There is a lot of talk about sports field lighting control in Australia in 2019.
With several new stadiums in Australia using or being upgraded to DMX lighting control, the spotlight is on the sports lighting segment more than ever from a lighting control perspective.
Stadium and sports field lighting control has changed from being purely functional to being a multipurpose tool for function, entertainment and form, providing stadium operators the ability to offer experiences not previously possible with onsite sports lighting and controls.
This level of sports lighting control is not necessary or needed for most local councils and sports clubs, who often do need better lighting, that consumes less energy as well as providing a more time efficient way to operate and manage their sports field lighting systems.
However, local councils and sports clubs still want to be able to offer sports field lighting control to stakeholders and with good reasons:
- Save energy
- Save on maintenance costs
- Increase safety and security for users
- Provide better services to the community and sports clubs
- Provide transparency on billing for themselves and customers
- Enable online booking of sports field and court resources
- Leverage technology to achieve these outcomes cost effectively
In this article is detailed every facet of Australian sports field lighting control, the do’s and don’ts, some of the sports field lighting control options available and best practice implementation – whether a council with a single field or a sports club with courts, fields and club houses in multiple locations.
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Australian Sports Lighting Control: Everything You Need to Know Before Designing
- Sports Field Lighting Control Capabilities
- Typical Applications for Sport Field Lighting Control
- So… How Much Does a Sports Field Lighting Control System Cost?
- Australian Sports Field Lighting Essentials: Scheduling + Scheduling Exceptions
- Types of sports field lighting
- DALI Issues and Limitations in Sports Field Lighting Applications and how to solve them
- Types of Control Methods for Sports Field Lighting Controls
- Benefits of Installing a Sports Field Lighting Control Solution
- Benefits of billing and auditing
- Common Issues When Deploying Sports Field Lighting Control Solution
- Browser Enabled Australian Sports Field Lighting control
- Smart Phone App for Australian Sports Field Lighting Control
- Data Sovereignty & System Security for Sports Lighting
- How to ‘Hack’ a Sports Field Lighting Control System
Sports Field Lighting Control Capabilities
For clarity, the same control capabilities are available for multipurpose sports fields and multipurpose courts. From a lighting control perspective, the lighting scenes required and the control methodologies, are very similar irrespective of the sport being played or the field type being lit.
Whilst the lighting design requirements for indoor vs outdoors, HD broadcast versus training lighting levels, squash courts versus an AFL field vary greatly, controlling these different applications with a sports lighting control system is far simpler and easier than the underlying lighting design itself.
Here are a few documents which detail the required sports field lighting standards in Australia for specific states and sports.
- Victorian Football Netball Soccer Lighting
- Football Lighting
- More on Football Lighting
- Australian Sports Lighting Standard
As with all lighting control, once the lighting design is completed, recalling the right lighting scene at the right time encompasses the base functionality of a sports field lighting control solution.
This is true for all fields, courts, and codes of sport.
Typical Applications for Sport Lighting Control
- Small Stadiums
- Soccer (football) fields
- Hockey fields
- Rugby & Rugby League Fields, Austag Fields
- Australian Football Fields
- Cricket Fields
- Baseball Fields
Other sports field lighting control applications include:
- Tennis Courts
- Squash Courts
- Basketball courts
- Netball courts
- Cricket Nets
- Skate Parks
- BMX Tracks
- Horse Racing and Greyhound racing parks
How Much Does a Sports Field Lighting Control System Cost?
There is no easy way to answer this question in completeness and is probably a less important question than “what is the ROI of installing a sports field lighting control solution?”
Where the ROI can be measured quantitively from energy savings, income-generating perspective and a qualitative measure for community engagement, facility and quality of life measure.
Additionally, there are many different types of and sophistication levels of what a sports field lighting control solution can provide, which will impact the CAPEX and OPEX of such a solution.
Finally understanding the desired outcome of installing a sports field lighting control solution is needed to be able to evaluate the ROI.
For example, the outcome may be multifaceted such that the council and or club can achieve multiple outcomes such as:
- Reduce energy consumption and therefore reduce council funds spent on lighting sports fields – Quantifiable
- Audit user control and allocate lighting consumption to billing accounts to transparently bill consumers – Identifiable
- Billing and invoicing of the consumed energy with audited records – Actionable
The outcome may be far simpler, such as being able to manually switch separate lighting poles on and off with a built in key switch on each pole without any auditing, billing or reporting capability.
So, the type of sports field lighting control system needed for a field needs some questions answered first.
That is, does it make financial sense to install a sport field lighting control solution based on the outcomes needed and the desired operation of the fields by the community?
