The case for implementing Control Management Systems (CMS) has been proved by the steady stream of users (mostly street lighting authorities) wholly adopting such systems as part of updating their assets during the last decade.

Whilst all welcome the remote diagnostic capabilities provided by the system the major benefit derives from the management of energy. Some of the systems have been limited to ON/OFF, whilst others allow full diming control. ON/OFF control enables flexible part-night (to OFF) regimes to be deployed, full dimming control additionally allows for variable light-level regimes to be deployed enabling further savings. Many systems now allow for the benefits of constant-light-output to be realised in reduced energy bills.

There are many studies across the country showing how councils have used CMS to trial and test different regimes to finely hone light output and variable lighting levels to suit the circumstances of individual areas. The fact that a different profile can be selected for virtually every day of the year enables calendar specific profiles to be used absolutely minimising energy consumption, whilst providing a carefully tailored service. Whilst pre-programmed part-night products can provide energy savings they cannot easily be re-assigned, and limitations mean that the profile usually has to be the same for each day of the week.

Councils are now tagging other ancillary lights (e.g. School crossing and festive lights) into their CMS systems to allow very close remote control of their assets.

The early adopters of CMS have been rewarded by having a platform that allows quick and easy changes to be made to their lighting regimes, modifying both lighting times and lighting levels in line with experience, evolved thinking, local needs, energy costs, and budgets.

There persists a school of thought that fitting LEDs negates the need for CMS. This is somewhat astonishing in light of the current experiences. Without CMS, LEDs cannot provide a simple future method to further reduce costs. The regime has to be fixed, and they will need to be revisited if further reductions are sought at some point in the future. CMS in fact nicely compliments LEDs, allowing for early energy savings from constant-light output, dynamic regime changes and calendar dependent dimming profiles. CMS also allows for future regime changes to realise energy savings as yet undefined.

CMS systems are now routinely inter-linked to other asset management systems, and are starting to be linked into other highway systems allowing for dynamic control (e.g. the Highway agencies MoRLiCS). It is certain that there will be a huge uptake of dynamically operated lighting, especially as LEDs are very suited to both frequent switching and are instant-on. There are already many trials of such dynamically operated lights.

Of course CMS is not the only option, and in the last 20 years many councils have updated their streetlights by simply installing fixed part-night options, the limitations of which I have already outlined. Nonetheless, technology within the industry is continually evolving to provide enhanced performance with a keen eye on cost and energy efficiency.

There has also been a significant rate of improvement within the lighting industry. Discharge lamps were developed in the mid 20th century, and the progression is now mature. Instead we are now witnessing the very speedy development of LED technology and I actually believe that we are still in the early adopter phase of this technology and that more change and developments are still to come.

Highly dynamic, frequent switching systems seem exciting when discussed, but the issues associated with actual installations are easily overlooked. It is where you are going that needs to be illuminated not where you are. This requires solid communication systems and carefully constructed logic. For a motorway it is intuitive, but for footpaths or urban roads it is complex as they are often associated with residential areas, ill-suited to frequent rapid changes in lighting. This level of functionality can only be provided by integrated systems with CMS at their core.

I fully anticipate a continuation in the control revolution. The purchasing decision will be less about the lamps per se and more about the package. What does the system offer you? How can this help you to achieve energy reduction and therefore cost savings? Does your system give you the flexibility that you require? There can only really be one answer and that lies in the implementation of CMS.