Using the Internet of Things for Better Lighting Now and Later

As we mentioned in our most recent blog post, the Internet of Things (IoT) is more than a buzzword or concept, but is beginning to affect how we use and even repair items from refrigerators to motor vehicles. The term refers to the increasing number of items that are connected to the internet, allowing them to send and receive information (and control inputs) to and from distant users.

Some of the trends we discussed for LED controls included:

  • LED control systems are increasingly easier to use and more capable, but are declining in price.
  • IoT apps allowing users to adjust lighting from their smartphone or tablet are empowering companies to reduce costs through greater efficiency.
  • AI systems will make this process even more effective, as they identify patterns even the most attentive human will miss.
  • Companies like Roche Pharma are using built-in sensors and computer analysis to discover more detail on how their spaces are used, reducing costs on everything from electricity to cleaning.

So, what’s the best way to approach this new environment?

Plan to Take Advantage

According to Navigant Research, annual sales for occupancy sensors, photo sensors and lighting network gear related to LED lighting applications accounted for $1.1 billion in 2013 and will likely reach $2.7 billion by 2020. This trend is likely to accelerate as technology improves, and so is the trend toward lower costs for controls and sensors. In a decade, a business with “dumb” lighting controls might be as rare as an office building without wi-fi, so plan on integrating IoT tech into your systems as you change and upgrade them.

Expect to Integrate Lighting Into a Single Control System

In a project called OpenAIS, Phillips Lighting worked with other companies in Europe to examine current lighting use and what likely scenarios for business users would be in the future. One common approach, they said, would be to combine all the Building Management Systems (BMS) functions into a single “ecosystem,” including lighting. “[I]n the future,” they concluded, systems in a building will be expected to share sensors and seamlessly interoperate to the benefit of the building and their stakeholders.”

One benefit? When building a new structure or making major changes to one, a single power and control system will be used, reducing construction costs. An integrated system can also provide greater comfort to the building’s users (circadian lighting cycles, for example, could help workers feel more alert) and make it easier to earn certifications such as LEED certification.

You May Use LED’s Instead of WI-Fi

Want to go a step more futuristic? Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich confirmed in 2016 that LED’s could themselves be the connecting points in the IoT. LED fixtures using modulated light signals can communicate with every item in a room, then forward those signals along a cabled network for processing. This reduces crowding on the radio spectrum and is also more secure, since an eavesdropper has to be in line of sight to detect the signals.

Be Ready to Adapt

One benefit of the IoT is that information gathering and analysis will be easier than ever, and (to a certain extent) will be automated. As you learn more about how your system works, you’ll have opportunities to find patterns and create better lighting as you go.

Don’t Wait to Begin

We’ve talked a lot about the future, but there’s already a large number of sophisticated LED controls on the market. You can begin realizing the benefits almost immediately. Check in with your lighting provider and see what upgrades you can make to save money and create a better working environment today!