The answers will depend on many factors, including:
- Local demographics and population forecasts
- Which sports are being played and when?
- Training and match requirements of these sports.
- How many lights are to be controlled based on Australian Lighting Standards designs?
- What type of lights are being controlled and the control method?
o Do the lights need to be switched or dimmed?
o Is the control requirement for local or remote control?
- Are other services needed beyond just controlling the lighting such as auditing, reporting, billing?
So… How Much Does a Sports Lighting Control System Cost?
I have experienced scenarios where $500,000 of new LED dimmable sports lighting is being installed across multiple fields. In these types of scenarios, the sports lighting control system CAPEX investment was less than $5,000 with $1,000 per annum ongoing OPEX spend for remote control, auditing, billing and scheduling.
In this case the sports lighting control system represented about 1% of the total CAPEX spend for significant cloud control, monitoring and reporting capabilities.
I have also seen scenarios where $100,000 sports lighting upgrade – from metal halide to LED – has installed a sports field lighting control solution with a CAPEX of less than $1000 for simple, localised switching. This represented again about 1% of the total CAPEX.
Of course, these numbers do not represent the total cost of the project installation and electrical works, rather the raw costs of the hardware – LED sports lighting and sports lighting control solutions.
Critical Control Capability Requirements for Sports Field Lighting Control Systems
At the core, sports field lighting control will ideally:
- enable the field users the ability to have the right light at the right time either through schedules or via direct control
- whilst enabling the council and/or owners to minimise energy consumption and maintenance costs
- meet local operating hour regulations and adherence to curfews
- hold those in control of the lighting accountable for their actions, with some certainty around this responsibility. That is, a record that, ‘Coach Robinson from the under 9’s Wildcats football club controlled these lights today at 5pm until 6.30pm’.
As with all lighting control solutions the base requirement is to be able to control the lights a user wants, at the time wanted – either directly or via automated schedules.
Additionally, being able to override any of those requirements at any time, by authorised personnel in case of emergencies or changes to circumstances is necessary.
All sports field lighting control solutions need to provide these types of control as a base requirement in 2019 and beyond as the cost to implement this foundation is relatively minimal.
Australian Sports Lighting control Essentials: Scheduling + Scheduling Exceptions
Councils and clubs may find it more desirable to be able to schedule sports field lighting through the control system, instead of, or to compliment provision of direct control capabilities to sports field users.
This automated scheduling can reduce the burden and responsibility of the users to be involved and can help the council better forecast their costs associated with sports lighting energy consumption.
Scheduling can be thought of much like a calendar invite to an event, for the lighting.
At its most basic a one-off schedule:
On this date, at this time, do this once (turn the lights on) and on this date at this time do this once (turn the lights off).
The next step is to create a regular schedule:
On this day each week at this time do this once…etc.
This can be expanded to:
Every 2nd Monday of the month, for the months June, July, August do this…
If there are multiple fields in a complex being controlled by the sports field lighting control system, each with their own scheduling requirements, these one-off and recurring event collections can be created for each of the different fields.
Scheduling exceptions are a useful tactic to manage scheduling changes and provide a lot of flexibility to councils and end users.
Schedule exceptions include:
- Cancel just 1 instance of an event/schedule
- Cancel multiple instances, across multiple schedules, but not make wholesale changes to the underlying schedule
- Extend the schedule for particular dates, days, months.
Additionally, many of these sports field complexes and campuses contain significant surrounding public spaces, that can be controlled according to the usage of the sports field themselves.
This can include carparks, pedestrian walkways, bike paths, outbuildings and clubhouses etc. that are part of the sports field surrounds.
By considering these items as a part of the sports lighting control solution, a more holistic approach can be achieved with respects to coordination and control timing of these associated entities in relation to how the sports fields are being used.
A well-designed sports lighting control solution would encompass and integrate these ancillary areas for an holistic area lighting control system.
Curfew Considerations with Sports Lighting Control
Curfews define the time at which sports lighting can and cannot be used.
These are not uniform across Australia, and assuming the lighting design complies with Australian Standards for spill lighting, a sports field lighting control solution manages these curfews as part of the system.
These curfews can be managed and implemented in several ways.
- The first and simplest way is to schedule the curfew times via the lighting control system, so that the curfew is always met
- Emergency services will need to be able to override the lighting locally in the event of…an emergency. This may be by providing an on site override function or by providing the local emergency services operators access to the lighting control system via a mobile App.
