Is the world ready for a completely wireless lighting control system?


The recent launch of Crestron C 277V wireless wall box dimmer and switches, wireless GLPP room controller, and wireless sensors has compelled them to look back at the history of their wireless control solutions.

When Crestron initiated infiNET EX product line of wireless wall box dimmers, switches, and thermostats seven years ago, they were intended to be retrofit residential products. They never even considered a completely wireless commercial building, at that time. Even considering the obvious benefits – reduced costs of wiring and labor, simplified growth strategy, flexibility, and “retrofitability” – most commercial lighting professionals feel that wired systems are best for complex facilities because wireless just isn’t as reliable. But is that true still?

Over the last few years Crestron has gained a great deal of knowledge about wireless networks and how to get them to perform consistently – and with the same reliable operation and performance that customers expect from wired systems. They used their experience to build a better protocol so that we could control the performance of our network. This protocol, infiNET EX, is a mesh-based, 2.4 GHz network that automatically reconfigures to optimize performance. It actually becomes more reliable as more devices are added to the network.

But there were still challenges to overcome. With advances in technology and good old engineering, Crestron has solved them. For example, on some wireless (and wired) systems, you can have an issue with multiple-light installations where each fixture’s response can be subject to lags. As a result, they don’t all respond simultaneously (with the same light level) when commanded to do so. This “popcorning” is the unintended consequence of a network that has failed to be managed for performance.

Another challenge was how to get acceptable lifetime from battery-powered devices. This has been improved with advances in technology, along with semiconductors that boast higher efficiency. Crestron has taken it further with excellent power management schemes and with support of different levels of battery powered and “sleepy” devices. We can now get up to 10 years of life for a battery occupancy sensor.

Taking wireless even further, they have shared their technology with specific third-party partners to build and supply devices on our wireless network. Crestron Connected™ products, such as door locks, mini bars, and MUR/DND panels now natively communicate on Crestron infiNET EX.

All of these advances have fostered a much more open-minded reception to wireless solutions in commercial spaces. Facility managers are starting to not only take notice, but install completely wireless solutions in their buildings. In fact, Crestron customers have completed installations with literally tens of thousands of devices in one building.

So, is the world ready for a completely wireless lighting control system? The answer, with Crestron, is yes. They bring a rich set of wireless devices that are engineered to work together and perform better than any other set of products on the market. The portfolio includes wireless lighting controls, shade controls, climate controls, sensors, and human interface devices.


Richard Branson’s (Founder of Virgin Group) Crestron-controlled Private Island


The life of a celebrity billionaire is complicated enough, but when Sir Richard Branson is ready to relax in his home, he wants things simple.

Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Virgin Records and 400 other companies, is a soft-spoken, unassuming man in private, says Rusty Henderson, partner in electronics integration company, Think Simple Limited.

Branson’s home is simple as well. His main residence, located on Necker Island, the 74-acre private paradise he owns in the Caribbean, is just three rooms (or rather three small buildings): a bedroom, kitchen and living/entertaining space called the Temple Room, with adjoining spa and swimming pool.

It’s true that the setting is extraordinary. Branson can watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and the sun set into the Caribbean from the Temple Room. Though roofed, the space is open to sea breezes and provides almost 360-degree views of the island.

Just over a year ago, Henderson installed new audio/video systems in the residence. “Our main concern was making sure everything was incredibly easy to use,” he explains.

Though Branson’s entertainment systems are simple, making them work was anything but. “The Caribbean environment is very harsh,” Henderson explains. Because the island’s salty air is highly corrosive, exposed surfaces and all connections had to be marinised, a process where a barrier material is applied to keep out the salt air.

The second problem was absorbing power variations and possible power interruptions. Necker Island produces its own electricity through two large generators. When power is switched from one source to another, or if the generators have any problem, the resulting sags, spikes and surges can have a very damaging effect on electronics. For that reason, Think Simple deployed a series of uninterruptible power supplies, which use batteries to filter the power and make sure it’s perfectly consistent. These intelligent devices are also able to shut down when not in use, reducing power consumption and utility costs.

The biggest challenge was lightning, a recognized danger in the Caribbean. Because of the concern with lightning, Henderson says Think Simple avoided the use of copper cable whenever possible in Branson’s private house, transporting audio, video and Internet signals via non-conducive fiber optics.

The key to Branson’s entertainment system, according to Henderson, is the use of a control system from Crestron. Think Simple installed two Crestron control processors and tied them into a movie player, DVD player, two LED displays (one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen), a multi-zone sound system with three iPod® docks and a 55” SunBrite® weather-proof TV for the Temple Room.

Branson can choose a movie or TV station, queue up music from his iPod or play a DVD. He also has Internet connections in each living area. “Mr. Branson uses the TV the most and lives off the news and world events,” Henderson adds.

The movie player stores Branson’s entire movie collection in a single device, with a very easy-to-use interface accessed through the Crestron processor. Branson is able to operate the movie player and the other components using a remote control, which Henderson chose for its extreme simplicity and reliability. Think Simple also installed Crestron Cameo® Keypads in each room as an alternative, in-wall control for the music system.

Crestron components were also helpful in the harsh Caribbean environment. Henderson says he chose them because of the extreme reliability of the company’s products.

