Lighting is set to be a cornerstone in the Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure, but teaming up with IT specialists for networking is a must to experience new, improved services in commercial, residential and city spaces
When it comes to Internet of Things (IoT), no industry but lighting seems to be the most upset one. Going by McKinsey’s projection, the worldwide lighting market would grow to approximately $159 billion by 2020. An estimated 12 billion ‘end-points’ in homes, enterprises, industrial facilities and retail locations, make lighting the most ubiquitous network of connected devices on the planet and the perfect platform for IoT.
IoT in lighting has proved that the world of intelligent lighting is no more a product but has emerged as a service that is further enhanced with sensors and embedded microchips, detecting and interacting with its environment in real-time. Smarter lighting saves up to 80% of energy consumption and communicates with other connected devices and systems, like RFID tags and supply chain applications for inventory tracking.
Sensing opportunities aplenty, quite a few system developers are making inroad. They are developing a ready-built solution for lighting providers to help them connect their bulbs to the IoT and transform their business model to software services. Few of the developers like Huawei – the Chinese information technology networking giant and IBM’s Watson IoT cloud platform have already started offering full-stack lighting operating platform, illuminating a smarter path to the IoT for lighting manufacturers to follow.
Emerging Chemistry of Networking
No wonder major lighting brands, including Current by GE, Philips, Acuity and PhotonStar’s Helcyon are now developing IoT platforms in partnership with technology companies such as Enlighted, Huawei’s OceanConnect, Sensity Systems, IBM’s Watson and Daintree Networks (which is now a part of Current by GE), as well as companies with a major foothold in cloud computing such as Cisco, Oracle, and Microsoft. But the relatively nascent IoT space has room for plenty of players which with their respective areas of expertise are tackling to take IoT from what may sound like a far-fetched future to a ubiquitous service that is being deployed today.
Going in line, Philips Lighting expanded its IoT universe for the home, making its Hue smart bulbs compatible with an IoT system provided by Chinese information technology networking giant Huawei. The two companies have recently signed a deal that Huawei will become a “Friends of Hue” partner and that Philips will become an official partner in the Huawei IoT initiative, christened OceanConnect.
Combining Philips Hue and Huawei OceanConnect is one way to get different things in the IoT to talk together. By combining forces, users can also program Hue lights to respond to or prompt actions in other things around the house controlled by OceanConnect. For example, security cameras could trigger Hue lights to flash red and blue when an intruder appears on the property. However, for that users will have to find a service provider such as a telecom company. That’s because Huawei positions OceanConnect as a service offering for telcos and ISPs to resell.
In the IoT, scores of billions of devices are expected to tie into the Internet and talk to one another in a manner that makes them more useful and efficient, which also helps gather reams of useful data. But critics have pointed out the IoT won’t really take off until devices can all speak a common language rather than clamouring in a digital Tower of Babel. Huawei’s OceanConnect is an attempt to solve that problem.
The Philips-Huawei alliance is the latest example of an IT company pairing up with a lighting one to chase smart lighting opportunities. Huawei’s OceanConnect is the latest such system to help tie together disparate devices, for which the company has signed up about 80 partners across industries including automobiles, oil and gas, energy, and smart homes. Earlier this year, Huawei entered a similar partnership with Opple, one of China’s largest LED lighting providers. Opple users can operate lights remotely using Huawei gear.
Last year, British LED specialist PhotonStar, the smart LED lighting solutions major, teamed up with IBM for its intelligent lighting system, Halcyon, to tie into IBM’s Watson IoT cloud platform. However, it was not the first in the league as this PhotonStar-IBM hook-up came soon after lighting giant Philips linked arms with IT stalwart Cisco to offer IoT and Power over Ethernet (PoE) services.
Likewise, small LED specialists such as Carlsbad, CA-based NuLEDs have worked with Cisco to install PoE and data-centric lighting at schools and offices. Cisco has struck up IoT-based relationships with over 20 LED lighting companies. Gooee, lighting-focused IT startup, has begun licensing technology to different LED lamp and luminaire manufacturers. A good number of LED lamp makers have also tied their wares into Google’s Nest home automation product.Many more such IT and lighting partnerships are expected in time to come.
Creating A City Lighting Ecosystem
These technology giants have actually created an IoT lighting ecosystem wherein sensing, control and communication components integrate with an enterprise scale cloud platform, which offer a service-driven, scalable framework for lighting manufacturers to connect to the IoT. This was fairly discussed and demonstrated at this year’s Lightfair’s first-ever IoT & Smart Lighting Forum that showcased how established lighting companies and tech startups are coming together to make luminaires invaluable to an information-driven future.
