Case study snapshot
- Company: Thorlux Lighting
- Profile: Thorlux Lighting is a division of the FW Thorpe Plc group, founded in 1936.
- Size: approximately 400-500 employees
- Project vertical: Professional lighting and control systems
- Challenge: Develop a next-generation lighting control to replace an existing system to enhance the IoT system features on offer
- Solution: The new lighting control gateway is built on a Linux BSP platform with drivers for the custom baseboard that can communicate with a Microsoft AZURE platform
- Services: Software Development for Linux OS
- Impact: Client now has a new, cost-effective, and modernised lighting control solution for its luminaires. The product can be remotely controlled, easily updated – and has the ability to communicate with hundreds of RF nodes
The Thorlux range of luminaires is designed, manufactured, and distributed by Thorlux Lighting, a division of the FW Thorpe Plc group. Thorlux luminaires have been manufactured continuously since 1936. The company now operates from the Group’s modern 16,882-sq.m. self-contained factory in Redditch, Worcestershire, central England.
Thorlux is well known throughout the world and provides a comprehensive range of professional lighting and control systems for architectural, commercial, floodlighting, industrial, hazardous area, and tunnel applications.
The company is assessed to the BS EN ISO 9001:2015 standard, which is its customers’ assurance that Thorlux luminaires are subject to the most stringent quality control. Additionally, its BS EN ISO 14001:2015 certification reassures customers that products are manufactured in the most environmentally friendly manner.
Thorlux is a market leader in lighting controls technology and has been for over 30 years. As part of a life cycle update for its Queens Award winning IoT lighting management system, Thorlux required a new IoT Gateway that would decrease latency and provide bi-directional control with the added benefit of encrypted communication protocols.
Whilst Thorlux manages most of the electronic development in-house, for certain high complexity, low volume components, the company often chooses to work with independent design consultants to speed up the route to market.
After using ByteSnap previously, Thorlux had established a good working relationship with the embedded electronics consultancy, and selected the team to support its efforts to develop a next-generation lighting control. After assessing the brief, ByteSnap’s engineers agreed that the most cost-effective solution was to redesign the light control hub from scratch to bring the hardware and software in line with Thorlux’s needs. Collaboration occurred throughout the project between Thorlux’s engineering and ByteSnap’s team to establish a good understanding of product requirements and monitor project milestones.
With its highly skilled team, ByteSnap, has expertise in custom Linux development, Linux BSP porting, and graphical applications running on Linux, as well as electronic hardware. Although only software services were necessary for this project, Thorlux had the knowledge that ByteSnap was able to tackle the project’s various hardware and software elements with equal precision.
The team worked to develop the Board Support Package (BSP), the hardware layers, and the software system that communicates with the hardware. A time-consuming part of the redesign was to establish secure communications with the Microsoft AZURE cloud computing platform and the gateway and ensure that the new devices could be provisioned.
Further complexity was involved in porting the existing gateway design, which was running on bare metal, to a new Linux OS design that was able to communicate easily with the AZURE service.ByteSnap configured the Linux BSP and drivers for the custom baseboard of the lighting control and worked to provide compatible two-way communications between the AZURE platform and the Thorlux gateway.
For this part of the project, engineers used a modified version of ByteSnap’s proprietary technology, SnapUI – a lightweight UI (user interface) development tool that streamlines UI (user interface) prototyping to improve project efficiency and save time. It also allows designers to edit an application’s UI independently from the core of the application itself. Therefore, engineers can amend the user interface while developers concentrate on core application functionality. This version of SnapUI included inbuilt Linux and MQTT.
To further reduce costs and time, the engineering team also ported the RF control from the old system. ByteSnap took a modular approach to ensure that the lighting control was configurable in the future with minimal external support, further reducing future costs as all updates to the technology can now be done via firmware updates.
- A new next-generation online lighting control system was developed from scratch that replaced Thorlux’s offline technology
- The new product enabled secure communications between the hosted AZURE platform and gateway
- The lighting control can now communicate and collect data to and from thousands of luminaires, rather than hundreds. This means Thorlux can expand its lighting solutions to larger buildings, without the need for multiple gateways, further reducing cost and materials
- Beneficial elements of the existing legacy system were ported across, reducing project time and costs
- The modular approach taken by ByteSnap’s engineers ensures a degree of future-proofing in that the product can be further configured with new commands to adjust to Thorlux’s evolving needs with minimal third-party input.