Trends: Lighting Takes Center Stage

lighting systems

By Anne Cosgrove
From the March/April 2016 Issue

Lighting is an indispensable system in facilities, in the broadest sense providing safety and comfort for all users of a building and site. Advances in design and technology have transformed lighting systems over the past several decades from these primarily utilitarian functions to also playing a significant role in aesthetics, energy efficiency, and ergonomics. Today, the facilities industry is navigating the next wave of development—one in which lighting is a tool for productivity. The potential for these systems to deliver insights on customer service, space utilization, and long-term planning is playing out in buildings where lighting features heightened connectivity and capabilities.

While not ubiquitous, the rise in adoption of LED lighting in and around buildings is a basis for widened capabilities. Because LED lighting is inherently digital, widespread transition to this light source is seen as a key enabler for not only “smart lighting systems” but also in establishing a framework for Internet of Things (IoT) technology. With digital LED, light points can be connected to each other, to IT networks in buildings, and to comprehensive monitoring and management systems.

According to research released by Gartner, Inc. in 2015, IoT architectures are rapidly driving smart lighting technology. The research firm predicted that the smart lighting installed base is projected to grow from 46 million units in 2015 to 2.54 billion units in 2020. In 2014, 300 million to 500 million square feet of commercial space worldwide could be considered to have intelligent, or smart lighting.

Gartner defines smart lighting as a lighting system that is connected to a network and can be both monitored and controlled from a centralized system or via the cloud.

“Smart solid-state lighting in office buildings and industrial installations has the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent; however, achieving these costs takes more than just installing light-emitting diode (LED) lighting,” said Dean Freeman, research vice president at Gartner. “To successfully achieve the lowest electricity cost, in addition to achieving safety and security and enhancing the office environment, lighting product managers at technology and service providers will need to implement five key strategic phases of smart lighting: LED lighting, sensors and controls, connectivity, analytics, and intelligence.”

Implementing these five phases will ensure the highest level of success in reducing lighting costs and accelerating the adoption of smart lighting solutions. With these solutions, smart lighting providers will be able to leverage the impact of sensor data and analytics on the IoT.

Tapping The Systems

“Lighting is unique today in that there are more spaces throughout a building that require lighting—more than other systems, and it represents more points of control than other systems,” says Charles Knuffke, systems vice president/evangelist with WattStopper, a Legrand North America brand. “It is also at the center of building controls since it is a key element of all the energy codes. In order to meet various energy goals, there are usually a number of occupancy sensors throughout a building. Rather than creating three different systems for three different functions (lighting, HVAC, and plug load), a facility executive can utilize the occupancy sensors from their lighting system to communicate to all three functions, thereby creating an integrated solution.”

Derek Proudian, chairman and chief executive officer of Daintree Networks, Inc., which provides networked wireless solutions for lighting and building control, says, “Since the digitization of lighting, we can now add more devices to the control solution through the LED fixtures. With lighting as the most ubiquitous network in a building and the rise of embedded wireless technology in fixtures and other devices, facility managers can control operation and energy related applications. For example, by using the lighting as part of a mesh network, facilities managers can achieve operational efficiencies that help reduce business risk through fault detection and proactive maintenance for signage, refrigeration, etc.”

As sensor technology becomes more sophisticated, lighting is one area where these types of devices are being installed to create smart lighting networks. An example is sensors attached to individual light fixtures that collect information on occupancy and energy use as well as ambient light and temperature. Delivered to building operators, this data provides insights on building patterns.

Tanuj Mohan, CTO and founder of Enlighted, a company that has developed this type of sensor, says, “As the IoT continues to advance—particularly in the commercial real estate marketplace, lighting is becoming the mechanism by which buildings can acquire a ‘brain.’ The capabilities of advanced networked lighting systems are now extending beyond lighting to include other systems—such as HVAC, space utilization, and asset tracking.”

When considering smart lighting implementation and the capabilities this may eventually provide, are there certain facilities or organizational profiles best suited to IoT architecture?

Knuffke says, “Any building can benefit from the strategic use of lighting and IoT controls. The organizations that initially will glean the most benefit seem to be those that have a true need for the functionality of both. For example, larger buildings like schools, hospitals, and government agencies see a lot of movement amongst their occupants throughout the day and can gain efficiencies by infusing smart lighting and IoT aspects. Also, larger spaces, especially those that put a premium on worker performance will be the ones that can most benefit by sharing information between systems.”

Greg Merritt, vice president, marketing and public affairs with Cree, Inc., a manufacturer of LED lighting products, says, “Any building or organization can benefit from LED lighting and IoT technology, especially since lighting typically accounts for more than a quarter of a commercial building’s electricity use, or about 10 percent of the building’s operating costs. A properly designed LED lighting platform enables higher productivity, a heightened sense of well-being, and greater safety, security and comfort. Uses could include optimized color temperatures to support circadian protocols and alertness as well as integration with building management to manage space conditioning, location services.”