The IoT, in which everyday objects are made intelligent through sensors, microprocessors, and machine-to-machine communication, ascends into the Industrial Internet of Things when IoT objects are networked together to control large-scale systems, such as the lighting infrastructure of an entire city. The networking of objects together not only enables remote user control, but also collects, processes, and analyses data in an intelligent way. This is what makes it rather more interesting.
According to Yoshiyuki Kato, Director-Lighting, Anchor Electricals Pvt. Ltd.- a Panasonic Group Company IoT in lighting is more for lighting control and monitoring of lighting fixtures remotely. “Apart from Home Commercial Space lighting where IoT can be used to intuitively control the space lighting, with the use of sensors it can be integrated into home and office automation as well. But it is especially being used in smart cities in various areas such as street lighting, public spaces like airports, gardens etc. The Centralised Control and Monitoring System forms an easy-to-control system that can lead to power saving as well.”
Explains Michael Mendenhall, Chief Marketing & Chief Communications Officer, Flex, in Schenectady, New York, a city of nearly 66,000 inhabitants, located 20 miles from Albany, City Hall officials can enter a meeting room and speak into the air—“Alexa, turn on the lights,” addressing Amazon’s voice service—and the overhead “Connectivity, then, is infusing a new layer of intelligence into cities like Chicago, Barcelona, Amsterdam, etc that wasn’t possible before.” bulbs will illuminate. “In fact, a Wi-Fi hub controls the LED fixtures on the first floor, adjusting their intensity according to how much daylight passes through the windows. The lights don’t shine at full brightness when the sun is out or in the late hours of the night when no one is in the building.”
Mendenhall shares that this was made possible with the partnership between smart home platform Wink and the engineers and scientists at Wise Labs, and that it isn’t just about saving energy. “That’s only one part of an initiative to turn Schenectady into a full-fledged smart city, spilling out of City Hall and into the surrounding streets. Further, Cisco is replacing inefficient streetlights with LED models that are equipped with Wi-Fi nodes to provide municipal Internet service to residents.”
He adds that Wink is looking at ways to leverage that new connectivity by allowing small business owners to install motion sensors, smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms, and cameras will feed information back to the city; imagine if authorities could tag surveillance footage in the case of a break-in, or detect and contain a fire before it flares out of control. “Connectivity, then, is infusing a new layer of intelligence into cities like Chicago, Barcelona, Amsterdam, etc that wasn’t possible before.”
Inevitably a small subset of these platforms will emerge as the standard. “Wink is off to a running start. For many, the Wink app is a gateway to the Internet of Things—an expanding ecosystem of everyday products embedded with electronics that connect to the web—and an industry expected to reach $4.59 trillion by 2018, according to Bloomberg analysis based on data from International Data Corporation research. Wink lets the users control hundreds of smart products—from companies like GE, Honeywell, and Philips—from your Android or iOS device. No other program approaches Wink’s depth of integration among major brands,” shares Mendenhall.
Changing Face of Illumination
Going beyond simple illumination, this IoT-built next-generation lighting systems will forever change the way people interact with the spaces, they live in. The lights around the homes will be intelligent, learning from and responding to the steady stream of data generated by users’ wearable devices — using light to help de-stress them after a long day-full of hectic and stressful activities. All these and more such scenarios are just around the corner as intelligent lighting is slowly becoming one of the first markets to realise the dream of the IoT with millions of connected devices, silently sensing and acting on behalf of the inquisitively eager users.
“The whole system has now matured to providing innovative solutions like blending of day light and artificial lighting to deliver the desired illumination and switching ‘on’ and ‘off’ on need basis for better ergonomic environment, replicating real time environment thereby achieving energy conservation through IoT,” explains Gulshan Aghi who has seen the industry’s growth & transition for over three and a half decade playing important roles serving the industry in various capacities right from the start of his professional career with Bajaj Electricals. He adds that this transition improves impacts human health, promotes creativity and improves productivity.
Aghi further delineates that LED revolution that has come into its advance stage and is nearing its full potential. It is now moving to its next phase and transitioning towards digitisation. “Intelligent lighting through the route of Internet of Things (IoT) is fast catching up. The near achievement of full potential of LED lighting has given way to intelligent lighting through IoT, which is in its infant stage in India with immense future potential, keeping in view India’s ambitious plan of moving towards fast digitisation through the government’s dream project, “Digital India” and development of more than 100 new smart cities,” he says.
Market Dynamics in India
Aghi feels that IoT in lighting would have a huge scope in the near future in the segments of modern work space lighting (office lighting), retail, industry and domestic lighting. “Besides, the concept is expected to bring about a revolutionary impact in the Indian hospital lighting systems as this would facilitate faster recovery of ailing patients. Further, the concept of Li-Fi is also fast emerging for data transfer. Li-Fi uses common household LED lightbulbs thus further advancing LED development in India,” he explains.
