Lighting Control Matures, Capitalizes on IoT Interest

One look at the commercial market makes it clear that lighting control and Internet of Things (IoT) are inherently intertwined, if not completely dependent on one another.


The electronics industry has always been forward thinking when it comes to control and automation and their potential applications. Recently, goals of convenience and efficiency in commercial buildings have been made even greater through the ongoing development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the general maturing of control and automation products.

Interest in IoT continues to grow — according to research firm Argus Insights, there were more than 2.3 million social media mentions of the platform in Q1 this year, underscoring the public’s awareness of its potential.

In addition, the integration market has welcomed an increasing amount of systems developed for increased energy efficiency, and proliferation of LED bulbs.

Together these solutions are providing integration firms with the ability to provide their clients scalable, easy-to-use, energy-efficient products and systems that help meet their money- and energy-saving requests.

Is There Substance Behind the Hype?

For many it is easy to characterize IoT as the electronics industry’s latest fad fueled by start-ups and crowd funding campaigns, but that would be misguided.

Sure, IoT development has an element of those groups driving interest, but their participation in IoT-based business opportunities is no different than any other category, including audio, video and networking.

Generally speaking, the public has questions about the security and long-term viability of IoT products, but experts in the field are emphatic about the market’s rapid maturation.

“A common misconception is that IoT enables smart lighting, but it’s the converse. Smart lighting enables IoT.”

— Gary Trott, Cree

“Staying ahead of new IoT entrants and ensuring wide connectivity are difficult in this expanding market,” says Yann Kulp, vice president, SmartSpace, Schneider Electric North America, in a press statement on IoT issued by research company Parks Associates.

“The proliferation of technologies, protocols and startups is huge. And many of them will have a huge impact on energy. But technology and cost are no longer the roadblock; it’s now about value props and providing a great experience to the consumer.”

One of the biggest, highest profile supporters of the IoT in the commercial market is Cisco. Promoting its Digital Ceiling Framework, the company says that businesses and property owners can combine lighting, HVAC and physical security all on a single network to reduce their energy consumption by as much as 30 percent.

Moreover, according to Cisco, 45 percent of business and property owners receive up to 45 percent higher operating incomes and building asset values and as much as 16 percent increase in worker productivity through improved lighting conditions.

Aiding the adoption of IoT, the large networking manufacturer is working with companies such as Philips, Cree, Eaton, The Siemon Company and Johnson Controls to put together compatible solutions that businesses can easily employ.

“Cisco is excited to work with Cree and the partner community to continue making the Digital Ceiling framework a reality,” notes Tony Shakib, vice president, IoT verticals business unit, Cisco. “Cree’s expertise is important as we make this shift in the industry to help customers in the enterprise begin to harness the benefits of network powered lighting solutions.”

Using Power over Ethernet (PoE) technologies and LED lighting as the foundation for its SmartCast product line, Cree and Cisco state IoT can, “deliver energy savings up to 70 percent greater than LED lighting alone, while making new services and experiences possible.”

Lighting control can be a gateway into a powerful world of energy conservation.

Citing a recent case study, the companies point out Mobile (Ala.) County deployed the platform in the district’s school system administrative offices with future plans to outfit the school system’s classrooms.

Cree and Cisco make the case that the savings the lighting system will provide the county will ease the financial burden in Alabama to help fund future educational initiatives.

An open API based on a protocol called Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) fuels the SmartCast line’s functionality. Cree’s Gary Trott, vice president, marketing, intelligent lighting, says CoAP will allow integrators to install these systems easily, and that the SmartCast API “makes it possible for third parties to turn lights on and off, dim them [the lights], and change the color temperature.”

Study: ‘Smart Lighting’ Gains Rapid Consumer Awareness

He says the API also allows data to be cultivated from the network to learn about rooms’ occupancy statuses and their lighting control settings to predict future savings.

Trott says lighting control can serve dealers and their clients as a gateway solution into a powerful world of energy conservation that provides convenience on many levels.

“A common misconception is that IoT enables smart lighting, but it’s the converse. Smart lighting enables IoT,” he says. “Cree recognizes that building owners, engineers and architects don’t want to stop at lighting. Commercial buildings have a multiplicity of complex systems, such as HVAC, plumbing, smoke and fire, security and safety that must respond to dynamic conditions, and all are candidates for greater efficiency, control and interaction to create cost savings and better experiences for the end user. Cree SmartCast PoE provides the technology to make the lights smart and the platform to deploy the intelligence across commercial buildings.”

Flexibility a Key Component

Integrator friendliness of lighting control products has been a past hurdle for manufacturers to overcome in the commercial electronics industry.

Toward that end, market leader Lutron Electronics recently added to its portfolio a product line that enables the commercial market to take advantage of the major retrofit opportunity in existing commercial buildings. Lutron points out that over half of all commercial buildings were built before 1980, and that many of these properties could benefit from the addition of today’s lighting control systems.

Companies such as Lutron, Cree and Osram Sylvania have spurred opportunities in commercial retrofit projects and brought LED lighting into the spotlight.

In introducing its Vive line, Lutron — which also offers motorized shade products — says its latest commercial solution installs 70 percent faster than wired systems.

