Hotel wireless controls innovator welcomes Wirepas’ 5G plans (UPDATED)

Dec. 1, 2021
Helsinki-based Mount Kelvin, already a big user of Wirepas’ proprietary mesh software, says an upcoming version based on an LTE chip rather than on Bluetooth silicon could be even better.

An innovative provider of cloud-based lighting and room management systems to hotels has welcomed Wirepas’ plans for a wireless mesh system based on a cellular chip rather than on Bluetooth silicon, and hopes to start trialing it next summer.

The new system would make it even easier to deploy the wireless technology in properties with thick walls, and would also minimize the potential of interference with other radio systems such Wi-Fi, the CEO of Helsinki-based Mount Kelvin told LEDs Magazine in a phone interview today.

Mount Kelvin is already an enthusiastic user of Wirepas’ wireless Massive mesh system, which uses Wirepas’ proprietary mesh software to carry instructions from light to light outfitted with Bluetooth transmitters.

Founded in 2014, Mount Kelvin began focusing on the hospitality sector in 2018. Since then it has outfitted a number of modern hotels in Helsinki, and it recently expanded into a couple of properties outside of Finland. It has a push on for further international expansion.

The company uses Wirepas Massive to execute instructions and settings for room operations such as lighting and climate control. The idea is to make things less costly and burdensome compared to the wired KNX and DALI systems that can be common.

A typical Mount Kelvin deployment entails a hotel with between 200 and 500 rooms, each consisting of 15 lights, 3 sensors, and 8 wall switches.

The instructions for four different light settings — full blast, evening atmospheric, night time guide lights, or off — are pre-programmed into cloud-based software. Each room type has the same instructions, so there might be two or three sets for, say, standard, deluxe, and suites. Guests can vary the settings within the pre-programmed parameters using the wall switches. Sensors in the doorway and in the rooms detect when a room is vacant and for how long, and turn lights off accordingly.

Each light, sensor, and switch represent a node in the mesh, relaying instructions onto the next node rather than relying on a central command. A 500-room hotel would have 13,000 nodes.

With the Bluetooth-based Massive, Mount Kelvin has built up an impressive portfolio of hotels in Finland, such as the Bob W., Scandic Pasila, and Valo Hotel & Work hotels in Helsinki. The company recently went live in Holland at Cuber Suites in the Dutch countryside, and will soon switch on Wirepas at Slovakian ski resort the Damian Jasna Hotel Resort & Residences, marking the beginning of an international expansion. (An earlier version of this story stated that Mount Kelvin is providing Finland’s Solo Sokos Hotel Torni and Scandi Hamburger Bors hotels with Wirepas; Mount Kelvin is indeed supplying those two properties but is using a wired DALI system, rather than Wirepas. Mount Kelvin is moving away from wired and emphasizing the wireless Wirepas approach on new projects).

As LEDs recently reported, Wirepas is now preparing a second mesh product called Wirepas Private 5G, applying the same mesh software that it uses for Massive but using cellular LTE chips rather than Bluetooth chips. The Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union has now added the technology to its 5G standard.

Although one of the key benefits of the cellular version is that it will support longer distances than Massive — about 3 km in the case of Private 5G — it’s not the distance that excites Mount Kelvin CEO Jakub Järvenpää.

Rather, Järvenpää notes that the LTE chip upon which it’s based is much more powerful, increasing the chances of signals traveling through or around the steel, cement, and glass that can sometimes require extra engineering with Massive.

“When you’re operating in a built environment which typically is glass, concrete, steel — those are pretty tough constraints in terms of passing radio messages,” Järvenpää said, noting that LTE chip stands a chance of contending with those barriers.

“What I hear from Wirepas is the transmission power can be much, much higher compared to Bluetooth,” he said. “The 5G standard allows for much higher transmission power.”

While physical obstruction is not often a problem in the Bluetooth-based Massive deployments, it rears its head about 5% of the time, sometimes in the early days of installations, when dead zones can become apparent. In those cases, Mount Kelvin adds equipment such as gateways to solve the problem, which Järvenpää noted is usually caused “by a thick concrete wall.”

Järvenpää pointed out that another potential benefit of Wirepas Private 5G is that it will help avoid potential clashes with other radio networks such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. That’s because Private 5G operates in the 1.9-GHz frequency band, not in the 2.4-GHz band commonly used by Bluetooth — including Massive — and by Wi-Fi.

Wirepas is positioning Private 5G not as a technology to carry Internet service — it doesn’t have the bandwidth — but as an inexpensive way to control things such as outdoor lights and smart meters without the expense of tying into a mobile network. While they use LTE chips, they do not use cellular networks.

Mount Kelvin also sees great potential in using Private 5G in hotels, although Järvenpää anticipates that it might take about three years to fully trial the technology and ensure product is available.

LEDs hopes to soon bring you more on some of the features of the Mount Kelvin system.

MARK HALPER  is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

*Updated Dec. 3, 2021 10:30 AM for clarifications on wired vs. wireless usage in hotel installations, image replacement, and correct name spelling.

For up-to-the-minute LED and SSL updates, why not follow us on Twitter? You’ll find curated content and commentary, as well as information on industry events, webcasts, and surveys on our LinkedIn Company Page and our Facebook page.

About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.