- Authorised event operators will also need to be able to override these curfews in this case when a special permit or allowance is made to allow use of the sports field lighting outside of the curfews times. This is when the Scheduling Exceptions come into play and simplify achieving this outcome
- Locking out authorised users – ensuring that even authorised users cannot turn the lights on outside of curfew times
Types of sports field lighting
To help guide in the selection of the best sports field lighting control solution for your field/s, campus or complex, it is important to understand the different lighting technologies and how they can be controlled.
Without understanding the control capabilities of the lights, one cannot make an educated assessment of the ideal sports field lighting control solution.
This section is focused on educating on light source, control systems and applications. Note this is not a lighting design or lighting control design course and is high level.
Typical types of lighting for sports field lighting control
- Metal Halide
- Sodium Vapour
- LED – (Dimming capable, Instant on, Energy efficient, long operational lifetime, light uniformity)
The type of control capable is derived from the lighting technology being used.
Types of Control Technology for Sports Field Lighting Control
The ability to switch a group or groups of lights on and off.
Switching could also allow the individual control of lights or single poles, although this can increase costs significantly if achieving this switching electrically only.
How the sports field lighting is switched (controlled) depends on how the electrical cabling to each of the poles and heads is configured. That is, how many seperate switch groups are available.
- Switch all field lights on and off together
- Divide this control into 2 – for example the lights on the north of the field are switched together and the lights on the south of the filed are switched together. (Training Scene/ Game Scene)
- Divide this control into 2 – such that the top row and the bottom row on each pole can be switched separately. (Training Scene/ Game Scene)
A special ballast/driver is used that permits a stepped dimming capability.
That is, at 3 switching levels such as 100%, 50%, 0%, the lighting being controlled will jump immediately to that output level.
Note this type of control does not DIM between these levels and instead provides reduced light output in steps.
Just as with switching control, the electrical installation defines the switching groups available and the combinations of outputs achievable.
For example, consider two switching groups, using step dimming, where the top rows are to be step-dimmed to 50% and the bottom row set at 100% output.
This is rarely used in modern LED and sports field lighting control upgrades today due to the widespread adoption of LED lighting and dimmability of these light sources.
DIMMING: 0-10v and DALI
Dimming sports lighting is usually associated with LED sports lighting which can be controlled (dimmed) in many ways.
Two common ways to achieve this are via 0-10v dimming and DALI dimming. DALI is a digital dimming method which provides smooth dimming performance.
With each of these dimming types there is a requirement for an additional control cable, in addition to the power cabling, physically connected to each of the drivers or ballasts in the luminares.
Dimming sports lighting is an effective way to maintain uniformity of the design whilst enabling additional energy savings, field utility for users and reducing the impact on local neighbourhoods from glare and other complaints, irrespective of compliance to Australian Design standards.
It is not uncommon for a sports field in older neighbourhoods, once upgraded to LED lighting, to experience an increase in resident complaints.
Whilst Australian lighting standards are being followed, resident’s perceptions and understanding of light or these standards are lacking and complaints of more glare, ‘it’s much brighter than before’ etc. are not uncommon after such upgrades.
A sports field lighting control solution with dimming capabilities is priceless in these scenarios. Being able to DIM the lights and maintain uniformity is a great way to solve this issue and continue to provide the field utility the sports clubs and councils require.
DALI Issues and Limitations in Sports Field Lighting Applications and how to solve them.
In retrofit sports field lighting scenarios (no pole or wire replacements, just heads), it may not be possible to have this additional control cabling installed.
However, in new installations or ‘new-wire’ installations, installing this DALI control cable is relatively inexpensive as the DALI standard calls for 1.5mm cross section, twin cabling – a readily available and inexpensive cable.
The larger cost is associated with trenching and associated labour and earthworks, where existing poles are being upgraded and is often cost prohibitive.
NOTE: Wiring Standards in Australia are not met by DALI requirements. DALI counts as an FELV system and therefore must be installed accordingly.
The DALI standard does not require the 1500volts AC separation between the LV and ELV so it cannot be considered and SELV system and is categorised as an FELV system.
We recommend the minimum DALI BUS cable size is 1.5mm squared, 2 core, TPS.
See AS3000 1.4.83 and AS3000 184.108.40.206
Some sports lighting control scenarios may require longer distances than the 300metre maximum distance per DALI line that the DALI standard calls for. There are several solutions that solve this potential limiting factor when considering use of DALI luminaires and control systems for sports field lighting control.
- Use a DALI compliant, high-quality DALI power supply. These sell for around $100 for a top of the range version and not worth skimping on.
