Connected Lighting: The Internet of Illuminated Things

 

Jonathan Weinert

Today, connected products are transforming not only how business is done but also how people work, communicate with each other, and interact with their environments.


Some connected products, such as smartphones, are in evidence everywhere. Others, such as connected medical devices, are accessible only to people working in specific fields.

Regardless of how widespread their use, all connected products have in common the ability to participate in the Internet of Things (IoT). But connected lamps and luminaires do something that other connected products don’t do: they give light. Connected luminaires are beginning to appear for every conceivable professional lighting application, from street lighting to office lighting to façade lighting to display lighting in shops and supermarkets.


Call it the Internet of Illuminated Things.


Systems thinking: revolutionizing professional lighting practices

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The Internet of Things (IoT) calls for systems thinking. This kind of thinking is second nature for people who work in IT disciplines such as networking and software. For lighting professionals who have no background in IT, however, thinking about lighting from a systems point of may seem as daunting as learning a foreign language. It’s best to start simple, with a working definition of the word “system.” This word is basic, but because it can be confusing, as it’s often used to refer to a number of different things.In the most general sense, a system is a set of components that work together to deliver a specific set of capabilities. A lighting system is a set of components that work together to deliver a specific set of lighting capabilities. A connected lighting system is a set of components that work together to deliver a specific set of lighting capabilities and capabilities beyond illumination. Read more here

From standard to smart to connected
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Like other products that have evolved in order to participate in the Internet of Things, professional luminaires have advanced from standard to smart to connected.


Early conventional rotary and touchtone telephones did one thing and one thing only: they sent and received voice calls. Phones were like this for decades.


As the technology became available, beginning in the late 1970s, telephone makers started adding all kinds of “smart” features to phones, including phone number storage, speed dial, wireless operation, and voicemail. While these features expanded the capabilities of telephones, they didn’t change the nature of what a telephone is – a device for sending and receiving voice calls.


All that changed with the advent of the smartphone. By integrating voice capabilities with a range of other data-driven communications capabilities, the smartphone has become much more than a phone. You can use it for business communications, wayfinding, scheduling and alerting, playing games or music or videos, staying in touch with your friends via social media, and Web access. Read more here


Connected luminaires and capabilities beyond illumination

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“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.


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. Read more here

Systems of systems: the new digital ecology

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One promise of the IoT revolution is the greater interconnectivity and integration of all systems. This interconnectivity is sometimes called the system of systems, or the digital ecology.


The ultimate goal of systems of systems is a fully integrated resource management environment that can centrally monitor and manage multiple systems in a city or building – including HVAC, traffic management, energy management, alarm and security systems, emergency systems, and so on. Connected lighting systems enable integration of illumination capabilities into this emerging landscape.

Another promise of the IoT revolution is the insight that comes from streaming, storing, combining, and mining massive amounts of data from multiple sources. With integration on the software and database side, connected lighting systems can participate in another major technology trend: Big Data. Read more here

For an example of when big data and connected luminaires meet to create a more comfortable, productive, and sustainable environment, take a look at the state of the art The Edge building in Amsterdam.

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