【Exclusive Interview】MEAN WELL Shapes the Future of IoT with Centralized DC House for Smart Lighting and Industrial Controls

From fire to electricity, the human civilization continues to unfold through advances in science and technology. All of this progress has been built on the acquisition and harnessing of different forms of energies. Likewise, the great technological innovations of the recent century or so are made possible by evolutionary changes in the delivery of electricity to end-users. Since the rivalry between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla more than a hundred years ago, DC and AC have been competing for supremacy in an ever-expanding range of power applications. The course of the rivalry is now shifting again with the advent of renewable energies and intelligent control technologies.

The adoption of DC for everyday power applications has been growing. For instance, light sources have transitioned from traditional types of light bulbs to DC-driven LEDs. At the same time, DC is used to switch on and control many types of mobile devices. MEAN WELL, which began in Taiwan and has been operating in the power supply market for nearly four decades, is bullish on the prospect that DC will again become mainstream as 5G synergizes with IoT to enable more smart applications.

At this year’s Taipei International Electronics Show (TAITRONICS), MEAN WELL will be holding an exhibition focusing on the centralized high-voltage DC power supply. The products presented will fully demonstrate how the DC power supply supports the integration of intelligent control systems with IoT-related applications. Also, MEAN WELL’s exhibition aims to provide a guide on the overall direction in the future development of standard power supply products.

Speaking with LEDinside in an exclusive interview, Alex Tsai, MEAN WELL’s managing director for Greater China, emphasized that his company hopes to reinvigorate the growth momentum of various related industries by promoting the potential uses for DC. With the COVID-19 pandemic battering the global economy, industries need to be open to new solutions. To that end, MEAN WELL is encouraging exchanges and collaborations among hardware manufacturers and technicians. Together, they will be more effective in discerning the technological trends and opportunities that will emerge in the post-pandemic period.

(Alex Tsai, MEAN WELL’s managing director for Greater China; image: MEAN WELL)

MEAN WELL to demonstrate innovative applications with DC House at TAITRONICS

MEAN WELL will be showing “DC House” at this year’s TAITRONICS to explain how the DC power supply realizes the concept of smart home. The products on display at DC House will cover applications related to both indoor and outdoor living spaces.

In the case of indoor lighting, intelligent control systems based on the Bluetooth wireless technology allow smartphones and tablets to remotely set or control the brightness of 380V DC-driven LED lamps. Whereas most of the existing intelligent control systems still need gateways to process the control signals, MEAN WELL’s solutions integrate the Bluetooth module into the power supply to enable direct communication with cloud-based platforms. This means that up to 125 nodes can be used, and there is no need to purchase additional gateways. Furthermore, MEAN WELL’s solutions save resources and time as they make switching systems much easier and painless.

(Image: MEAN WELL)

MEAN WELL believes that small appliances such as coffee makers and home theater projectors could be powered by 380V DC as well in the future. Under such a scenario, their operation would not be constrained by the voltage conversion requirement, an issue associated with AC. Indeed, eliminating the voltage conversion requirement could significantly improve the ease of use and accelerate the standardization of specifications.

Tsai said, “We are even thinking about selling DC extension cords!” He pointed out that DC is safer than AC in the context of parallel connection. Plugging multiple devices into a DC extension cord is akin to connecting multiple batteries together, so there is no worry about the risk of catching fire. MEANWELL’s DC House is built on this concept: a centralized high-voltage DC power supply that feeds electricity to devices, appliances, and even vehicles located within the vicinity of a residence. It is comparable to a mini-grid system that powers everything from a robotic vacuum cleaner inside the house to an electric scooter outside the house.

In practice, with the DC House design, a typical household only requires a 4,000-5,000W centralized power supply system that can make a one-time voltage conversion to produce 380V DC. MEAN WELL estimates that 30% fee is saved in electrical wiring and installation of related equipment by adopting a centralized DC power supply system. Furthermore, since all appliances and devices will run on the same voltage and use the same type of connector, additional saving because of phasing out various voltage conversion requirements is expected.