- Increase the size of the twin control conductor to 4mm. This recommendation is based on the 300metre limitation being associated with voltage drop, and increasing the conductor size can be an effective way to combat this in some scenarios
- Use of DALI repeaters. A DALI repeater can extend the maximum DALI line length to 600metres. For example, around the 300metres point, install a DALI repeater AND an additional DALI power supply. The repeater, repeats the messaging and isolates the primary DALI power supply from the secondary. The Secondary DALI power supply serves to power only the DALI devices on the extended segment.
- DALI also provides a wireless solution called wDALI for wireless DALI control, to reduce some of the wiring overhead. A simple DALI transceiver is installed on each pole, which also provide DALI power to power the DALI drivers or DALI converters. These transceivers operate on RF and work in tandem with the DALI sports field lighting control solution provided.
What is DALI Anyway?
DALI is the international standard for lighting control and hundreds of lighting manufacturers create DALI drivers and DALI control gear to enable a standardised control and performance outcome for lighting, including sports lighting fixtures.
An introduction to DALI has all the detailed information you will need.
DMX512 is a control standard original developed for theatres and live concerts and is now used in just about every lighting control application. DMX specifically enables complex, fast lighting shows and can be used for slow and simple lighting and show applications too.
For most sports field lighting control solutions, apart from the major sports stadiums around Australia requiring TV broadcast level lighting and entertainment style control of the same lighting, DMX is not required and not a recommended solution for local council sports field lighting control.
This is not because it cannot achieve the outcome, rather the skillset and practitioners are more focused on the entertainment and city scape segments, not the local sports field so maintenance, access to skilled labour and accessibility may be problematic.
Types of Control Methods for Sports Lighting Controls
There are many ways to implement a sports field lighting control solution, from rudimentary on-pole to sophisticated mobile App based control, as per the comprehensive list provided below.
Simple Local Sports Lighting Control
- On pole key switch per pole
- Control distribution board with mechanical key switch to turn on/off or to select several scenarios.
Basic Local Sports Lighting Control
Control board mounted to the outside of an on-site building and inside the board is 1 or more mechanical switches driving a bank of contactors, which in turn drive the connect lights. Access to the control is granted in a few simple ways.
- Locked board with padlock and key
- Locked board with keypad entry
- Locked board with electronic swipe card
SMS Sports Lighting Control Solution
- Council provides club coaches/ authorised personnel an SMS number to dial to activate lighting or lighting scenes on/off
- May provide an audit trail of who controlled what, when, depending on the system provided
- Typically using repurposed irrigation systems controlling contactors and cannot dim using DALI
- May have local on-site override inside a Distribution board as per the Basic arrangement detailed above
SMS/Cloud Sports Lighting Control
- An extension to the SMS solution whereby if the system provides auditing and control event logging, this data can be accessed via a browser portal by authorised users
- Security of the data and cloud connection needs to be rigorously and independently reviewed and intrusion testing is recommended
Cloud – SaaS Sports Lighting Control – also known as SaaS (software as a service)
- Secure cloud access via any web-enabled, browser-enabled device
- Complete user access control consoles
- Realtime, remote visualisation and control capabilities
- Cloud access via on-site internet or 4G provider
- Sports club user control access via secure Mobile App
- Advanced scheduling and scheduling exceptions
- Complete audit trail, reporting, and billing infrastructure included
Benefits of Installing a Sports Field Lighting Control Solution
Whether a council has a single field in a single location or multiple fields in multiple locations; or sports clubs require more detailed, real-time, remote control of their courts – a sports field lighting control solution can increase the ease and utility to both the field users and the councils and clubs.
The benefits don’t stop with simply making things easier and these benefits translate into real bottom line benefits over time. Benefits such as energy savings, reduced personnel operating costs, reduction in maintenance costs, accurate billing and holistic running cost recuperation. Here’s some more detail about these benefits.
- Energy savings – LED, scheduling, dimming.
Any discussion with respects to energy savings need to be viewed through the correct lens. In sports lighting upgrades and retro fit scenarios evaluating the previous lighting load and the new lighting load may or may not be a useful measure.
That is, if the lighting energy consumption load is less with an LED upgrade, is the field lighting outcome matched to the desired effect and Australian Standards compliant? Is the outcome better or worse?
Conversely, if the upgrade to LED sports lighting actually increases the energy consumption and the outcome is far superior, is that project unsuccessful? This is a complex issue and outside of the scope of this article.
Instead, let us focus on the energy savings benefits of the sports field lighting control system alone.
The most cost-effective light is one that is off.
Scheduling remains one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy and money. Being able to set, edit and control these schedules remotely has the added benefit of an holistic carbon footprint reduction as, for example, no technicians are needed to visit site to update on-site timeclocks across every field physically.
