LEDs are Good. Smart Lights are Better

August 12, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

LED_savingsThe obvious benefit of smart lighting is that they optimize energy efficiency compared to isolated LEDs by remotely and automatically providing on/off, brightness and other basic functions.

The second level of benefit is a bit more subtle. Lighting is ubiquitous and offers the best bird’s eye view of what is happening in a facility. For instance, data gathered from a smart lighting system outfitted with the proper software can determine that a conference room is underutilized and that space  can be put to better use. An IoT sensor can track the flow of people through a building to work out more efficient layouts. Temperature sensors can determine that the heat or air conditioning is being turned on too early in the morning.

These benefits are well understood and, for that reason, smart lighting is growing. This week, Research and Markets said that it is offering a study from Accuray Research says that the global smart lighting marketing will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.9 percent during the next ten years. It will reach a value of approximately $21.6 billion by 2025, the report says.

Late last month, Network World posted a case study about the use of smart lighting by Atlas Global Solutions, a packaging company with manufacturing operations in Sutton, MA. The story describes the first level of benefit – the pure savings provided by the replacement of legacy lighting with LEDs – and then the capabilities of the sophisticated sensors.

The greater potential of these systems is explained in the story by Kaynam Hedayat, the vice president of marketing and product management at Digital Lumens, which provided the lighting infrastructure to Atlas:

The software has an open API, so customers can also extract data from the system and import it into building management systems or building automation systems, he said. For example, a customer could use occupancy data in an HVAC system to control temperature. The customer could set controls so that the space isn’t cooled as much during times when people aren’t in it.

There is a third level of benefit to smart lighting. It isn’t quite here yet but, when it arrives, It will be big. Lights are not only ubiquitous in a building. They also are everywhere outside and can be the infrastructure point that integrates smart homes, smart cities and smart workplaces. This makes sense on an intuitive level. The best indicator that it actually will happen is that the ecosystem already is in place. Many of the same companies produce LEDs for residential, municipal, commercial and industrial markets. The companies that will network these LEDs — such as Cisco and GE’s Current — also are ubiquitous.

This sounds esoteric, but energy and facility managers should be aware of the big picture–especially considering how long LED infrastructure lasts. The challenge of the next few years will be to create a standards-based fabric that extends from homes through city streets and into the workplace. This week, the TALQ Consortium, a group creating what it describes as a standardized interface for control of streetlight systems in a central management software platform, said that it expanding its mission to include non-lighting and IoT applications. The group has an established a “requirements workgroup” to manage the expended mandate.

Eva Jubitz, a communications consultant for TALQ, told Energy Manager Today that the first products will be certified this year and the timeline for smart city applications probably will be established after a workgroup meeting next month. TALQ members include Philips, Cisco, Current and others who have deep interests within buildings.

The fast ROI of LEDs is fairly well established. It is impossible to precisely gauge the return on investment at the second and third level. The uses are far too immature and the variables too great.

It is reasonable to assume, however, that they will be great in the second phase, which is to use LED deployments to enhance building performance. The advantages to an organization of fitting into the fabric of smart infrastructure outside the corporate gates may be more difficult to determine but, clearly, will be significant. For instance, if IoT data from building sensors is sent to firefighters en route to an emergency in the building, injuries, deaths and property damage can be minimized. Less dramatically, coordination of energy use on very hot days a commercial or industrial building and the community beyond could make outages less likely.

LEDs last a long time and save money every day. When considering recommendations to management, energy managers should keep the big picture in mind and focus on approaches that will seamlessly blend into the hyper-connected future. It is a future that is closer than it seems.

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