IoT takes lighting beyond illumination for the ‘connected office’

Written by

Darren Smith

Posted on

November 27, 2019

Posted in

Networked data is powering a revolution within commercial spaces, and connected lighting is playing an integral part in transforming how buildings are designed and renovated.

Connected lighting goes far beyond the “LED-ification” of ‘traditional lighting systems’ which alone can save over 80% on energy costs compared to conventional lighting. Woven into the Internet of Things (IoT), connected lighting can garner valuable information from an array of networked devices upon which the organisation can make more effective decisions to create a more productive smart office.

With connected lighting systems, the varied lighting devices can blend with both the electrical and IT infrastructures to collect, distribute and store large amounts of data.

This enables personalised workplaces where employees can for example set brighter light for tasks requiring concentration such as group work or individual preferences for a hot desk.  For Signify, as the world leader in lighting, this is just one example which underpins the company’s purpose to ‘unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world’.

Transforming environments

Connected lighting is in effect an ongoing conversation – two-way communication that enables the optimised real-time monitoring, management and maintenance of lighting systems. And much more, it transforms environments with personalised and targeted, dynamic light while also tracking system performance.

As a result of the IoT technology, the uniquely identified luminaires with their built-in sensors can be integrated seamlessly into a building’s infrastructure. Connected lighting opens up an array of possibilities, sharing information about status and operations, they become points of intelligence – gleaning vital information on activity patterns, occupancy of employees and customers using the building, as well as temperature and humidity changes and daylight levels.

This information can be used to reduce costs and energy to make organisations more sustainable. As a company, Signify is committed to helping its customers on this path and has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2020. Signify reduced its carbon footprint over the course of 2018 by 49%, used renewable electricity for 89% of all its electricity requirements and generated 79% of its revenues from energy-efficient products, systems and services. As a result, in 2019 the company was recognised as Industry Leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the third year in a row.

Daylight regulation

A smart lighting system is perfect for daylight regulation too. For example, a connected lighting system will check daylight levels and regulate the artificial lighting around this information.

By intelligently adapting LED lighting more closely to the availability and quality of natural light, businesses can maximize on energy savings while helping to create better working environments.

Also, connected lighting systems reduce operational costs through occupational monitoring. The highest energy savings come by turning off lighting when no one is using a particular space in a building and it is safe to do so.

And with the lighting system also part of the networked narrative of a building, a company will gather very useful information, for example on how many times a room is closed down – data that demonstrates how a building is performing.

A connected lighting system, meshed with a Business Management System and other facilities like HVAC can provide information about occupancy that can be utilised in a smart way to manage heating and ventilation, saving more energy and reducing operational costs.

Scene management and scheduling

Smart lighting enables effective scene management too where, for example, different combinations of light levels can be used to more closely match the way open areas and meeting room spaces are being used. It could be as straightforward as dimming the lights by 90% for 45 minutes when presentations are made or having brighter and fresher light for informal worktime gatherings.

Also, connected lighting allows for a holistic view of schedules that plan for and embed savings. For example, at 6am all the lights come on in an office but at 10% of full levels, rising in line with needs. Then at 8pm, lights dim to 50%, which gives a clear signal to any late-stayers that it’s time they went home.

That clear prompt is something that is welcomed by HR teams, who want to maximise the wellbeing and health of staff – and don’t want people exhausting themselves by habitually working late.

There are further operational cost savings, beyond just using far less energy. For example, emergency testing of lighting in line with regulations can be automatically carried out by the connected system itself, rather than by labour-intensive, time-consuming physical tests.

That sits alongside self-diagnostic testing which smartly identifies lighting components that are about to fail, providing predictive maintenance that saves time and money.

Improved productivity

This applies to both people and spaces. Staff work most effectively within an optimised environment, with flexible surroundings, that mirror their immediate or future needs.  Lighting cannot achieve this on its own, but more and more projects recognise lighting’s contribution to wellbeing and comfort, with the most appropriate lighting levels and colour temperatures for the tasks being done, ensuring that staff can be focused, relaxed or energised.

With connected lighting staff can also be given a degree of control, be that via a traditional wall switch, or a mobile App, allowing them to personally adjust their immediate workspace. In a modern-day office, this is increasing in terms of importance given the wide range of lighting needs, be that through a wider range of ages, or a wider range of activities. Connected lighting is able to accommodate these differing requirements.

In the modern green office, the focus is on four elements: air quality, thermal comfort, daylight/ artificial light, and acoustics. A connected lighting system would be able to support sensors and devices, monitoring and actively feeding data into Lighting Control Software, and ultimately into the BMS.

Increasingly, companies are seeking to make better use of the spaces they work in, with rents continually increasing, and the occasional need for temporary expansion ever more popular.  A connected lighting system would gather information to maximise occupancy and use of space, providing, in effect, detailed heat maps of buildings, essential information in the decision process for lease negotiations

Connected lighting is so much more than just quality and quantity of light. It helps to make buildings sentient and optimises their use.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

Also, connected lighting feeds into the way companies are perceived. Generations of people have now grown up with global warming as a part of the daily conversation and companies are being judged by potential employees on their corporate responsibility and ethics – Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

Green credentials are now more at the forefront of people’s minds and companies seeking to attract them as employees and customers need to demonstrate their strategies for cutting carbon, overall sustainability and what they are giving back to communities. Indeed, in the UK, the Government has announced its aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment by an ambitious 50% by 2025. Simply switching to more efficient lighting makes a significant impact on such targets.

However, when efficient LED lighting is integrated with connected lighting control systems, which can monitor and (for example) regulate or switch off lights in areas not being used, offices and commercial buildings can reduce their energy consumption by up to 80%. Ultimately, this contributes to less electricity required across the board, and a reduction in emissions.

Market size

The size of the connected lighting market is inextricably bound up with the broader development of the Internet of Things market, which is the fastest growing sector, with astonishing expansion of the applications area, together with the rapid growth of analytics. The latter alone has grown over the past four years from $3 billion to $20 billion.

By 2020 25% of all luminaires sold will be part of a connected lighting system.  And 70% of new commercial buildings will implement smart lighting.

Connected lighting is an essential part of the inevitable move to Smart Buildings as the Internet of Things fuels the next revolution in global economies. Any building that fails to “join up the dots” and connect the whole range of utilities and services in a way that can be intelligently managed will not be able to function commercially.

Smart buildings have been embraced by large corporations across the globe and the next phase should be the adoption of this revolution by SMEs. The speed of progress here will depend on the adoption of wireless communications –– that will enable current tabling infrastructure to be smartly connected, gathering and analysing data locally or in the cloud.

With connected lighting, every luminaire is meshed into an intelligent system, delivering precise, high-quality and reliable light along with essential information and services, gathering knowledge that enables smarter, more productive and highly efficient working environments. The connected office is here and open for smarter working and smarter business!

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