Instead, a cloud-based solution provides remote access to all owned field locations and detailed scheduling/ scheduling exception capability from anywhere by any authorised user. This scheduling can be determined across seasons and daylight savings zones if your state is impacted by those factors.
This is not the gold standard, rather the coming norm, and some simple calculations can demonstrate this.
- Staffing Savings. These benefits are focused on reducing personnel costs associated with field maintenance.
At a simple layer, an energy savings sports field lighting control solution with scheduling capabilities can eliminate the need to have staff driving from field to field to check if lighting is off or whose purpose is to turn the lighting off.
This can serve to save not just on the employment costs, as this personnel can be repurposed and retrained to undertake other duties, but the transportation and logistics of that process are saved also.
- Maintenance – It is true that LED lighting does provide a longevity that previous technologies simply could not. However, this needs to be considered more holistically.
For example, sports lighting is only on at night, unlike office lighting which is on 7-7 – 5 to 6 days per week for example, Sports lighting may be on from 5 -10pm some nights.
The actual running time of the lights is therefore less compared to office lighting applications. Also, depending on the type of LED lights being used, these may still require regular cleaning to ensure the correct amount of light is always being delivered . This is no different to older technologies.
Again, let us consider this from a controls perspective which can have an impact on overall maintenance.
First, as previously discussed, scheduling, from a cloud based solution allows schedules to be determined years in advance so a determined usage pattern can be created which can assist with warranty claims, cleaning and replacement schedules.
Dimming capabilities can extend the life of LED under some circumstances. By dimming the sports fixtures, the heat load is reduced. Heat is not an LED’s friend, and reducing the heat, by dimming the luminaires, there can be a life extension effect to the dimmed LED sports luminaire.
Automatic, alternate control serves to ensure that all lights on the poles are balanced in their use. Consider this scenario as an example:
Depending on the lighting design and requirements it is possible to cycle the lighting to further extend its longevity and therefore reduce operating and maintenance costs.
For example: Imagine a sports field or facility with a lighting control system installed and there were 2 basic scenes needed:
- Scene 1 provides the Training lighting scene
- Scene 2 provides the Game lighting scene
The way the lighting has been configured and designed is such that half the lighting on each pole can be utilised to reach the training requirement. For game requirements all the lighting on all the poles is required.
The training scene is used more often than the game scene. If the training scene was used 4 times as much as the game scene, then the lighting used for the training scenes would expire 4 times faster than the lighting that is also used for the game scene.
This would add to maintenance costs and is unnecessary.
A simple way to avoid this and equally share the load between the luminaires on each pole is achieved from a smart and simple programming method with the cloud-based solution.
A simple Scene Cycle is provided. Assume we are controlling lighting from 2 buttons, 1 for scene 1 (training) and 1 button for scene 2 (game)
The training button is configured as such:
- Button Press – Switch ON Top Group
- Button Press – Turn OFF Top Group
- Button Press – Turn ON Bottom Group
- Button Press – Turn OFF Bottom Group
- Button Press – GOTO 1
- Accurate auditing and billing – Many councils and sports clubs work with a user pays model. When a sports club uses the field, the councils will bill them for the time they have used it for.
Sports lighting control solutions can provide accuracy in billing based on an event auditing solution. Note this type of accuracy described in the scenario is only possible with sports field lighting control solutions that provide audit tracking and transparency in actual usage such as RAPIX Cloud.
First a Word on Power Measurement Versus Calculation
There is no practical ROI to install power measurement equipment for sports lighting fields. That is, if the power consumption of each fixture is known, and it is also known which lights are turned on for each scene, it is relatively simple to calculate the power consumption and actual measurement is an unneeded additional cost without a tangible benefit.
Add some additional variables, such as running time and an understanding of the cost per kw/h, a simple calculation can provide a consistent way to calculate energy consumption for all stakeholders.
Calculation, instead of measurement, eliminates the need to measure the power on site by spending big on meters, and instead using a sports field lighting control solution that provides a full audit trail and usage calculation to a user level.
Ok so back to the billing and auditing benefit
Councils can agree on a per hour billing rate with their users, based on the calculations above. These hourly rates may also include allowances for maintenance of the fields and the lighting, to more completely represent the costs associated with operating the sports field.
Items such as waste removal, horticulture, light maintenance, water costs etc. can be included in these running cost calculations.
With clarity on energy consumption, and transparency on other operating costs, it is possible for councils to transform their sports fields from cost centres into profit centres.
Key to this tenant is being able to provide consistency in usage reporting of the lighting, based on user profiles and the associated audit trails and energy calculations.