According to Aghi, LEDs serve as the foundation for IoT. “As low-voltage semiconductor devices, LEDs have always had a natural affinity for digital control. Unlike the inherently analog and high-voltage light sources of the past, LEDs and micro controllers play well together. In the inception stages, the first generation of solid-state lighting manufacturers took advantage of this to deliver spectacular colour-changing LED lighting all around the world,” he states adding that this is not the limit.
Kato suggests that the ability of LED to light up the smallest corner of every space, coupled with its power-saving properties, makes it irresistible as an offering in any premise. “Smart Lifestyles combine the core elements of human convenience, safety and enhanced aesthetic appeal together. Along with these core aspects the secondary aspects are power saving, product longevity and LED offers both along with the comfort and convenience thus becoming a core element of smart living smart home.”
Scope of IoT in India
Amidst these developments, what is the scope of IoT when it comes to the Indian lighting industry? Where does the future lead? Aghi suggests that India is known as a well-developed IT industry service provider to the world-over. “Keeping pace with evolving lighting technologies, India forms an ideal contender for home-grown solutions with intelligent lighting. Nowadays, processor technology-based innovative wireless LED lighting system has been developed and deployed which flawlessly integrates LED lighting, sensors and controls. Companies which initiate this integration with software-based platforms will lead the way.”
“The market for IoT is exploding like anything and rapidly changing role of lighting in our lives, our homes, and our cities are nothing but a testimony of the same. The IoT concept has already entered Indian lighting arena as the latest innovation for the consumers across home and outdoor categories. Further push is given through smart cities project where IoT will be used for many purposes like parking and waste management along with lighting. While this technology offers freedom to choose the output mode and variation to the end-consumers, integration of this technology with the control panel empowers the synchronisation for optimised power consumption, sample the case of streetlights, which are already operational in few select cities,” says Rajesh Uttamchandani, Managing Director, Syska LED
However, to an extent, Kato has a difference in opinion! “While the global LED technology has matured, we are still in the nascent stage. Indigenous manufacturers need to focus on bringing high-end technology relating to LED components as well. Even today, majority parts of LED Lighting rely on imports from China as the Indian LED manufacturing will still take some time to attain maturity level. We can definitely look forward to technology exchange from our global counterparts. We feel that LED lighting industry will continue to grow further following the increased impetus from the government that has pushed the LED industry on a fast-paced growth lane.”
IoT or Remote-Controlled
Being a part of the World’s 3rd largest Lighting Company, Anchor is marketing some of its top-end products in India, equipped with Panasonic Unique technology.
“We are watching the market very carefully and will be introducing products for general lighting as well as specialised applications,” avers Kato adding that the Panasonic Corporation’s Eco Solutions Company offers a consortium of over 30,000 products under its LED portfolio. Anchor has introduced some of Panasonic LED’s trend setting products for its tech-savvy Indian users.
“At present, we do have products that can be integrated with IoT. However, the trend is for ease-of-operation or remote-controlled LED lighting,” say Kato. Anchor’s latest unique projection light Spaceplayer assists end-users to enjoy simulated experience for the new space combining lighting and image projection. “Supporting Dynamic content, this is one of a kind projection light that combines colour and motion to bring attention to a space where images as well as text data can be displayed simultaneously. This apart, we have also introduced our unique app-based colour changing LED Panel light that uses anti-glare diffuser emitting light that is soothing to the eyes.”
Uttamchandani adds that Syska’s latest addition to its portfolio Rainbow LED Bulb is nothing, but a step towards that. “We have already begun to see this impact through our Smart Light series of bulbs with 3 million colour changing possibilities and more; where IoT has enabled smart, networked and automated interaction to improve customers’ experience. We are further in process of bringing many more such IoT-based lighting products. Our team of experts, at our R&D centre, is constantly working on a range of models to transform the way we live, work and play,” he says adding that IoT with careful execution and efficient promotion will ensure great results for Syska.
Need to Shift Gear
This profound change in the nature of lighting has introduced lighting to a whole new set of players that have the urge and ability to integrate sensing, networking and control into the third-party software-based platforms will lead the way. Notably, a diverse new generation of connected lighting vendors has emerged. Digital Lumens, Enlighted, Sensity, Huawei, IBM, and BeON are to name a few. Each is tackling different parts of the lighting market, but all share a networked, software-focused view where lighting is headed.
For networking companies — Cisco and Qualcomm, intelligent lighting is an infrastructure play. Billions of connected lights will need new routing fabric, if only to handle the massive amount of new data traffic they will produce. This is what made the traditional lighting players like PhotonStar, Acuity, Philips, GE, etc to get deeply engaged in this shift either to lead the transformation or be in the helm of affairs.
