Matti Vesterinen is the director of Helvar’s wireless lighting controls. He is responsible for the portfolio for the rapidly growing wireless segment where the unique AI-powered ActiveAhead solution is at the heart of the offering. Matti is an innovation-oriented expert on product management. He holds an M.Sc.(Tech.) degree from the Helsinki University of Technology.

Every day is a new day, and this is the same for your building!
The most commonly used sensors in the lighting context are PIR (Passive Infrared), microwave and light sensors. The first two on the list are used to detect the movement of objects, typically humans and vehicles, in a reliable yet cost-effective way. These movement detections are used by lighting control systems to dim the lights when and where needed. Light sensors are used to measure the amount of daylight to dim down the lights and save energy when daylight can be used. 
A common challenge with movement detection sensors is that they are not that reliable in detecting presence when the objects stay still. This is made worse by using too few sensors to cover a space. Most of us have felt this in offices where the lights start suddenly dimming down or worse, switching off and then you need to stand up and start waving your hands to get the lights back on. Luckily, well-designed spaces with enough sensors combined with dimmable luminaires as well as long enough timeouts and dwell times have mostly made this experience a lot less commonplace and unnoticeable. Furthermore, there are opportunities with data analytics to suggest optimised timeouts more fit for purpose. 
Modern lighting control solutions also offer opportunities to innovate new sensing technologies. Some of them are more future-looking or still too expensive for typical commercial lighting installations. Examples of such technologies are radars and cameras. However, some of them are affordable and within our reach today. It just means we need to look outside the lighting box to discover them. One such technology is audio — commonly used by all of us every single day and something we cannot live without in the form of a mobile phone. In addition to connecting us with our loved ones, audio sensors can also detect sounds indicating the presence of people or vehicles. This can be done by processing the audio at the sensor so that our voices do not get stored nor transferred anywhere, making it safe and secure to use. 
With the new 342 Acoustic Sensor, Helvar brings audio sensing capabilities to its lighting control solutions. Used like other sensors in the Helvar portfolio, the acoustic sensor is wired and configured the same way as a DALI sensor, consequently allowing you to make your lighting installation even better than before by offering more tools to select from. For example, stairways are a type of space where the audio sensor offers advantages as it can detect people entering the stairways even behind a corner. In contrast, a traditional lighting sensor would need to wait for the person to enter its limited detection area. Audio sensors are also excellent for spaces where people are expected to stay still for long periods and spaces in which, for example, movable walls might block the sensors. 

Energy-saving thermostat sensors, such as Helvar’s 5680 ActiveHeat Thermostat, are another example where sensing has approached outside the lighting box. The ActiveHeat Thermostat follows movement detections over Bluetooth® from nearby ActiveAhead Nodes and uses those to toggle automatically between ECO and comfort temperatures based on actual space occupancy. Traditionally, heating is operated with schedules making the outcome very inflexible and wastes energy since all rooms are heated based on the building’s opening or operating hours. However, in most cases, we do not use the building and its spaces in a pre-defined and even way. Flexible working spaces and times have become more evident with the Covid-19 pandemic, and we no longer expect to have static working hours or even days. Consequently, the systems in the buildings are expected to support this flexibility while at the same time being greener than ever. 
Interested in learning more about how Helvar’s Acoustic Sensor and ActiveHeat Thermostat contribute to this evolution?