Putting Into Practice

In pursuing the benefits of connected lighting, facility managers are keen to the fact that they and their staff will need to operate and monitor the systems once installed. Further, since occupants become more active participants in some aspects, a user-friendly interface on that front is also important. The level of ease depends on the systems chosen and how they interact with related systems, so it’s important to ask questions about the user-facing tools.

lighting systems
In 2014, 300 to 500 million square feet of commercial space worldwide could be considered to operate with smart lighting, according to research firm Gartner. (Photo: YES LED Lighting)

Knuffke notes that as with many aspects of facility management, there may be hurdles for end-users. “There are a number of users interacting with the technology with very different wants and needs,” he says. “From a facility manager perspective, they want the system to be energy efficient, consistent, and monitor the use/efficiency. An occupant on the other hand simply wants the lighting to work without becoming a deterrent to their job function.”

Meanwhile, Merritt, says, “Personalized user experience will be at the forefront of smart technologies. Looking ahead, smart technology should seamlessly integrate and blend into the background of a building’s environment while improving the user’s experience. If the user has to be smart to use a smart IoT device, then the device is dumb. The goal of the IoT market should be 100% interoperability, where users literally have to do nothing to achieve a series of intelligent experiences that bring tangible and intangible value greater than not having the technology available.”

Proudian notes, “Our console provides a single, unified interface into buildings, allowing facility professionals to quickly gain real-world insight into building operations, and make data-driven decisions while keeping work environments productive and comfortable.”

He continues, “Facility managers have access to the user interface through the device of their choice, such as a phone, tablet, or computer. In addition, control options exist for occupants so they can manage their own lighting and thermostats.”

Right Fit For Smart Lighting?

When embarking on a smart lighting system, there are many factors to consider. Consulting with experienced resources who understand the organization and its facilities is crucial. And at some point in the process, involving other stakeholders such as the IT department, HR department, and the occupants themselves will prove valuable.

Knuffke observes, “When implementing smart lighting and IoT capabilities, it’s important for facility executives to understand their short-term and long-term goals before installing anything. The key is to avoid solutions that are going to be obsolete two years from now, or implement a network that isn’t able to scale to the size needed several years down the road.”

Mohan states, “When considering IoT technologies, facility executives should ensure they are selecting a product or system that will not only work for their building now, but in the future as well. IoT platforms like Enlighted are changing the building landscape rapidly. Compared to traditional building systems, the need for technology upgrades is significantly reduced, while new features can be installed with ease.”

While future-proofing and scalability are the broad considerations, Merritt notes, “The key factor when considering intelligent lighting is that not all light is created equal. The key to successful IoT and smart technology for the future will depend on its ability to enable a better user experience that is simple and easily integrated.”

Proudian comments, “Facility executives should consider an open standards-driven architecture, which provides a simple technology for not only controlling lighting, but thermostats, plug loads, fans, and other energy related functions. By using open standards such as ZigBee, it allows interoperability with devices from other vendors, which means competitive pricing, and the flexibility to customize the network to match specific energy control needs, which helps to speed the return on investment. By using open standards, it allows broader and more granular control, reduces costs, simplifies commissioning, and extends the benefits of control to retrofits and other new markets.

In the Gartner research, it was highlighted that smart lighting installations require some form of sensor controls, which drive some automation. Connecting the controls and the lighting via a network enables lighting to be operated through a centralized dashboard, which begins to provide the ability to analyze lighting patterns and improve related costs. Gartner observed that most installations were stopped at this stage. And, if a facility stops installation there, the value of implementing analytics is not realized.

According to Gartner, if the facility operator proceeds to implement a dashboard in the cloud, they can potentially operate multiple lighting operations from a central point, gaining the ability to compare energy use over time and between buildings. If analytics are added to the system, lighting usage compared with occupancy can be demonstrated. Consequently, facility executives could identify procedures to reduce costs based on building use, while enhancing security and ambience.

As stated by Gartner, in many cases a smart lighting implementation will end at that phase, whereby either a human or a computer will look at the data from the sensors and controls. The ultimate in smart lighting, the firm notes, would be a result of the analytic system looking at the data and creating predictive models to enable the lighting system to “learn.”

As Knuffke notes, facility executives need to know where the line is between too complex and too simplistic. “You don’t want analysis paralysis, but you also want a system that can provide you with enough data that makes the system useful,” he says.

lighting systems

Cosgrove is editor-in-chief of Facility Executive magazine.

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