Connected Lighting Systems – Now, Soon or Much Later?

Is it too soon for Connected Lighting?

Is it too soon for Connected Lighting?

 

It seems like all the big lighting brands out there have moved their focus to Connected Lighting and IoT—it’s all they’ve wanted to talk about in the last few years. But is this because the future of lighting is in Connected Lighting or is it due to competition in the marketplace becoming fiercer and the high margins they once enjoyed can no longer be sustained, as customers are realizing how smaller players provide more value? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make sense to only market advanced lighting controls, especially when the global LED market still has lots of room for adoption and is projected to reach $96.71 billion by 2024 (that’s a compound annual growth rate of 15.9% from 2018-2024)!

In this blog, we’re going to explore whether Connected Lighting is something we should consider now—or much later. 

 

What is a Connected Lighting System? 

A Connected Lighting System (CLS) is a small slice of the Internet of Things (IoT) pie; it is a lighting infrastructure that does more than just illuminate spaces: it connects fixtures, controls, and sensors to a network and can be controlled using a dashboard accessible on a computer or mobile device. Today, there are two types of CLS: Network Controlled lighting that usually involves retrofitting existing fixtures sensors to enable data collection or a Power over Ethernet (PoE) system that requires replacing all existing fixtures with new ones that are PoE enabled.  

 

Connected Lighting Infographic

 

While a CLS provides automation of lighting for greater energy savings, its real power is the ability to capture data. As a CLS controls the lighting in a building, it also tracks outages and spikes, monitors usage levels, and collects other data that feeds into the IoT network. While this all seems cutting-edge, one real question (similarly posed by Michael Colligan on his Get A Grip On Lighting Podcast) is this: who is the real customer of the data? And will this data benefit your end-user, or someone else? 

 

Are There Risks to Using Connected Lighting Systems? 

The US Department of Energy says Connected Lighting is still in its early stage of development, and the “connected” aspect of it opens up a whole slew of concerns regarding risk, such as: 

  • System Stability: Since the system is run entirely on software and the Internet, there is a risk that it may break after updates, networks may go down or connections between devices can experience interference. Wouldn’t it be risky to have something as important as lighting in a facility be susceptible to these risks? 
  • Security: Being a part of a network puts the lighting system (and any other information techology systems connected to it) at risk of cyber attacks. Is the technology mature enough to have all security measures in place? 
  • Privacy: The flipside of security is privacy. While the protection of privacy from outside parties is a concern, we need to also be aware of the data that is being given up to the service providers of these lighting systems.  

 

Alternatives to Connected Lighting That Make Sense Today 

For years, people have been utilizing simple controls such as dimmers and sensors to deliver substantial energy savings, and these types of controls still make sense. Here’s a rundown on some alternatives to Connected Lighting that will give your customers what they’re really looking for today: energy savings. 

Dimmer Switches 

The most basic of all controls are dimmer switches. These switches allow your customer to slide the switch to their desired level of lighting to match the time of day or task at hand, helping to maximize energy savings. 

Timers 

Timers are an effective method to use if you want to turn lights on and off at specific times. Most commonly used are in-wall programmable timers which can automate indoor or outdoor lighting. 

Sensors for Outdoor Lighting 

Using motion sensors on outdoor fixtures (such as security lighting) allows optimized usage of lighting so that they are only turning on when motion is detected. Similarly, photocell sensors can be used so that lights are only activated when a certain level of daylight is detected. 

Sensors for Indoor Lighting 

Occupancy sensors help to maximize energy savings by turning on lights whenever a space is occupied and dimming light or completely turning them off when there is no activity or adequate daylight exists.   

 

4 Ways to Control Lighting For Efficiency

 

With so many alternatives to Controlled Lighting readily available, where is the real value in investing heavily into a CLS today? Without a doubt, some large buildings may find the heightened automation and data worthwhile (and we actually work with Controlled Lighting providers such as Audacy and Nedap on these types of projects). But we’ve found that using simple sensors and designing a space strategically for a customer is just as effective in providing energy savings. 

Do you think investing in a CLS is a cost-effective, measurable technology that has payback now? Or is it a technology that sounds sexy, but just not practical yet? Let us know!