Since Branson likes his electronics out of sight when not in use, Think Simple hid loudspeakers in-wall or in discrete locations in the ceilings. They installed subwoofers under the floors, with the sound rising from grills not unlike air- conditioning vents. Think Simple also installed the TV in the bedroom in a teak cabinet, from which it rises and swivels to an ideal viewing position at the touch of a button on the remote control. The pool, too, includes underwater speakers, so Branson and his guests can listen to music or the TV when swimming or relaxing.

Henderson says it took an eight-man crew 28 days to install all the wiring and components, traveling from a temporary base on the nearby island of Virgin Gorda. “We hired two transport vessels to get the team to and from the island every day. The boats had to be pretty large as we had over 20 waterproof crates full of the equipment and tools required to implement the installation.

Branson, however, appreciated the effort. His short but sweet comment, “This is absurdly good!”

Source : squarespace

Crestron Announces Custom 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver

Although the are a lot of home theater receivers that have some multi-zone features and can be integrated into a custom control environment, they aren’t necessarily designed from the ground-up to be a comprehensive centerpiece solution for a custom control and multi-zone custom audio/video distribution and installation setup.

With that in mind, Crestron, maker of custom home theater and home automation control products, has announced its HD-XSPA 7.1 channel receiver.

To start off, the HD-XSPA has what you would expect to find on most home theater receivers, such as up to a 7.1 channel speaker configuration, four HDMI inputs and one output, one digital optical, two digital coaxial, and three analog stereo (two RCA, one balanced) inputs, a subwoofer line output, analog stereo audio output. Of course, just as with most current home theater receivers, the HD-XSPA also supports most Dolby and DTS audio decoding and processing formats, as well as 3D and 4K video pass-through.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For example, the HD-XSPA, subwoofer output capabilities also include a self-powered output connection that can be used with passive subwoofers, in addition to its standard subwoofer line output that requires the use of a powered subwoofer. Also, it important to note that speaker connection terminals on the HD-XSPA are not the standard screw or push-in type, but are 2-pin 7.62mm 15A detachable terminal blocks (x8).

In addition, HD-XSPA has extensive whole house audio/video distribution capabilities via a variety of Crestron options, such as connection to Crestron’s line of Digital Media switchers, as well as full control integration via Ethernet/LAN, USB, Crestron Digital Media switchers, HDbaseT, and HDMI-CEC.

For complete details on the Crestron HD-XSPA, first check out the Crestron’s Official Announcement, then, to dig deeper, check out the Official Product Pages, and finally, for pricing and installation details, contact your local Authorized Crestron Dealer/Installer. Images provided by Crestron.


A new circuit design that can double cellular and WiFi bandwidth

double-cellular-and-WiFi bandwidth-musickden
One of the most significant limitations on cellular broadband performance is that WiFi and LTE radios are both limited to either sending or receiving data within a given span of time. This is a fundamental limit of traditional RF technology — if you attempt to send and receive information simultaneously, the interference caused by one activity will prevent the other.

Now, a group of engineers at University of Texas, Austin is claiming to have solved this problem through the creative use of a circulator. Some of you may recall a similar plan we covered in early August, but that’s a fundamentally different solution — in that instance, a startup founded by Stanford graduates, Kumu Networks, had developed a software algorithm that allows for simultaneous transmission and reception by predicting how environmental factors will alter data transmission. This is a hardware-based solution.

A circulator is a device that’s used to transmit a radio signal through a series of ports and to ensure that signals transmitted through one port only exit through a second port — Port 1 always comes out of Port 2, Port 2 always links to Port 3, etc. The University of Texas team claims that by using a solid-state circulator (without a typical magnetic field) it can isolate transmission and reception loops.

The group has published a paper in Nature, claiming:
The scheme is based on the parametric modulation of three identical, strongly and symmetrically coupled resonators. Their resonant frequencies are modulated by external signals with the same amplitude and a relative phase difference of 120°, imparting an effective electronic angular momentum to the system. We observe giant non-reciprocity, with up to six orders of magnitude difference in transmission for opposite directions. Furthermore, the device topology is tunable in real time, and can be directly embedded in a conventional integrated circuit. [doi:10.1038/nphys3134]

Translated into English, this means that the difference between the transmission and reception signals is enormous and can easily be picked up by the radio. It also implies a level of flexibility — the system can be tuned in real time. That’s an important breakthrough given the number of frequency bands that modern LTE and WiFi systems use for communication.

The big questions: What about power and heat?
CPU heatmapIn the past, proponents of full-duplex signaling have pooh-poohed concerns about whether or not full-speed transmission would result in a noticable increase in power consumption or device heat. I’m not convinced those concerns are invalid. Any time you increase transmission speed, you increase power consumption, and doubling up the bandwidth is going to increase heat output.

The question of how much this would impact battery life undoubtedly depends on the design of the radio and the nature of the power conservation mode. It could also depend, in non-trivial fashion, on the design of the underlying operating system. Phones that transmit data constantly or refresh open web pages frequently could quickly draw down batteries if software isn’t adjusted to intelligently time operations for the simultaneous transmit/send cycle.

Luckily, there’ll be time to work these questions out. Given the length of the radio development pipeline, its unlikely that we’d see this technology integrated into LTE modems before the 10nm node — at the very least.