comfortable for people to want to come back to the office, to utilise that space but also make it work efficiently for those who are there on the day.

And that’s all achievable, and we can offer that at Powercor. It’s incredibly exciting to be at the forefront of future development because the possibilities are endless,” said Jake.

You can read this article for more information on the benefits of controls.

A growing in-house capability

With extensive in-house capability, Powercor can both install and maintain systems for clients.

“We like to think of it as a partnership. We don’t need to bring in third party contractors. With office installs you often find that an electrical contractor installs the fittings, someone else programmes them and another party maintains them. That’s not the case with us. That’s a major benefit for clients – because we remain close to their project, we can guide and inform them on the best solutions for their circumstances,” Jake continues.

Convenient installs

With energy consumption a huge issue and everyone looking to save energy and be carbon-neutral, Powercor believes that controls have a big part to play. And one key advantage is the convenience.

“We’re in the middle of a project for a large bicycle manufacturer. They have a busy office, so wanted a non-intrusive install solution that was cloud based for maximum flexibility. We’ve installed our cloud IoT solution into their existing infrastructure system using a gateway that patched into a server. Each individual fitting has in-built intelligence. It’s been the equivalent of just plugging them into power, no cables whatsoever have been dropped from any ceiling!” said Jake.

Powercor’s solution has meant that the client’s office space was out of action for a couple of days, compared to what might have been three or four weeks using different methods.

Lighting up indoor sports pitches

Powercor has completed a large number of controls projects but one stands out in Jake’s mind.

“It’s not the biggest but I think in terms of visual impact the indoor sports hall flooring at St George’s College is really impressive. It was a complex install to programme but, now that it’s done, it is providing an amazing facility for the school and its pupils. You just touch the control panel and different types of sports pitches appear,” Jake says.

The controls also dim parts of the hall that aren’t being used, helping to reduce costs.

“It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. It’s really wow. And it’s something we can offer.”

And with so many schools now faced with the need to change their incandescent lighting—now that it has been phased out—to LEDs, there is a great opportunity to not only drastically improve light quality and energy usage, but to add in controls and turbocharge the benefits of lighting for pupils and teaching staff.

Partnerships are key for Powercor

“We’re close partners and big advocates of Philips controls and their Dynalite product which we have access to as a certified partner,” says Jake. “Everyone wants the ability to control their lives: through their phone by using voice commands and other methods. We’re aiming to be the UK lead partner in IoT solutions for Philips. And that’s why we push the product, because the quality is fantastic and we know it’s the way forward for many of our customers.”

But it’s not just the product for Jake and Powercor. It’s also what the team can offer in terms of management of that product once it’s installed.

“Because it’s a cloud based solution, we can access it from anywhere,” continued Jake. “A client can ring us and we could dial into their systems to immediately assess what’s happening and what fixes are needed. And in many cases, the system will also notify us when something has gone wrong so we can fix the issue before a client has even noticed.”

Ambitious plans for the future

“We have a history of installing controls and some fantastic engineers but we’re now looking to push further, evolve the team and grow our capabilities,” said Jake. “Now that controls are contained within fittings I can’t see why every light we sell won’t have its own individual level of control. The cost uplift is marginal but the flexibility and additional level of energy saving available will be significant. And this plays perfectly into the government and country objective of becoming net zero – it could play a huge part in that.”

As a company, Powercor is all about reducing energy usage and costs and helping clients meet their net zero targets with technology like solar power and EV chargers for cars.

“We can sell LEDs, but if we can sell LEDs with individual built in control functionality, that will provide optimum usage and give customers additional ways to save money and help the net zero cause,” continued Jake.

“That’s where I see the future going and how I want to push the department forward.”

“The data speaks for itself and it will be industry changing. Imagine walking around London at night if every building has controls installed in all their lighting – you would hardly see a light on. Imaging that multiplying across every city and town in the UK, and across the world. Night time satellite imagery of the earth would never be the same again,” Jake concluded.

And this could all be down to having self-contained controls within in each light fitting and cloud-based technology to manage the system. Not invasive and no need to run cable – and no harder for an electrician to install.

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