Keeping it simple with KNX

Ivory Egg
By Mark Warburton, Director
Thursday, 11 February, 2021



Keeping it simple with KNX

KNX hit 30 years of age in 2020. With over 500 brands now producing KNX-compatible products it’s also widely recognised, backed by 93,000+ trained and committed integrators across 190 countries.

These figures paint a powerful picture of what is possible with KNX and the extent it is accepted worldwide. However, it can also sound pretty daunting, particularly when you consider the vast range of products to control lighting, shading, AV, security, HVAC and more. You’d be forgiven for being a little scared by KNX.

Too many devices?

The most common question is how can this be simple when we are working with so many complicated devices, numerous functions, parameters and configurations?

The key is decentralisation.

Each device in a KNX system has the capability to perform its own function, meaning complex operations take place before information is shared with the rest of the system. What’s more, individual devices are able to communicate directly without commands needed to be processed by a central server.

This means the size and complexity of the system is only ever what you need. The overhead of running centralised servers is removed and if you ever need to upgrade devices you can replace components individually without changing other parts of the system.

Decentralisation also mean you can select the right device for the right application. When you are faced with quickly evolving specifications, knowing the system you are using can easily be changed is not only reassuring but also makes your project more profitable.

Devices that operate independently, whilst interacting through a common language, KNX, means you have a system that is easy to scale, reliable and offers you huge flexibility.

Just like turning something on or off

So with all these devices, controlling so many different functions, surely the KNX communication must get pretty messy? Quite the opposite.

What KNX actually does is very simple. Not because the system or what we are trying to control is basic, but because the level of interface and interaction is straightforward. In fact, there are really only three levels of control needed:

  • Turning something on/off
  • Turning something up/down
  • Sending a value

When we approach systems communication with this mindset it becomes much clearer that although the devices we use can be extremely complex in their intelligence, and be controlling a myriad of sub systems, the basic way they communicate with each other is actually very simple.

So, the complexity must be in the software? Wrong again.

Easy with ETS

ETS is the software used to commission KNX projects, and to brand it complicated is to judge a book by its cover.

To configure a project from beginning to end there are only five individual steps:

  • Create the project
  • Add devices from the online catalogue
  • Configure device parameters
  • Link devices
  • Download

Of course some of these steps are more involved, and there is no getting away from the fact that a large project has a lot going on. However, ETS is jam-packed with tools to make it as simple as possible to commission, debug and maintain projects.

Getting to grips with the way ETS works is something the KNX Basic course focuses on and you will quickly start to feel comfortable with the interface. It is then a case of exploring how specific devices work as the process for commissioning doesn’t change, even if you change manufacturers or device type eg, from lighting to HVAC.

As your confidence grows you will start to see ETS for the extremely powerful yet simple application that it is.

The path to KNX enlightenment

The biggest takeaway is that KNX is not scary. For many it has already proven to be the opposite, taking their businesses to new heights and allowing them to work on projects not possible with the systems relied on previously. It provides a robust and versatile solution that you can use to deliver projects of all types and sizes.

Getting started with KNX is simple as well. With so many great resources available, including foundational courses, videos and articles, you’ll quickly have the foundations needed to use KNX on your next project. Most importantly, you have the support of an amazing community. You’re never on your own when using KNX! Visit the local website for information on KNX training, compatible products and other resources.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Ivan Stevanovic

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