Those who recognise this inevitable shift early and adapt their offerings to take advantage of it will surely emerge as winners. Companies who integrate sensing, networking and control into software-based platforms will lead the way, while for those who remain exclusively focused on hardware do so at their own risk. This transition has kicked off a new phase of LED adoption and the race to connect every socket. While manufacturers are finding it near futuristic, the stakes are equally high for consumers and vendors. A trifecta of qualities — ubiquity, network connectivity and access to power — make intelligent lights a perfect platform on which the promise of the IoT can start to come to life. These intelligent, networked, sensor-laden lights of the future will form the central nervous system of every smart building.
Things That Lights can Do…Thanks to the Internet of Things!
The market for the internet of things (IoT), or internet-connected objects, is bursting at seams, and is soon going to transform the lighting industry.It sounds like a buzzwordas some of these are undeniably gimmicky, while others do really useful things in the background. Here are a few cool things that lighting is expected to deliver, of course, in association with the Internet of Things.
Monitoring urban air quality
The ubiquity of streetlights makes it the ideal platform for many useful things. On such is measuring air quality by adding sensors that can measure airborne particulates, and devices to report its findings via a mobile data network. With this, streetlights become a distributed network to monitor the environmental health of the city. This is one example where the height of streetlights is especially handy, so sensors measure the ambient air quality rather than snorting nitrogen dioxide from exhaust pipes.
Keeping an eye on the masses
A wireless lighting network at public places like Airport can monitor the movement of people and vehicles. This has numerous applications but the main advantages for the airport are surveillance and security. City authorities, too, are beginning to use lights to keep an eye on the general public.
Streetlights, if connected to the Internet, can help clamping down on illegal parking. Siemens has developed a system which uses streetlight-mounted radar to detect cars, motorbikes and even bicycles which are parked where they shouldn’t be, and automatically alert the authorities. The same technology, paired with a smartphone app, can tell drivers where parking is available, even sensing the size of the gap to check it’s big enough. There’s just the tiny circular problem of needing to find a place to park to be able to use the app legally to find a place to park. The gadget also logs data, building up a picture of which parking spaces are most in demand – information that could prove handy to planners. In time, the technology could be paired with a mobile payments system to make it quicker and easier to pay for parking.
With the incorporation of Internet of Things, systems that might once have worked separately can now share data and interact. Following the IoT,if cameras and sensors in streetlights are combined with city traffic lights and signage, it can help monitor traffic, regulate flow, and, if necessary, redirect traffic. Flir’sTraficam uses camera technology to detect the presence of traffic, log traffic data, and stream video. Mounted at road junctions, the system can be used to adjust the cycle of traffic lights in real time, reducing waiting times for drivers. Over 3,000 sensors have been installed in Moscow in a bid to ease the city’s crippling traffic jams.
If every light fitting has its own network IP address, facilities managers may as well use that to their advantage. IoT lighting enables remote monitoring of lighting installations for lamp failure, emergency lighting faults and potentially even light output depreciation. That way, facilities managers can make the call on when to go into the building to perform maintenance. This undoubtedly calls for some extra pennies in the light fitting, but in time, the cost should easily be offset by the efficiency gains in maintenance procedures.
Making TV immersive
One of the coolest things that a smart lamp like the Philips Hue can do is talk to your TV, so your lighting can complement what’s happening on screen. Philips has programmed its Hue LED bulbs to automatically flash, dim, change colours and pulsate along with shows – the first show to benefit being the Syfy series 12 Monkeys. Viewers tune in, sync the lights with the TV using a smartphone app, and sit back. Philips described the development as ‘the world’s first-ever immersive lighting experience for an entire season of original series programming’.
For Philips, it’s an extension of its Ambilight technology, where lights around the edges of Philips TVs glow different colours based on what’s on screen. But that was limited to the lights on your TV, and was simply based on whatever colours were on the screen – now the lights can respond more dramatically to cues set by the show’s producers. When the hero steps into a darkened room, your room is dark too. When the alarm sounds, the red lights flash in your room as well as on screen. The same technology can be used to make videogames more immersive too.
Teaming up with the smoke alarm
Who would have thought a smoke alarm could be a desirable consumer product? And yet the Nest Protect is one of the hottest gadgets around (Google certainly thinks so – it bought the company for $3.2 billion). Now lighting is part of Nest’s plan too. Philips’ Hue wireless lamps have joined the ‘Works With Nest’ programme to interact with Nest’s products. This means when your Nest alarm senses smoke, your lights can come on full automatically, or when presence detectors spot an intruder, they can flash to warn you of danger. Lights are just one type of device that Nest can now talk to – others include kitchen appliances, phones and even lawn sprinklers. Data generated by lights could be used for plenty of purposes that go well beyond the person who created the data.