Lunera Shines a Light on the IoT

April 12, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

iotTwo ongoing parallel technology transitions are the switch to LED lighting and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT). The two are very much connected.

LEDs, of course, are much more efficient, last longer, are less expensive over the life of the product and produce better light. The IoT will automate how myriad small daily operations are carried out – as well as some big ones.

Increasingly, vendors, networkers and others are looking to roll the two out together. It makes perfect sense: The potential benefits of the IoT grow in proportions to the area it reaches. Lighting infrastructure, of course, is just about everywhere. Co-locating IoT devices with lighting, then, offers the same ubiquity. Indeed, it probably is not possible to have a better base platform for an expansive IoT project than lighting fixtures.

The latest company to make an announcement along these lines is Lunera Lighting, which on March 31 unveiled the SensAble Technology platform. Tom Quinn, the company’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says that the key element of the platform is that the a way has been found to build a sensor, a modem and a microprocessor into the bulb itself.

The company is claiming advances which, if they prove out once the product is released, are significant. For one thing, integrating the system into the bulb cuts installation costs. The system will work at three levels. The first – which happens automatically when the LED is installed – is to adjust heating according to ambient conditions. A key to this is the sensor’s ability to separate artificial from natural light.

The second level is ST Connect, which is being offered under a partnership with Stack Labs. It will enable the wireless networking of SensAble units in a structure to operate as a building management system. The sensors will collect data on room occupancy, energy use and other variables. It will be networked with similar data from other LEDs in the building and be used to monitor, control and regulate building energy use. “The system allows us to extract information from the environment and wirelessly send it to the cloud, process the data and send a response back that the system can use,” Quinn said. Data transmissions within buildings will use a wireless technology related to a short range networking specification called ZigBee.

The third level of the system will enable third parties to deploy apps in the platform much as they are deployed through marketplaces to smartphones.  Transmission to and from the cloud – at the building management or third-party app levels – will use LTE, Quinn said. “We are pushing all the technology out based on the fundamental value proposition of creating energy efficiencies,” Quinn said. “Once it is installed infrastructure, it has the ability to bring tremendous advantages via the IoT model. Once it’s out there other things – stuff that we don’t even of know of yet – will emerge.”

Lunera is not the only company that has seen the potential relationship between the IoT and LED change outs. Companies such as GE’s Current, Philips and Cisco are working along the same lines. In many cases, streetlights are the platform of choice. This is considered to be a key element of smart cities.

At some point, clearly, standards and protocols coordinating various IoT environments will be needed. The bottom line is that to reach its full functionality a building using SensAble from Lunera will have to fit into the bigger picture of smart cities. For instance, if an app is developed that can collects data on fires or other emergencies in a building must be able to connect in a fluid manner to systems used by first responders.

Two trends are gradually changing how businesses and consumers live: A new form of lighting is displacing the old and the IoT is revolutionizing much of the way things operate. Those hoping to take advantage of both trends should recognize their deep connection.

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