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The value of lighting systems equipped with the Internet of Things

Imagine a world where many of the typical devices in a space have evolved to be able to gather data, share data, and connect to and communicate with people and other devices in real time, turning the everyday physical world into one massive information system. Internet connectivity is no longer limited to computers or smartphones but has expanded to include objects like refrigerators, cars, coffee pots and even lighting. This phenomenon of widespread intelligence and connectivity is known as the Internet of Things (IoT) and, while still in its infancy, it is growing rapidly. Current projections estimate that there will be approximately 70 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2025. 

IoT-equipped lighting systems offer financial advantages

While new adopters are clamoring for connectivity, many are waiting to see how IoT-equipped buildings will create real economic value for owners and occupants. A recent survey, conducted by the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), identified the most attractive advantages of incorporating IoT into a building as the abilities to:

  • Improve financial planning
  • Further reduce energy consumption.

IoT supports financial planning by providing building data that can be used to create more accurate financial projections and cost analyses. The data generated through IoT can also provide a better snapshot of how the building is performing and identify opportunities to optimize it, saving energy.

In terms of the best ways to equip a building for IoT, the lighting system is emerging as a solution that is uniquely suited for creating a building-wide IoT infrastructure. Lighting fixtures and lighting control devices are:

  • Placed with a grid-like uniformity throughout interior and exterior spaces
  • Continuously powered
  • Sufficiently dense to provide quality connected coverage for data collection and communication.

An IoT-equipped lighting fixture provides light, but it offers additional value:

  • Ability to communicate important data about the performance of the lighting system
  • Ability to collect data-rich detail about the use of the interior space.

 System performance data could support maintenance and financial planning objectives by providing notices when devices are working outside of normal parameters, notification of device failures, and system energy consumption. Sensors in the IoT-capable lighting fixtures could also monitor space use and air temperature, track the location of equipment of interest, and offer points of connectivity for occupants in the space.

IoT-equipped lighting systems improve efficiency and productivity

While the financial advantages of accessing performance information about the lighting system and improving system efficiency are readily accepted in the industry, the potential for this technology to add even greater value through monitoring various aspects of the interior is still being understood.

Advocates suggest that an IoT-equipped building will enable owners and facilities teams to make better use of building resources, such as space and equipment, and improve the productivity of employees. The improved level of control and customization that is possible with an IoT-equipped lighting system may also enhance the comfort and well-being of office employees. Hospitality and retail spaces can also customize an experience and track the response in real time.

Here are examples of how an IoT-equipped lighting system could create additional value in a building.

Examine space utilization

Identify interior and exterior space that is being overused or underutilized. The IoT-equipped lighting system could collect data on occupancy patterns and present it in a simple floorplan graphic summarizing space usage. This snapshot of space use makes it easy to spot opportunities for improvement and better manage the workload of every square foot.

Improve equipment management

Many professionals waste valuable time looking for equipment. IoT-equipped lighting systems could offer asset tracking. Sensors in the lights recognize data tags attached to an object and relay its whereabouts through a software application. Equipment will never be hard to find again, regardless of where it may be hiding.

Increase productivity

Eliminate the guesswork and wasted time involved with finding, scheduling, using and coordinating building resources. An IoT-equipped lighting system could give employees access to better information presented in a way that is easy to understand and use, enabling teams to find solutions faster.

Enhance comfort and well-being

Discomfort is distracting. Occupants can control their immediate environment with an IoT-equipped lighting system and a mobile app; allow them to adjust the local light level and temperature to their preferred setting. This will help them focus on the task, project, lesson or healing at hand.

Customize an experience and track the response

An IoT-equipped lighting system could create a unique guest or customer experience in a space and allow the intelligent sensors to track response in terms of traffic and occupancy patterns. Determine if new displays are capturing customer attention, and make adjustments in areas that seem to need more support.

Today, the novelty of the IoT movement, and the still-undeveloped technology that will help to make IoT a valuable piece of everyday life, may undermine many people’s ability to fully grasp the profound potential of a connected building.

“Trying to describe the possibility of a world where everything is connected, today, is like trying to describe the importance of the internet in 1985, five years before the invention of the World Wide Web,” said Ken Walma, vice president and general manager of Eaton’s lighting division.

As this new connected and intelligent world emerges, perhaps the IoT lighting system’s greatest value is its elimination of the limitations that exist because things and people are not currently connected. It eliminates unknowns with better, more prolific data. It eliminates time wasted doing things that a connected environment could complete automatically. It eliminates energy waste. All of these things are possible in a connected world.