Digging Deep: Integrated Advanced Controls

In the last post of our series, Digging Deep, we reviewed the Smarter Building Technologies Alliance factory, Direct Discount Lighting, reviewing the who, what, and how of DDL. It’s now time to shift focus and take a deeper look into how the Smarter Building Technologies Alliance supercharges our LED luminaire offering through SBT factory, Integrated Advanced Controls. Who is Integrated Advanced Controls? Throughout this Digging Deep series, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the Smarter Building Technologies Alliance, and it’s internal factories, Direct Discount Lighting and Glued Solutions. In this post we’re going to dive into SBT Alliance Factory, Integrated Advanced Controls. Let’s get started.

Digging Deep: Integrated Advanced Controls

So, Where Does Integrated Advanced Controls Fit into the SBT Alliance Family?

Smarter Building Technologies Alliance factory, Integrated Advanced Controls, is the second puzzle piece of SBT’s innovative LED lighting and advanced controls solutions. The core role that Integrated Advanced Controls plays within SBT and the market is that of connector and problem solver.

Connector and problem solver, you say? That sounds a bit gimmicky, no? Well, perhaps at the onset maybe it does sound a bit hokey, but let’s dig in to explore why we feel the core identity of IAC revolves around problem-solving and being a facilitator between the industry’s leading LED fixture and advanced controls system manufacturers.

Fixture-embedding Advanced Controls Systems Into LED Luminaires

When it comes to playing the role of facilitator and connector, Integrated Advanced Controls plays an innovative role in bringing together the industry’s best-of-breed LED luminaire manufacturers and cutting-edge advanced networked controls manufacturers to solve an industry-wide challenge: How do you cost-effectively, easily, and successfully fixture-embed advanced networked controls systems into any fixture pre-construction?

The answer: Integrated Advanced Controls.

Let’s review this innovative relationship from the perspective of a fixture manufacturer. Let’s say we’re a fixture manufacturer that’s looking to expand their portfolio by adding an advanced network controls solution to their offering, using one of the industry’s leading solutions. Before jumping headfirst into offering such an option to customers, there are some key questions one must ask and answer. 

These include:

  • How does a fixture manufacturer offer controls through their agent/distribution channel who likely already has a controls line?
  • How can a fixture manufacturer offer controls to the market without the liability of “owning” a sensitive software system indefinitely?
  • Who will design the systems/provide system and technical support?
  • How does everyone get paid? The Agents, the Manufacturers, etc.?

One may initially think the answers to these questions are pretty straightforward….I mean, as a fixture manufacturer you already have the manufacturing infrastructure so simply embedding controls into your fixture line should be easy, right? Well, sort of. Let me explain.

Embedding advanced controls into a fixture is only one step on providing an advanced networked controls solution – and to be honest it’s probably the most straightforward. Where the train starts to jump off the tracks is when you start to account for all the additional steps, tasks, and support that is required in an advanced networked controls solution. These items include:

Control System Designs: Typically the control system design process is overlooked as a step that’s required when embedding controls into fixtures, but at the end of the day if you are responsible for getting the controls into the fixtures your buyers are undoubtedly going to have questions about system designs and will require guidance…does your fixture manufacturing team have the bandwidth or knowledge base to perform this function?

Networked System Provisioning & Commissioning: Along with the design of an advanced networked controls system, the second most overlooked task – and yet one of the most critical steps in a deployment of an advanced networked controls solutions – is the provisioning and commissioning of the system. Now you may be thinking, why would I, a fixture manufacturer, need to be concerned with the provisioning and commissioning of the system? Well, like it or not, if as a fixture manufacturer you decide to take on the task of integrating an advanced networked control system into your fixtures, thereby acting as an “agent” of the control system (and I use the term agent loosely here), there is simply no escaping the “responsibility” of knowing how the system is provisioned, commissioned, and field configured. Installing contractors will undoubtedly have questions when they attempt to take on the job of commissioning, will first reach out to the folks they got the fixture from (i.e. you, Mr. Manufacturer, or agent/distributor), who will then need to reach out to the controls manufacturer, who will then proceed to refer back to the last person to “touch” the controls, and the endless cycle of finger-pointing and endless back and forth starts.

To avoid this, the same question must be asked, does your manufacturing team have the bandwidth and knowledge base to provide the system provisioning and commissioning support required by the system?

Luminaire Customizations: Taking on the task fixture-embedding a range of advanced networked controls solutions also brings about the need to make periodic luminaire customizations to ensure the proper embedding of controls devices. While this task may also seem straightforward, since we’re already dealing with a manufacturing line, but the question remains: does your manufacturing team have the capacity or ability to retool your manufacturing line to account for periodic luminaire customizations, such as housing extensions, brackets, belly pan expansion, etc.?

Controls System Warranty: At the onset, sure, this additional requirement seems easy enough as the advanced networked controls system will be covered by the manufacturer of said controls system. Where the challenge comes in (from the fixture manufacturer perspective) is who, in fact, is going to deal with the logistics of warranty claims, processing, and material returns and replacements?

Technical Support: When it comes to technical support, we’re now talking an entirely new ballgame. Could your manufacturing team build in the bandwidth and knowledge base to field support when it comes to general system provisioning and commissioning? Sure, it’s possible, but how likely? Now, can the same team handle Level II or Level III technical support questions from the field around the control system networks, gateways, IP addresses and such? Likely not. And the costs associated with building this type of resource that covers multiple advanced networked controls technologies is monumental.

And of course, it goes without saying that each of the above tasks come with a complete subset of additional challenges that will throw additional wrenches into the gearbox.

Bottom line: Simply deciding to fixture-embed an advanced networked controls system into an existing line of luminaires is fraught with far more challenges than one typically thinks. That’s why we truly consider Integrated Advanced Controls be a strategic partner and problem solver for each of our clients. To learn more check out who the Smarter Building Technologies Alliance helps, here.


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