Connected luminaires and capabilities beyond illumination

 

“Connected” has a special meaning within the Internet of Things. It refers to devices that have the ability to communicate with other devices and people. Connected luminaires do just that. They have electronics on board that allow them to integrate with data networks in a building or city.

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One way to do this is to uniquely identify them and give them data networking capabilities – for instance, via an IP address, a MAC address, a DALI address, or another logical identifier. In this way, connected luminaires work just like computers on a computer network. They can receive switching and dimming commands just like any luminaire, but now they can also share data about their status and operations. This two-way communications capability is precisely what makes a connected luminaire connected.


Since LED lamps and luminaires already have solid-state electronics on board, they lend themselves to this sort of connectivity. But conventional lamps and luminaires can also be retrofit with the necessary connectivity, allowing them also to participate in the Internet of Things.


By integrating illumination capabilities with a range of other data-driven communications capabilities, a luminaire becomes much more than a luminaire. When connected, a luminaire can also serve as a means for collecting and distributing data and services.

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With integrated sensors, connected luminaires can gather data about the usage of illuminated spaces, and send it “upstream” to a database where facility, IT, or lighting system managers can store, analyze, and mine it. System managers can use this intelligence to precisely adjust organizational objectives and spending to maximize efficiency while offering the best possible experiences to users of illuminated spaces. They can arrange to deliver light when, where, and how it’s needed, based on new insight into the activities in illuminated spaces such as The Edge building in Amsterdam.


With integrated wireless communications, connected luminaires can deliver personalized services and in-context information to people in illuminated spaces via specially designed mobile apps. This is especially true indoors, where GPS doesn’t work. If the communications grid is dense enough, a connected lighting system can create a sort of “indoor GPS” that affords the kind of rich experiences commonly delivered by smartphones outdoors. These include wayfinding in a store, mall, campus, office complex, or airport; in-context information about the immediate vicinity, whether product locations, suggestions based on preferences and prior activities, or some kind of alert; and personalized control over the immediate environment.


Because connected luminaires can share information about their status and operations, system managers can do more than switch and dim. They can also monitor the lighting system in real-time, and make real-time management decisions and adjustments to settings and behavior to respond to changing conditions and to maximize operational efficiency.

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The data collected from connected luminaires can combine with data from other sources for reporting, analysis, and decision support, allowing the lighting system in a building or system to participate in a larger “digital ecology,” whether that’s a comprehensive energy-neutral program for an organization or a resiliency initiative in a metropolitan area.


All of these data-driven capabilities are capabilities “beyond illumination”: delivered by the lighting system, but additional to or separate from the system’s illumination features.


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