Vive utilizes Lutron’s Clear Connect wireless technology that it says allows dealers to install the product quickly and adopt the system to clients’ evolving needs.

“To a building owner or facility manager, Vive represents a scalable, flexible lighting control solution that easily transforms a building one step at a time or as space needs change, and [it] helps address energy-saving issues. To contractors, Vive represents a reliable, simple, time-saving product that’s versatile enough to control all light sources in any size commercial building,” says Eric Lind, vice president of global specifications, Lutron. “This product addresses the needs of customers on many levels.”

Lind says such solutions help facility managers and building owners efficiently improve the comfort of their buildings. He emphasizes that lighting and HVAC consume a lot of resources in commercial buildings, and by integrating advanced control capabilities dealers can enhance “a customer’s opportunity to generate and collect data, and to make that data available in such a way that it adds value and improves the total building environment. Integrated lighting, shade and HVAC controls make it easier to manage electricity use, reduce costs, and improve the user experience.”

Fitting into the IoT landscape, Lind adds that Vive integrates into building management systems via BACnet and other protocols, and as IoT continues to grow the system will complement other usage capabilities such as lights to weather data, plus shade control benefits when clients are ready to embrace these technologies.

Illuminating Possibilities for LEDs

Arguably the highest profile category in the energy conservation product genre, LED lights quickly overtook CFLs as the go-to bulb product in the home and now in the office. Philips Lighting, a Royal Philips company, and a top manufacturer of LED lighting products announced earlier this year during the Light + Building 2016 event in Frankfurt, Germany, several new lines that address commercial applications.

“We continually seek to improve the lives of our customers. Through our connected lighting systems we strive to provide the best lighting experiences and drive greater energy and cost efficiencies,” says Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting. “And by extending lighting into the Internet of Things we are unlocking even more value for our customers and partners through capabilities and services that go beyond illumination.”

Moving into several vertical markets with its LED and IoT lighting products Philips is actively targeting categories such as “smart cities,” “smart offices” and “smart offices.” Philips says its “smart cities” goals include a partnership with Vodafone that to date numbers more than 500 installations in more than 30 countries.

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Philips says the energy savings from operational costs are helping communities to build digital backbones for smart cities, and its DigiStreet LED street light is a product that is future proof through the inclusion of slots for the placement of sensors and wireless connectivity.

In the retail category, Philips is working with Cisco to improve the comfort, sustainability and productivity of end users. Philips also recently underscored its commitment to retail via a partnership with Aisle411, a provider of digital store mapping, product search and shopper analytics.

Through this partnership Philips will deliver a connected indoor lighting positioning system for a U.A.E.-based company in the Middle East. Philips is working to integrate lighting into IoT-based systems for offices via its PoE-connected lighting products and Cisco’s secure IT infrastructure.

Other applications for IoT and smart lighting include the education market. Earlier this year, PennSMART launched its Smart IoT lighting products, which can be used in locations such as school campuses to provide convenience and safety to pedestrians.

By combining elements like lighting, HVAC, physical security and more on a single network, businesses can reduce energy consumption by as much as 30 percent, according to Cisco.

The North Branford, Conn.-based manufacturer says that when its smart lighting products are combined with security cameras, schools and other entities can have discreet surveillance under trees with 360-degree motion cameras to deliver programmable lighting activation with real-time (within three seconds) police notification capabilities.

PennSMART says other options integrators can offer with its IoT products include gunshot and glass break sensors with notifications; facial mapping and data collection such as license-plate readers; and digital signage with amber alerts, evacuation notices and community events.

Beyond IoT integration, Trott points out that LED lighting products produce a superior quality and higher color-rendering index (CRI) when compared to traditional lighting sources. He says LED lighting can generate 50 percent to 70 percent energy savings, and even as high as 80 percent when tied to automation systems.

“With Cree SmartCast Technology LED luminaires and lighting controls, buildings can reduce lighting energy costs up to 70 percent while saving money, improving aesthetics, lowering total cost of ownership [TCO], and making an enterprise more controllable and productive,” Trott says. “Connected luminaires featuring daylight and motion sensing are only the beginning. This technology offers the capability to connect to other systems such as HVAC to monitor and adjust per building and occupant needs.”

Pamela Price, retail marketing manager, Osram Sylvania, adds that dealers can maximize clients’ energy savings by installing LED products into their lighting control system installations. Not only that, but the lifespan of LEDs are typically 25 times longer than traditional lighting products, she says. 

“Since LEDs are electronic devices, they are perfect for offering user-friendly controllability. Osram Sylvania delivers dimmable LED products that work with leading companies like Lutron for increased energy savings and setting the right mood,” Price says. “For example, Osram Sylvania offers Sylvania Premium dimmable LED light bulbs that are versatile, energy-saving, and long lasting. When these bulbs dim, the color of the light gets warmer as it dims down, from a bright 3,000K task light white, to a warm romantic candlelight glow of 2,000K.”

About the Author

Robert Archer
Robert Archer:

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob has also served as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In his personal time beyond his family, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons and Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Binda Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.