Common Issues When Deploying Sports Lighting Control Solution
When local councils make the transition from manual control and monitoring to something more automated, remote and sophisticated, there several common issues that are reported that are cause for concern.
These vary from absent mindedness to security breaches and they can have an impact on the council’s ability to stand by their billing and administer the operation of the sports fields effectively and efficiently.
Here are some common complaints, all of which are circumvented when using a cloud-based sports field lighting control solution like RAPIX and RAPIX Cloud.
Description of Issue: We have lost, misplaced or lent the keys to “Jenny” but Jenny is on holiday this week so we can’t turn the lights on.
Assumes the poles or lighting control boards are locked with a padlock or swipe card that is required to open or provide access to a control panel which controls the lights.
Issue: Councils are called to come to the field to activate the lights or the training is missed by the club or another club turns the lights on for Jenny’s team/s.
- Who is responsible for the lighting energy consumed?
- Where are the keys? Does Jenny still have them or are they lost?
- Do we need to change locks and update keys to all users?
- Can the lights be activated by anyone with these keys at any time?
RAPIX Cloud Sports Field Lighting Control Issue Resolution#1:
All field users (sports clubs) control the lighting via their Mobile App only. If Jenny is not on site, the council can be notified that a new user is needed for a period.
The temp users download the control App from the relevant Android or Apple App store, opens the email they are sent as an activated user by the council and are provided control of only the sports fields they are permitted to operate, instantly.
The council has 24/7/365 access to be able to control their fields remotely and or provide new credentials – or delete credentials – of authorised users across properties in real time.
Sharing of SMS number
Description of Issue: Some sports field lighting control systems allow operation via SMS control. Send an SMS to a number, in a particular sequence and the lights are activated for a time or require a similar process to disable when completed. Jenny might share this information with other people, and it may be propagated beyond the safety of the club operators.
Issue: As the SMS number and operation process can be easily shared and distributed there is no security or protection. Additionally, during billing, if the system is not capable of only accepting messages from ‘registered’ mobile devices, then anyone with the SMS number and command structure can control the lights at any time.
RAPIX Cloud Sports Field Lighting Control Issue Resolution#2:
Each authorised user is provided their own single use token, that once activated cannot be shared or used by any other user.
Once activated the user’s mobile device App is provided access to all of the sports fields they are authorised to control – even if those fields are in different geographical locations.
When this user operates the App from their phone, there is certainty for them and the council that they are the authorised user and responsible and accountable for the energy being consumed, and come billing time, this audit evidence is irrefutable.
As there are no username and passwords used with the App, these cannot be shared and physical use of the authorised device is required for operation.
Sharing System Login Information
Description of Issue: Jenny is going on holiday and has shared her username and password for the lighting system with some other club members to manage the lighting when she is absent. During that time, and unbeknownst to Jenny, there is a falling out and one of the club members leaves under poor terms – with usernames and passwords in their possession.
Issue: Now, an unauthorised user has access to the system and can cause a nuisance to the council and residents, all under the guise of the sports club. In addition, the energy usage of the club could skyrocket as this nefarious character plays with the lights day and night.
RAPIX Cloud Sports Field Lighting Control Issue Resolution#3:
RAPIX Cloud provides councils the ability to issue and revoke credentials in real-time for each user, down to a ‘scene per field’ level. This is achieved via any internet and browser-enabled device such as mobile phones, tablets, PCs etc.
Users can only control via the App, and control is issued via a single activation token that cannot be shared or used by any other user once activated.
If users provide their mobile phone to other people and they access to the Field control App, then that user is responsible. Sharing a physical device with the specific intent that the operator can control lighting, is quite different to sharing username and passwords so that sometime in the future control can be achieved.
Sports Field Cloud Lighting Control Solutions
As already detailed above, the controllability of the sports field lighting is often dependent on the electrical installation of the lighting and control gear within the sport lighting luminaires themselves. Additionally, the type of field and the sports played on the field need to be considered especially for multipurpose fields and courts. Finally, earlier in this piece a detailed explanation of control technologies and switching scenarios available with each of these technologies was provided.
With this knowledge in hand, one can now understand how a sports field cloud lighting control solution is both feasible and beneficial to all parties with a solid foundation in technologies, challenges and requirements.
Browser Enabled Australian Sports Lighting control
Sports field lighting control can now be provided securely via the cloud so that councils and clubs (users) are able to remotely…
- Manager users
…all sports fields in their portfolio.
An important distinction that requires clarity is that RAPIX sports Cloud is not limited to just one field, one campus or 1 geographical area.
Systems like RAPIX Cloud deliver councils a full-featured, enterprise-level sports field lighting control solution and visibility across their entire portfolio of fields, from a single location.
