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#15 – Implementing Wireless Lighting Control In Existing Buildings

Implementing Wireless Lighting Control In Existing Buildings


Traditional lighting systems are typically designed in such a way that a centralized controller is hardwired to individual lighting components. This dedicated controller can then be configured to manipulate which lights should be switched on or off within the space.

However, a wired lighting system is expensive, invasive, unscalable, and labour-intensive. It doesn’t give much room for customization that a network overhaul is needed to accommodate future expansions or upgrades.

Businesses are now using wireless lighting systems for increased flexibility, practicality, and manageability. A wireless lighting system communicates with individual components using radio waves, eliminating the need for a dedicated control box that needs to be hardwired to all the light fixtures. This enables more convenient management, easier customization, and better scalability for new and existing buildings.

Some are taking things further by adopting LiFi implementation. With the upcoming 5G technology and the need for more effective data transmissions, LiFi is the future of wireless connections.

Lifi Technology and Wireless Lighting Systems 

LiFi, which is short for Light Fidelity, is a kind of Visible Light Communications (VLC) system that uses LED bulbs as routers. LiFi is a type of wireless communication medium that can transfer data at extremely high speeds reaching up to 224 gigabits per second. LiFi can augment, if not replace, the existing Wi-Fi network inside buildings.

LiFi works almost similar to Wi-Fi in the sense that they both transmit data using electromagnetic methods. The difference is that Wi-Fi uses radio waves while LiFi makes use of invisible light waves.

LiFi is a next-level piece of communication technology that allows users to send and receive data at blistering speeds. Aside from providing illumination, LiFi-enabled networks have a large data capacity and an enhanced layer of security compared to a WiFi system.

A LED bulb is basically a semiconductor light source with a constant feed of electrical current. This means the bulb can be dimmed and lit at extreme speeds without interrupting the amount of light it emits. The rapid dip in light emission can be made so fast that it won’t be visible to the naked eye.

LiFi bulbs need to have photodetectors to receive and transmit signals. The signals are sent to a processing component which then transposes the data to a more understandable content like audio, text, and video.

Fig. 1. Depiction of a LiFi network (Source: ScienceDirect)
Fig. 1. Depiction of a LiFi network

A few years ago, Philips launched a range of LEDs capable of connecting through LiFi technology. They now offer new products that can be retrofitted into existing wireless lighting systems for an easier transition to LiFi technology. This allows buildings that are using ordinary LEDs to be converted into a LiFi-capable space without overhauling the whole lighting system.

In 2016, two UAE-based telecom providers have successfully demonstrated that LiFi technology works. The companies du and Zero1 claimed to have provided internet and streamed audio-video content over a LiFi connection. Currently, du and Zero1 are working on numerous LiFi-enabled solutions that can work indoors and outdoors.

LiFi technology is poised to exponentially boom starting 2021, with more businesses adopting it to replace or expand their network capabilities. Companies that need safety and data security like hospitals, security agencies, and transport businesses are expected to be the first sectors to maximize the advantages of the technology.

LiFi is expected to further improve smart buildings and make the delivery of services more effective to occupants. The technology can enhance the connectivity of tools and appliances connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), while simultaneously providing energy-efficient illumination.

Implementing Wireless Lighting Control

A lighting refresh project provides a chance for lighting professionals like Baseline to plan for the installation of an end-to-end wireless lighting system. This new network is designed to be future-proof and highly customizable, making the infrastructure easier to manage, maintain, and upgrade.

Installing or upgrading to a wireless lighting system in existing buildings can be costly and tedious, depending on the current setup and needs of the space. To make a better implementation plan, lighting design professionals often look into the following factors:

  • Range

Wireless devices have a certain range for effectively communicating with one another. The low-power signals they emit mean they only work in close proximity and too much distance can render the devices ineffective. Manufacturers of smart bulbs usually publish the maximum wireless range that the devices will work.

For business owners, the limited range means there’s a need to install more light fixtures, and that translates to costlier operations. Existing lighting systems might need to be amended to cover gaps that can lead to service inadequacies.

Professional lighting designers like Baseline pay attention to space and the existing lighting system to determine which gaps to fill. We look into possible obstacles such as partitions and walls that may hinder efficient signal reception. We also strongly consider manufacturer recommendations to identify which type of lighting is appropriate for a certain area in the building.

  • Layout

Building layouts differ from each other: some allow ample amounts of natural light to penetrate the space, while some heavily depend on artificial lighting; others have numerous walls or separators for privacy, while some have a wide-open space. Each space has its own needs and requires a unique attack in implementing a wireless lighting system.

Studying the area and the way the existing lighting system is wired must be prioritized by lighting design professionals like Baseline if the network needs to be reorganized for wireless lighting control.

Fig. 2. Different lighting layouts (Source: Lighting Control Association)
(Source: ScienceDirect)

A warehouse will need a different wireless lighting control setup compared to a typical office space. The distance between equipment, the frequency of people roaming the area, and the energy code compliance are some of the specifics that must be considered under the layout category. Smaller rooms are easier to handle compared to large, complex ones that require programming of auto triggers.

LiFi implementation becomes a lot easier if fixtures are intelligently and strategically positioned throughout the space. The transition will be more cost-efficient and time-saving since there will be no need for rearrangements, revisions, or new installations of lighting equipment just to accommodate LiFi technology.

  • Nodes and gateways

Lighting systems are connected to gateways that control a set of fixtures in a specific zone in the building. In a traditional lighting system, these gateways may be wired to a central server that manages the building’s overall lighting network.

Each gateway can only handle a limited number of nodes. This is the same for a wireless lighting system. Gateway limits and node configurations must be planned out to avoid overloading the system.

  • Switches

Switches provide a manual override in case wireless lighting controls fail to respond. Advanced switches can also offer additional functionality like presets and touchscreen controls.

In setting up a wireless lighting system, physical switches must be considered to ensure luminaires can still be configured manually and service remains uninterrupted. A luminaire is simply a light fixture with complete features for standalone functions.

  • Light fixtures

The choice for light fixtures may need to be modified or replaced in the existing building to make sure they can be managed through wireless lighting control. They should have dimming capabilities for automatic adjustment and a good range for receiving radio signals.

For LiFi implementation, luminaires must be able to receive and send signals uninterrupted so that data connection remains consistent and stable. Light fixtures must be compatible with each other to avoid streaming issues.

Aside from the aesthetic value of luminaires, lighting design professionals like Baseline filters the technical capabilities of each component. In a wireless lighting system, looking gorgeous isn’t enough; the whole network must also be functional, unobtrusive, and economical. Maintenance and management of wireless lighting control components must also be user-friendly that there would be little to no need to call a professional for fixing every little hiccup on the system.


A wireless lighting system is the best business lighting solution for companies that need better scalability, manageability, and customization of luminaires. For those who want a more future-proof approach, LiFi implementation should be considered, especially with the boom in the utilization of IoT and the upcoming 5G network release.

To augment the current system of existing buildings, their purpose, capacity, and layout have to be evaluated first. Assessing the current lighting network of existing buildings is vital in devising a way to properly implement a wireless lighting system. Only a professional lighting design expert like Baseline can do such things with confidence and finesse.

If you want to have wireless lighting controls or future-proof your business through LiFi implementation, simply send us a message. We’ll provide you with best-in-class lighting solutions that are hard to match.


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