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Why Over-the-Air Updates are So Critical for Your Lighting Control Solution

  • 03.21.18
  • ::
  • By David Parrett



In my last post, I focused on five must-have features for your commercial lighting control app. I touched on concepts such as the importance of easy commissioning, system reliability, user experience, branding, and ease of system management.

That management includes ongoing system and device updates. These updates are crucial for ensuring the system continues to deliver the best value and user experience for the lifetime of the installation.

In this post, I’ll go into more detail on why having the ability to do updates over-the-air (OTA) is so vital to the success of a project.

OTA Updates: A Must-Have in Today's Connected World

You're probably already familiar with the concept of over-the-air (OTA) updates.

Software (or firmware) is present on every connected device, and updates ensure devices in our lives stay functioning at their very best.

Since networked lighting control systems are in fact a group of connected devices, updating those devices regularly ensures they continue to have the right functionality, highest reliability and latest security protections.

And, because those devices are often connected wirelessly, the ability to update them over the air is particularly important in keeping the system operating at its best.

Benefits to Networked Lighting Controls

While the role and benefits of updates to a system are diverse, they fall into primarily three categories:

Adding or Improving the Right Features at the Right Time

Just like mobile phones or any other connected computing device, networked lighting control systems can and should be improved over time.

Having the ability to add the right features and functionality, at the right time, plays a critical role in ensuring the long-term value delivery of the system.

Without updates, risk of system obsolescence dramatically increases.

Ensuring New Devices in the Network Interoperate Seamlessly

The lifespan of a networked lighting control solution can be decades, and over the course of that time new devices will be introduced that incorporate the latest technologies.

When these new devices are added to networks with older, pre-existing devices, every device in the network must interoperate flawlessly. Achieving this often requires that the older devices be updated.

Without the ability to update, building owners and managers may be locked out of future innovations and face significant challenges when reconfiguring or expanding the system into newly renovated spaces.

Safeguarding Against New Threats

New internet-based security threats emerge daily, and many of these threats attempt to infiltrate and inflict harm on unprotected networks.

Although lighting control networks are typically separated physically (and virtually) from the company's Information Technology (IT) network, the threat of intrusion cannot be underestimated or ignored.

The ability to consistently update the lighting control system and all connected devices allows for the latest, most advanced security measures to be implemented as new threats are identified.

Updating in Live Environments

Keeping system gateways and devices up to date after they have been installed and in operation is one of the biggest ways you can ensure the total solution continues to perform at its best.

In these scenarios, updates must occur with zero disruption to the day-to-day business operations of the end-customer. If the lights in the facility won't turn on, business productivity suffers (or maybe even grinds to a halt), and financial losses potentially result.

Because successfully updating in live environments is a critical aspect of the overall solution, be sure to carefully investigate how your prospective lighting control platform provider handles them.

Updating Hybrid (Wired and Wireless) Networked Lighting Controls

Although wirelessly networked lighting control systems have many advantages over wired ones (especially when it comes to cost of installation), the reality is that many networked lighting control systems today use a hybrid model of both wireless and wired device connections.

For example, gateway devices often use a wired connection to the network infrastructure for consistent internet connectivity, but end devices and sensors may be connected wirelessly.

In these scenarios, it's critical that a vendor's lighting control solution can be configured to distribute and manage updates to all devices, whether wired or wireless.

The Cortet Example: Ensuring Our Partners' Success

To give you an example, let's take a look at how Cortet approaches OTA updates in live environments.

Cortet completes ongoing scale testing of Cortet Certified devices, validates new devices for inclusion in the Cortet ecosystem, and consistently monitors new security threats that may necessitate updates.

When new software has been developed and fully tested, Cortet publishes updates to the cloud for Cortet gateways and Cortet Certified devices that are already operating in the field.

These encrypted firmware files are retrieved by the Cortet E100 Gateway for updates to the E100 Gateway and for OTA updates to other devices on the zigbee network.

For added security, the E100 Gateway utilizes a private key using AES 128 encryption to authenticate firmware image changes.

If the gateway retrieves new firmware for its own function, it will automatically validate and install the new firmware in just a few minutes.  Updates are published after hours, so that any disruption to operation is unlikely to interfere with the work environment.

The Gateway also queries the cloud for firmware updates for devices that are installed on its lighting control network. If an update exists, the gateway will download the firmware image and store it until all devices in the project successfully receive the update.

Cortet Certified end-devices (such as switches and fixture adapters) check in with the Gateway multiple times daily to request available firmware updates.

When an update is available, the end-device will download and install the update.  Update times vary (depending on update size), but end-device updates are typically complete in just a few minutes.

Updates to all devices within Cortet Lighting Control Systems are automatic, requiring no involvement by the facilities manager or local users to complete.

More Questions to Ask Your Prospective Platform Provider

When picking your turnkey lighting control platform partner, be sure to ask them to provide detailed information and examples on how the company manages updates for their systems post-sale.

Further, ask for a clear demonstration of how their engineering staff will support you in the update process, and how dedicated they will be to ensuring your end-customer has the best experience, with minimal disruption, throughout each update process.

For Next Time...

We hope this post has been helpful is shedding some additional light on the important role updates play in the success of your overall networked lighting control solution.

We love to hear your feedback, so please leave us comments below or send an email to Also, be sure to subscribe to our email alerts and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook so you don't miss a thing.

In my next post, I’ll go more in-depth with a closer look at the E100 Gateway.

See you there.


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