That single ‘location’ is any internet and web browser enabled device.
In addition, RAPIX Cloud as a sports field lighting control system provides councils the ability to:
- Manage multiple fields in multiple geographically dispersed locations from a single interface
- Provide complete control over scheduling and scheduling exceptions by authorised users
- Deploy, restrict & revoke user credentials in real time to enable /disable field access immediately across the entire asset portfolio
- Visualise all fields and view the real time state of all lighting points
- Calculate energy consumption down to a per user level without onsite metering
- Create a control audit trail and track every control command which can be used in conjunction with energy calculations
- Automated billing on a per user scenario to transform council cost centres into profit centres
Smart Phone App for Australian Sports Field Lighting Control
Beyond benefits to the local councils, RAPIX Cloud provides sports clubs and operators of the system a uniquely simple interface for control, setting a new paradigm in this segment.
This includes a simple setup process and an even simpler operating process as detailed below.
- The user downloads the App for iOS or Android for use on their mobile devices
- The user receives an email with a single use activation token from the council
- The user clicks the link in the email, the App opens with all authorised fields and control scenarios populated.
There are no usernames or passwords to be remember, update and maintained by the council or the users. Each time the App is opened, a credentials check is performed, and control scenarios updated in the users App.
The user then presses the button in the app to perform the necessary control scene or scenario which may be turn the lights on field x to level y for n minutes, after which it will turn off.
Users can be provisioned with control of 1 field or multiple fields, geographically separated, from one council via their App. Additionally, if the users are also a coaches with a different team that trains on a different council’s fields, that also has RAPIX Cloud installed, the mobile App also provides user control of those fields too – same app, no username and password difference, same method operation.
In this way the users experience of sports field lighting control is transformed from complex to simple – open the app and control. It just works.
Issues with other smartphone Apps for Sports Field Lighting control is that the authorised user must remember the login – another password to remember…. If this is forgotten and control is needed, then the council or system integrator needs to be available to re-authorise users and/or send a reminder.
This password reminder process may be automated, and this is a security concern if not properly executed. For example….confirming that the password, the user name or either was incorrect provides hackers information they can use to focus their attack.
Additionally, this password can be shared with anyone, making it challenging for councils to know exactly which user was in control of the lighting. If this occurs, questions and disputes centred on billing can occur and makes something that should be simple and time savings, the opposite.
A better approach is a sports field lighting solution which issues a single use token via email to users that have been authorised, which in turn authorised their mobile device as a trusted control device. Just as RAPIX Cloud does.
Data Sovereignty & System Security
RAPIX Cloud is hosted in Australia so data sovereignty is maintained, which is not always the case, especially when considering large international multinational companies that host their platforms in Europe, North America and Asian locations.
For councils needing to meet Australian content requirements they can be assured of compliance with RAPIX Cloud for sports field lighting control for many reasons, a few listed below.
- RAPIX hardware is Australian designed, developed and manufactured by an Australian company
- RAPIX software is developed and supported by the original Australian developers, in Australia – South Australia to be precise.
- RAPIX has a network of approved installers and commissioning agents across Australia, ensuring local support, from factory trained personnel, from multiple vendors for open tender processes
Security of Cloud-Based Sports Lighting Control Systems
When considering security and lighting control a question that is commonly asked is “Who cares if your sports lighting control solution gets hacked?”
This is a fair question to ask in our modern world of digital ‘everything’, physical security concerns and increasing concerns over the wellbeing of citizens. This is true also for sports lighting control systems that provide any connectivity to the internet whether via 4G or on site fibre/Ethernet/LAN connection.
The intent of providing a secure sports field lighting control system is to prevent and limit risk, damage and consequences from potential unauthorised system access to perform any of the following:
- Gain unauthorised control of the system;
- Prevent legitimate use of the system;
- Unauthorised monitoring of the system;
- Unauthorised modifications to the system
Further, control layer security requirements for the lighting control system should be included to prevent and limit the risks associated with the following attack vectors:
- Digital Impersonation attacks
- Replay attacks
- Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks
- DoS / DDoS attacks
- Site-wide field bus attacks
When discussing security, it’s critical to differentiate between physical security vs. control layer security, within a framework of risk minimisation for users and owners.
Physical security can be described in a number of ways, including:
- the physical access to the lighting control equipment on site
- Is this equipment installed inside a services building or on the outside of the building – maybe even mounted to a pole?
- How does one access the control board?
- Why does anyone need to access the board?
- How is that security access deployed? – Swipe card, keylock on the DB, padlcok with key?
- Why, if operating a remotely controllable sports field lighting control system do I need physical access to the board for control?
