Why robust scheduling is important in a wireless control system
Most wireless controls used for lighting control originated from the general lighting industry, such as WiFi, Bluetooth Mesh, Zigbee, and others. These general purpose connectivity solutions have to be adapted to specific use cases by manufacturers. Some connectivity solutions have built-in features for lighting control, however these features are generally built for general purpose lighting, such as retail lighting, conference room lighting, or office lighting. When something goes wrong, such as a device loosing wireless connectivity, most wireless connectivity solutions do not have a schedule to fall back on, unless the manufacturer that adapted the control solution specifically develops out this functionality. Herein lies the problem - manufacturers are looking for a proven solution and rarely invest the years of R&D and field testing to build high reliability features like robust scheduling.
Designing robust scheduling capability into a wireless connectivity system that is capable of managing schedules across many devices and zones *during live operations in an agriculture facility* is a monumentally complex undertaking. GrowFlux has invested years of R&D and field testing into GrowFlux Mesh to handle complex edge cases:
- What happens when a device is removed from a zone with an active schedule?
- What happens when a device is added to a zone with an operating schedule?
- What if a schedule is sent to a zone and some devices in that zone are not connected - what happens when they eventually connect?
- What if a device restarts and the schedule for the zone the device is in has changed?
- What if a device restarts and doesn't have the date and time to determine where in the schedule it should be operating?
- The list goes on..
GrowFlux Mesh has been engineered to ensure operations continuity even when things go wrong, or when operators make major changes to the control system, such as re-zoning many devices. When operating an agriculture facility with hundreds of thousands of dollars of crop under lights, the last thing a farmer needs is a light turning on when it's supposed to be dark.
Time zone management
When working with a team, time zones and daylight savings time can be a source of miscommunication and confusion. For this reason, GrowFlux has designed its apps, API, user interfaces, and GrowFlux Mesh to mitigate against user error related to timekeeping at every step.
Schedules developed in GrowFlux's apps are separated from the local time to allow schedules to be applied to multiple facilities in different time zones. Current network time for the devices you are controlling is always easily visible within the GrowFlux App, and current times in the schedule are clearly communicated in the Zones view within the GrowFlux App.
Time keeping on-site
GrowFlux has pioneered plug and play industrial controls for agriculture. Part of our solution involves setting the network time within GrowFlux Mesh accurately. During the setup process for our Access Point, users are directed to select their time zone. From here, the Access Point automatically obtains the time and date from GrowFlux's cloud servers.
If on-site Internet connectivity is lost, your Access Point simply maintains the time. If Internet connectivity is lost and your Access Point looses power, the date and time is also stored in a battery backed real time clock; (also known as an RTC, kind of like a watch inside the Access Point) this coin cell battery can be replaced by users and lasts 7-10 years.
Graceful Degradation Features
All GrowFlux products support reliable and robust scheduling running when emergencies occur. We have designed our product for the worst-case scenario, such as when a grow experiences a power and internet outage, our lighting controls will stay on course. When the backup generators turn on and/or the energy is restored without internet connectivity, the lights load saved schedules from memory. The access point in the mesh utilizes time stored with its watch battery and transmits this to all devices on the mesh. The time is transmitted to the mesh even without internet connectivity.
In the event a grower needs to override the saved schedules on devices, one can easily use the schedule override controls on each device to set a dimming intensity indefinitely. Once the internet is restored, the device will connect to the cloud and return to schedule control, where the grower can immediately apply a new schedule. If the grower wants to return to schedule control, simply reboot the device, and it will load the saved schedule from memory and understand what event in the schedule it is on based on the time from the AP.
We offer an additional layer of controls for enterprise customers that can interface with other controls systems. Please contact us or chat with us for more information.