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Integrating the internet of things and lighting design

Whether it’s through wayfinding or asset and data management, the internet of things (IoT) offers a unique opportunity through lighting design to expand building owners’ and managers’ resources, creating a more connected experience for their patrons.

The Eaton’s Lighting Division team spoke with Tec Studio’s Ardra Zinkon, CLD, IALD, on how lighting can be used to integrate IoT connectivity into many applications.

AZ: In the majority of building types and applications, lighting is a constant, and that’s why lighting is becoming a hub for IoT integrations. As lighting designers, we need to understand the role lighting plays in a larger network outside of what we do. It’s critical that lighting designers take an active role to maintain a standard of high quality. In every single project type, there’s an opportunity to incorporate IoT. The question is, what does the building owner want to do with this level of connectivity? 

How can IoT enhance residential lighting?

AZ: My home is a great personal example of residential lighting integrating with IoT. We’ve connected our house and have four different IoT ports. Our whole family, including our 2-year-old and teenager, have the opportunity to use voice activation to control our lights and other devices. Not only does it make lighting more accessible, but it simply makes my life a little more streamlined.

When I’m carrying multiple items and having to help navigate a 2-year-old, not having to physically touch something but rather using my voice to turn things on is incredibly helpful. Also, trying to get my teenager awake in the mornings can be a feat, and it’s helpful to have preset settings where the lights turn on at a certain time, countering the “five more minutes” debate. 

How can lighting change health care?

AZ: In health care, connected circadian lighting in patient rooms or nurses’ corridors can enhance the user experience of a space, but you can also use lighting for resource tracking or patient monitoring.

For example, if a patient needs to walk three laps around the unit or sleep a certain number of hours, lighting can play a role. Lighting is being used as an antenna in mesh networks to connect to other devices in the building, track assets and data points, and create a better experience for those using the building and for providers to provide better health care.

What effect is IoT having on transportation?

AZ: Even in transportation stations, integrating IoT with lighting design is creating better experiences for patrons. For example, in an airport or train station, wheelchairs can be tracked with lighting through data tracking. Not only does this help facilities managers offer exceptional support to patrons, but it also helps create a more seamless process for patrons who need assistance in a timely manner. 

How will hospitality evolve with integrated lighting design?

AZ: Integrating individual room controls into hotel rooms can save energy and track booking habits, allowing owners and managers to better understand how their facility is being used.

Guests can even use their smartphones as their key card and to control room lighting, adjust the temperature in their room or select their preferred digital artwork, creating opportunities for patrons to further connect themselves and design a tailored experience in their home away from home.  

Will IoT change the retail shopping experience?

AZ: In retail lighting design, there are opportunities and benefits for both owners and patrons of a store. For example, owners can track the typical path a patron takes through the store in the month of October and can then prioritize lighting, displays and staffing, providing better data for the owner and a better experience for patrons.

These are some of the movements and opportunities we’re seeing with IoT, and lighting is playing a major role in pushing crucial information one way or another to make it work.

Lighting manufacturers are quickly adapting this technology, but lighting designers haven’t fully adopted it. Due to multiple topologies, like power lines, Ethernet or wireless, and multiple “languages” of communication from system to system, an industry standard is still needed. As clearer paths for lighting and its place within IoT begin to solidify, we can expect a rapid move toward a smarter, connected future. 

You can hear more about lighting and IoT at the LIGHTFAIR session: “Lighting's Place in the IoT World: A Designer's Perspective” featuring panelists Ardra Zinkon, CLD, IALD (Tec Studio); Jered Widmer, IALD (The Lighting Practice) and Paula Ziegenbein, Associate IALD (Hartranft Lighting Design).