data ownership

To all my friends in the lighting specification world, I strongly urge you to include language in your boilerplate specs for your project clients that reserves ownership of any data generated by the lighting system, privacy of that data, and any secondary usage rights.

I heard lots of buzzwords floating around Light + Building about “monetizing data”.  This is complete nonsense, the light industry’s equivalent of checked-baggage fees.  Charging clients for access to data generated by the expensive hardware they just purchased is  ridiculous, like if Crestron or Lutron were to suddenly think they could charge recurring usage fees for dimming the lights on one of their expensive dimming systems.

That is not to say that services based on the data don’t have potential value, but even here I think you need to tread carefully and really understand the value of what is being offered to protect your clients.  I personally would have a sharp dividing line on my concept of “value”:  If the service includes active monitoring and the promise to “roll a truck” and actually have a human being show up on site to service something, it is probably worth it.  If it is just a data analysis or translation function (basically anything “cloud” based), I would be highly suspicious.

If you perceive a design situation where the data has value, and the hardware company is eager to “monetize” that value, then play hardball with both the initial price and the service price.  The comparison here is very easy:  Paying for a lighting system upfront or financing it long term, such as either via leasing or “service fees”.  And play hardball with every detail:  In a retail situation for example, there are tons of companies that would love access to foot traffic information.  Don’t let a hardware company walk away with that value by default.

Also of concern is mixing these complications into the whole middleman structure of the industry – reps, wholesalers and contractors will eventually get smart about data access too, so lighting specifiers will have to be doubly vigilant about protecting their clients during the bidding process.  This is a rare opportunity for lighting designers to lead this transition and control the process.

Of course, the industry is so commodity driven that I think this is all a brief trend anyway – data access rights will be quickly commoditized like any other feature.