Smart Lighting Gets Smarter

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The use of the LED lamp is still in its infancy and yet most research indicates that designing with just LED lamps that are more efficient than CFLs and incandescence is not going to be enough to grow your business. The LED lamps represent only a small percentage of the lighting system. The bigger portions of lighting systems are the electronics and the luminaires (fixture and lamp) that some say comprise as much as 70 percent of the design. So, that means that opportunities exist for better energy efficiency provided by the LED bulbs, but even more for the design of more functions (or smarts) built into the PCB, such as communications capability and sensors.

Who Needs Smart Lighting?

The smart-lighting concept is bringing together illumination, communications and sensing technologies. Certainly, the commercial and industrial segments of industry can use more efficiency because it can save money. The consumer segment won’t be swayed as easily by energy savings, but may have their interest piqued by aesthetics or more capabilities.

The industry will, however, need to have standards that use what’s already in place and target them for the smart-lighting world that integrates the illumination, communications and sensing requirements. For example, the design engineer can pick and choose from any of several sensors, controllers, ballasts and drivers to create a specialized design. This may not be best for companies that have already staked a claim, but it will happen eventually as customers put pressure on manufacturers.

The driving forces in smart lighting are the manufacturers for LEDs, building automation, ICs, and at a beginning stage, the automotive industry.

Some of the companies for LED lighting include Cree, GE Lighting, Osram Opto Semiconductor and Philips Lighting. For building automation, you are likely to see products from Johnson Controls and Honeywell. For IC manufacturers of LED drivers and controllers, it may involve any of a plethora of companies but could include TI, Analog Devices, Freescale (Arrow Simplicity Kit), Fairchild, and many others.

Be Smart, Communicate

Presently, there is significant growth in companies that provide smart lighting based on control and communications. Smart lighting will be expected to communicate and function intelligently at the level of the individual luminaire. Additionally, the ability to control and monitor each luminaire can’t be restricted by a need for wires. And lighting systems will be expected to function at a command rather than simply a control level. Instead of a control that turns a light brighter or dimmer, the new thinking would prompt a command that sets the average illumination to certain minimal brightness (lux) level unless there is an occupant, at which point it would then be set to a pre-defined high-brightness level.

The main questions that still need to be answered about smart lighting have to do with cost savings and also whether the customer gets something that they didn’t have before or with another technology. The progress in the last couple years indicates that more functionality is provided in each new version of smart lighting. In some large part, that will have something to do with the integration of sensors in lighting systems.

Wireless and LEDs

LED lighting enables dimming of lights as well as the possibility of sensor integration and sophisticated network control. That means it’s possible to deploy outdoor lighting that adapts to changes in the sensed environment; delivers recommended light levels in response to real-world activities in the vicinity; and dims to conserve energy when full light levels are not necessary. These advanced control systems incorporate RF communications and metering capabilities into the traditional photocell, enabling individual luminaires to act as part of a larger, programmable network. This type of system could include: an RF network, dimmable LED luminaires connected in groups, motion-detector sensors, alarms, a GUI, and even video. Echelon is a company that develops open-standard control-networking platforms, and delivers all the elements necessary to design, install, monitor and control communities of devices within the lighting, building automation, IoT and related markets. The company’s Lumewave brand targets building automation and other industrial IoT-related products as part of its IzoT™ platform. 
Soraa, a provider of GaN-on-GaN LED technology, offers an option of wireless control with its PAR30L (long-neck) LED lamp. It provides users a variety of customizable remote functions including dimming, control of lamps in user-defined groups and user-designed preset lighting scenes. Soraa will offer its wireless PAR30L lamps in combination with a mobile application that runs on both iOS and Android platforms, and the lamps can form a mesh network and connect in almost unlimited numbers to a smartphone. The PAR30L wireless lamps are expected to be available in the third quarter of 2015, and will be offered in correlated color temperatures of 2700 K and 3000 K with a color-rendering index of 95.

What about the IoT?

Cities, airports and other facilities are using their LED platforms and combining them with newly developed equipment, such as one from Sensity’s Light Sensory Network (LSN) technology that turns their LED platforms into data- and video-Internet of Things (IoT) networks. In an LSN, each LED luminaire becomes a sensor-equipped, solid-state smart device, with a unique IP address and serves as a node in a broadband network. This smart device is also ready-built to power additional smart devices, like video cameras or Wi-Fi access points, enabling IoT services throughout the outdoor environment. These services enable many smart applications such as parking, surveillance and security, as well as city services (for example, road conditions). Recently, Sensity partnered with Cisco to convert city lighting infrastructure into a sensing platform for smart parking, lighting, retail analytics and public safety.

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