Smart LEDs Increasingly Common

by | Jan 24, 2017

LED streetlight Energy ManageThe goal of creating smart buildings and cities is generating a tremendous and growing level of interest. The greatest challenge is finding a way to cover as much of the square footage of the space with the sensors that are necessary for such services.

Many experts say that the best way to optimize coverage is to collocate Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities with lighting. The idea makes sense on two levels. Lights, of course, are ubiquitous. Colocation means that there will be a physical element for the sensor and a power source. Secondly, the transition to LEDs, while well along, is far from complete. Including IoT functionality in LEDs themselves or their housing as change outs are made.

Last week, Echelon, an IoT vendor, announced that it will collaborate with IBM Watson IoT to provide intelligence to its streetlight control system. IBM Watson is the business that has been created around the computing platform that famously beat Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings in 2011. Since then, the company has expanded its capabilities and made it the linchpin of an expansive artificial intelligence platform that is active in many sectors.

The LumInsight platform will be flexible, able to do. “Smart cities can use the data and analytics to make more informed lighting management decisions about public safety, such as the brightening and dimming of streetlights depending on activity levels, time of day, weather and events, enhancing visibility for first responders, security professionals and more” Rita Renner, Echelon’s Director of Global Marketing told Energy Manager Today in response to emailed questions. “Municipal leaders can also improve lifestyle for their constituents by implementing IoT applications such as traffic analysis and parking availability.”

Renner is enthusiastic about the marriage the combination of streetlight and the IoT. She wrote that such lighting “is a pervasive public infrastructure that can serve as a cost-effective, connected network. The controllability of the LEDs (Ability to flash, dim, brighten, pulse, etc.) allow the cities to unlock the IoT potential enabling their streetlights to act as a spider web in which cities can integrate IoT applications – as needed – to address municipal safety, environment and energy challenges. Cities can become smart cities by using an existing infrastructure instead of deploying a new, separate costly infrastructure.

Streetlights are only part of the overall smart lighting sector. Research and Markets says that the global investment in LED streetlights will be $57 billion as devices are replaced and the total number increases from 315 million to 359 million. The release says that the industry is moving to smart LEDs. Though the release doesn’t say that all of the new devices will be IoT-enabled, it is clear that lights with at least some networking capacity will represent most of the investment.

In India, the city of Chandigarh is considering smart LED streetlights that include a distress button, according to Tribune India. The story says that three companies have made presentations on the project before the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, the body that will decide the vendor.

The marriage of LEDs and the IoT, whether out in the street or in homes and businesses, is accelerating. Last week, LEDs reported that Acuity Brands said at the National Retail Federation exhibition in New York City that it has deployed indoor positioning systems (IPSes) to almost 40 million square feet. The story tries to dig down on precisely where the deployments are, since Acuity and partner Microsoft wouldn’t disclose details.

The main take away for energy managers, however, is how potent the technology is:

Acuity’s lighting-based IPS communicates with end users’ smartphones via either the modulation of LED lightwaves — a technology known as visible light communication (VLC) — or via Bluetooth chips embedded in ceiling luminaires. Either way, the lights can welcome the shopper to the store and then direct him or her to discounts of particular interest to that individual. The system can then send data about the customer’s actions to the cloud, giving the retailer and its suppliers valuable insights on sales and shopper behavior.

 The retailers are interested in driving sales. It is clear that these platforms would also serve as vital tools for energy managers, who would be able to use such systems to map traffic flow and energy use on a real time basis.

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