- Actual and perceived personal security provided by use of the lighting for sports field users
All these on-site, physical security concerns are typically managed by the sports clubs and councils who execute their own security protocols as part of the installation and upgrade program.
Control Layer security is concerned with the security of the equipment on site as it communicates to the lighting, to the internet and the cloud services themselves, including the mobile Apps operation.
End to End Encryption is a Participation Prerequisite for Cloud based Sports Lighting Control
When you browse the internet your web browser sometimes has a little padlock in the address bar. This little padlock and https in the web browser means that the connection between the browser and the connected system is secure and encrypted.
This encryption is achieved with either SSL or TLS. You can read more about HTTPS and TLS1.2 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Layer_Security
TLS1.2 is the modern standard and should be demanded as a participation pre-requisite for any sports field lighting control solution with cloud services offered.
This TLS1.2 encryption is how RAPIX Cloud communicates to the on site RAPIX control equipment, how the RAPIX Cloud portal and Mobile APPs connect and communicate to the internet also.
In addition to this internet connection being secure and encrypted, communication to and between the lighting control components on site also needs to be encrypted and authenticated using RSA and AES cipher encryption.
If you feel this is ‘beyond’ you then provide the link to your I/T department and ask for their opinion on the level of security being offered by RAPIX Cloud
According to Wikipedia “RSA is a public-key encryption algorithm (asymmetric), while AES is a symmetric key algorithm. The two algorithms work very differently, and often a cryptosystem will use both algorithms. For example, a cryptosystem may use RSA to exchange keys securely, while use AES to encrypt the actual message”.
What is described above is exactly how RAPIX communicates to the RAPIX Cloud hardware on site. In addition to these security measures, the following best practice industry standards apply to the RAPIX Cloud ecosystem.
- Symmetric encryption (e.g. AES) uses a key of at least 128 bits.
- Asymmetric encryption (e.g. RSA) uses a key of at least 512 bits.
- Hashing functions (e.g. MD5, SHA) are at least 128 bits.
- Messages much use a mechanism to detect and reject messages that have been tampered with (e.g. message HMAC).
- The system uses a mechanism to detect and reject replayed messages.
- Block cyphers (e.g. AES) use a random Initialisation Vector for each message.
Sports field lighting control systems which provide this out of the box, like RAPIX and RAPIX Cloud, without additional cost or I.T. departmental overhead are preferred to minimise setup costs and eliminate ongoing security maintenance.
That is, a plug and play solution is required without needing I.T. oversight.
If vendors attempt to diminish and downplay the importance of this level of security, one must question their motivations. That is, is their system incapable of providing the necessary security and therefore attempt to discount its importance in hope of convincing a client? Instead, ask yourself this question…
If all else is equal, and one sports field lighting control system provides this layer of security, and the other doesn’t, why would you choose the system that does not have it? Why take that risk?
Finally, the human element can have an impact on the security of any system. At some point the local council operator and the systems integrators who commission the sports field cloud systems need to login to the cloud service to gain access to the visualisation, scheduling, monitoring, reporting and billing features.
Security policies within these organisations need to support best practice for creation of secure passwords, storing and updating processes and procedures. This is critical as once the credentials are authorised access is provided to the level that those credentials allow.
These system operational security arrangements are within the domain of the council and the systems integrators to manage and outside of the scope of the security requirements that the sports field lighting control vendor can impact or influence.
How to ‘Hack’ a Sports Lighting Control System
Hacking is a broad word that can be used to cover work arounds, modification and actual digital intrusion attempts.
Here are a few common hacks for sports field lighting control solutions – all of which are intended to provide unauthorised control of the system; prevent legitimate use of the system; allow unauthorised monitoring of the system; allow unauthorised modifications to the system.
- Kicking in the door to the onsite maintenance building to access the localised control switches
- Picking the padlock on the control board on site
- ‘Jimmying’ the control board open with a pry bar
- Sharing the SMS number and activation nomenclature for SMS based systems
- Sharing the username and password
- Using hacking tools like to Metasploitable, Nmap, Aircrack-ng, Social Engineering toolkit, Wireshark, Nikto, Hydra, Sparta to scan for vulnerabilities, inspect network traffic and inject exploits.
With all this complexity, often the easiest course of action for nefarious characters is to undertake some simple social engineering.
That is, threaten violence to one’s body or other loved ones unless passwords are provided and access is granted.
Get Your Head into the Clouds
The right sports field lighting control solution saves energy, consumption and running costs. Additionally, these lighting control systems provide councils and sports club full transparency on who has controlled lights, when and for how long, with every control signal recorded.