“A centralized power supply system like the one we have presented under the DC House framework is poised to be a major trend in the near future,” Tsai stressed. “Especially as the demand for automation continues to grow, combining intelligent control with power supply will not only save a lot of resources and costs but also widen the scope of applications.

Integration of DC power supply with IoT controllers leads to 5G automated solutions

Having already established itself in the market for standard power supply products, MEAN WELL now intends to have its offerings play a vital role in IoT lighting, intelligent control, and 5G-related applications.

So far in the development of automation technologies, nearly all related products and equipment have a power supply and a controller separately. “We find this kind of configuration rather inefficient,” Tsai stated bluntly.

MEAN WELL believes it may be able to integrate its products, more than 10,000 standard power supplies, and controller into a single system. By offering a wide range of complete and standardized solutions, the company can meet the different needs of individual customers.

At the same time, MEAN WELL will be embedding a Bluetooth control module into many of its power supply products. This approach helps streamline the peripheral setup process for smart products as many different control systems are unified under one interface.

An application that could benefit enormously from the integration of power supply and controller is street lights. Today’s street lights are more than just LED lamps. A smart lamp post can include a surveillance camera, an air quality monitoring system, a traffic monitoring system, and a large-size LED display. If each of these components needs a separate power supply and controller, then the installation and operation of the whole lamp post are going to be very complicated. To simplify the deployment of smart lamp posts, MEAN WELL has merged the power supply and controls of different components into one centralized system. This solution can thus hasten the introduction of automation technologies and 5G IoT controllers in different application areas.

This year, MEAN WELL has launched two new series of fan-less power supply products to meet the demand for outdoor 5G communication. Named HEP-1000 and UHP, these two series are suitable for many kinds of outdoor environments. The fan-less design generates no noise and prevents dust accumulation. These advantages, in turn, ensure a high level of reliability for the power supply and the system that it serves. Going forward, MEAN WELL will continue to develop new products for applications related to automation and 5G.

Presently, the number of smart connected devices is growing steadily across different vertical markets. However, very few companies are considering using power supply as an approach for linking these products together. As a longtime provider of standard power supply products, MEAN WELL believes that devising solutions to support the IoT ecosystem will be its next major mission and the overarching trend in the power supply market.

MEAN WELL initiates “Stimulation Plan” to stimulate the supply chain and industry partners

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a shadow over the global economy this year. As MEAN WELL starts to focus on developing centralized high-voltage power supply systems to meet future demands, it also deeply recognizes that opportunities in the power supply market depend on the prosperity of many industries.

“No one buys power supply for self-use, so the only way MEAN WELL will do better is to have all industries recover and get stronger,” Tsai said frankly.

MEAN WELL wants to be a force for stability in industries, so it has launched a “Stimulation Plan” this fourth quarter. Specifically, it is a 3% rebate for distributors and clients, who are strongly suggested to pass this saving to end users. With this special promotion, MEAN WELL hopes to engage its partners in the upstream and downstream of the supply chain to generate a virtuous cycle that helps industries to overcome pandemic-related challenges.

(Image: MEAN WELL)

“Our clients and suppliers have responded enthusiastically to our stimulation plan and are thinking up ways to reciprocate and pass the saving downstream,” said Tsai. Besides offering their own rebates and discounts, MEAN WELL’s partners have budgeted some of their savings from the stimulation plan for charity purposes or promotions of made-in-Taiwan products on the international stage. These activities will undoubtedly help domestic brands by raising their profiles and strengthening their presence in the global supply chain.

As MEAN WELL maintains its leadership in standard power supply products, it continues to not only innovate and explore new application areas but also fulfill its corporate social responsibilities. The stimulation plan will deepen the company’s ties with suppliers, distributors, and clients worldwide. Hopefully, these efforts to foster goodwill and reciprocity will turn into a force for stability. Looking ahead, MEAN WELL will work hand in hand with its partners to restore the glory days of their industries.

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