Deakin University researchers find cheaper and more reliable way to operate emergency lighting

Researchers from Deakin University have found a cheaper, safer and more reliable way to operate emergency lighting systems and exit signs in commercial buildings.

The Building Code of Australia requires certain classes of buildings, including office buildings, shops, carparks, healthcare buildings, school buildings and aged care buildings among others to have emergency and exit lighting. Commercial building owners often spend a lot on emergency lighting systems that not only cost a fortune to run but are also unreliable.

To address the problem, researchers from Deakin’s schools of Engineering and Information Technology teamed up with Australia’s leading power solutions provider MPower to create an automated monitoring product that is cheaper to operate and less likely to fail than existing outdated manual models.

Deakin School of Engineering researcher, Associate Professor Abbas Kouzani explains that the networked devices can talk to one another. For instance, if one device goes down, the communication messages are rerouted through neighbouring devices within the network, facilitating automated self-testing and real-time fault detection to improve the reliability and integrity of emergency lighting systems.

According to Associate Professor Kouzani, hospitals, universities, factories, retail centres and offices can use this technology to save thousands of dollars as well as safeguard lives in the event of fires, accidents or natural disasters.

Associate Professor Kouzani explains that the new monitoring system uses a low cost wireless mesh network platform where node failure and signal interference are managed through the self-healing property of the technology. The wireless system operates at a lower frequency than the standard wireless systems, reducing interference from mobile and other wireless devices. This also allows the signal to have better penetration through barriers such as thick concrete walls.

Associate Professor Kouzani and Prof Yong Xiang of Deakin’s School of IT have been working together to help MPower design the network. The researchers believe that the new system would be more reliable and robust than current monitoring methods because it features continual central automated monitoring that detects faults or low batteries as soon as they appear and removes any chance of maintenance shortcuts being taken by individual enterprises.

Associate Professor Kouzani adds that the technology can have applications beyond emergency lighting and exit systems, offering advances for everything from home appliances and building automation to smart street lighting.

The project is one of the first to be funded through the Federal Government’s new Research Connections program, which aims to promote innovation by supporting partnerships between industry and research providers.