the next evolution of lighting: connected lighting


Introduction – The Next Evolution

Part I – Connected Lighting

In the next five years, the overwhelming majority of lighting fixtures and their controls will be connected to the “cloud” via IP-based communications standards.  Let’s consider how connected lighting systems impact the lighting industry, driving numerous “2nd level” innovation opportunities.

Connected lighting is a “Trojan horse” for new service opportunities

Adopting IP networking standards allows a massive amount of data to flow throughout a lighting system.  An explosion of creative business cases will emerge that exploit the extra functionality and data capacity inherent in connected lighting.

For example, spatial occupancy monitoring is a useful early “byproduct” of connected lighting systems.  In one example where occupancy sensors were installed in every fixture throughout an office building, monitoring which office spaces are occupied during a workday allows a building manager to reduce his janitorial services to only the spaces that were occupied – saving tremendous cleaning costs.  Such “heat maps” of space usage enable a host of new service extensions in retail applications, healthcare, even parking garages.  Plus a host of other systemic capabilities will find profitable application, such as environmental monitoring, daylight system integration, etc..

Digital Lumens LR_DailyUsageHeatmap

IP-networking standards for lighting enables creative applications with minimal additional costs

Although IP-networking standards and commodity hardware are a boon for lighting, the lighting industry radically change its ways and pull itself together to establish lighting-specific communication and data standards.  These standards will enable a flourishing of innovative control solutions.  On an IP network, adding extra functionality to the devices adds only small incremental system costs:  The network costs remain the same for any device without requiring specialized and proprietary lighting systems.  So unlike the old paradigm of “controls companies” developing complete equipment packages and proprietary integration services, by 2020 the controls segment splits into two halves:  Tech-focused companies specialized in innovative device technologies and service-focused companies specialized in the integration and implementation of those devices.

For example, new types of camera-based occupancy sensors allow far more personal and responsive tuning of lighting scenarios.  With the capability to detect the exact number and position of occupants, a conference room could take a warm-white tone with only one or two occupants, or it could shift to a cool-white tone if the room is filled with many occupants.  With the fundamental networking already in place, such capabilities for the controls and the fixture result in only a minor cost adder for each device, allowing specifiers to create unique control scenarios for each client.

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Connected lighting radically reduces the cost of lighting service programs

IP-connected lighting systems greatly expand the range of data available.  “Smart” controls and lighting fixtures broadcast their component serial numbers, feature sets, on-board sensors, run time counters, and even real-time photometric light measurement.   Talk about “big data”:  A lighting manufacturer can now remotely check in on their systems anytime, anywhere.

For example, a manufacturer might automatically see that a fixture is over temp and losing light output in one of their customer’s facilities, and they will automatically query the exact set of parts that need to be replaced.  Such data drastically reduces the cost of lighting maintenance.  A service agent will show up with the right parts and immediately take care of the problem – potentially before an end user even recognizes that there is a problem.

Providing a cloud-connection for lighting systems is a “gateway drug” to opening up numerous opportunities for maintenance, upgrades, or circular economy opportunities.  The lighting industry has the opportunity to offer much high levels of customer service at lower costs than ever before…but who in the industry captures this value?

yesco lighting-maintenance-greensboro

Cloud-based lighting systems integrate directly into architects’ BIM-based design, simulation and specification work flow.

Architectural design and MEP workflows increasingly use highly-detailed BIM models that live in the cloud.  Connected lighting systems are fundamentally connected to the “cloud”.  Lighting companies focusing on system integration should develop BIM plug-ins that allow specifiers to setup proper BIM-based virtual models of the total lighting system (fixtures + controls + functionality), eliminating the need to translate the “design intent” of the lighting control system via traditional paper documentation and field commissioning.  Simply connect the lighting system to the cloud and voilà – the virtual model can instantly control the real lighting hardware.  Skipping the majority of the translation process leads to enormous cost savings on construction sites.  Plus the virtual simulations made easy by BIM will also evolve and directly correlate to the actual performance of the building, which is proves critical for meeting ever more stringent “green” building codes.


Automated commissioning 

Even with advanced, cloud-connected lighting systems driven from a virtual model, a basic level of field commissioning remains inevitable.  But field commissioning becomes highly automated through the use of visible light communications.  Automatic commissioning proves to be the “killer app” for coded-light technologies.


Next Up:  Part II – Embedded Lighting