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Up to what distance can we communicate on powerline? This is a question we are often asked. Theoretically, the distance is almost unlimited since each LPC (Local Product Controller), which is the control module installed in the luminaires, has a repeater that can retransmit the commands, if they are not addressed to it, and so on.

As each electrical installation has its own characteristics and as the control of the elements that interfere with the signals is the key to reach long distances, a good characterization of the installations is essential.

However, for all distance issues, as with speed (see article noise and impedance are the biggest challenges to transmitting over a long distance. Noise sources need to be filtered out, which is done with filters (PLF) that attenuate harmonics generated by the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) among others. In addition, the LPC’s built-in filters, installed in each luminaire, attenuate the noise generated by the LED drivers. These filters isolate the electrical circuit that feeds the lighting system. So, the clearer the network, the further the message goes and without interruption.

The second aspect, which varies from one installation to another, is the reduction of impedance. Nyx Hemera Technologies’ R&D team has developed mobile tools that help identify impedance drops on the electrical grid. Once identified, it is then sufficient to add a repeater to the most problematic locations. The development of site characterization tools allowed the Nyx team to successfully transmit a signal from the main controller to a first LPC node located 300 meters (1000 feet) away almost instantaneously in the courtyard of a US detention center.

Since the LPC installed in the first luminaire incorporates a repeater, a second 300 meters can be easily reached and so on. Distance is therefore no longer really important and TLACS can communicate over several kilometers.
Thanks to the possible range of the communication network, the powerline lighting control solution is therefore perfect for long tunnels and other outdoor lighting networks. For example, TLACS is installed in a 4 kilometer (2.49 mile) tunnel and controls 341 luminaires in Alaska, USA.

In addition to the network, the Nyx Hemera Technologies team has over 30 years of experience in powerline systems. Pierre Longtin, president of Nyx Hemera Technologies, is one of the pioneers in this field and was one of the founders of a company that was already developing chips for powerline communication in the 1990s in Quebec.

Powerline communication technology has evolved over the years and Nyx Hemera has made significant investments year after year to maintain its technological advances in powerline communication. The technology uses methods that combine techniques based on different frequencies and transmission speeds to achieve ultra-robust communication over powerlines.

The modulation technique is a mixture of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) and multi-frequency shift keying (MFSK) for efficient transmission.

The use of up to 8 frequency channels optimizes the success rate of the communication (compared to a single channel in the early 2000s).

The system uses an adaptive communication speed of 360bps to 23000bps that automatically adjusts to the characteristics on the power line.

TLACS is therefore also perfect for large infrastructures where other wireless technologies cannot be used because of wave-blocking materials or for cyber security reasons. This makes Nyx’s control solution particularly useful in large-area infrastructures such as commercial ports, power plants and even highways with large distances between fixtures.

In addition, powerline communication does not require the installation of additional wiring for control and supervision. Using existing electrical wiring represents significant savings in installation time, wire and connector purchases and lighting system maintenance. Finally, the fact that no additional wiring is used reduces the environmental footprint when disposing of these wires at the end of their life.

Through its investment in research and development, the Nyx Hemera Technologies team is constantly pushing the technological envelope to make TLACS an even more reliable, robust, efficient, safe and green lighting control solution. The goal of these efforts is to always better respond to, and even anticipate, the needs of operators, installers and users.