March/April 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 2
by Martin Mercier, Strategic Marketing Manager, Cooper Lighting Solutions
Lighting is all around us—on every street corner, on every building floor, inside every home. All told, cities, utilities, and facility owners have deployed millions of lights.
This massive network of devices provides stellar opportunities for devices to connect and communicate and provide end-users with useful information. Amid the digitalization of cities and buildings, we can leverage lighting infrastructure to get better insights and data via IoT devices. UK mathematician Clive Humby says, “data is the new oil,” and the ramifications are clear; we need to collect and communicate data from our streets and buildings to be analyzed, refined, and consumed as useful information.
Gathering Data Via Lighting
Luminaire light-emitting diode (LED) drivers can act as memory banks to store important information such as luminaire manufacturer, power, lumen output, energy metering data, and various diagnostic information like internal temperature, run time, and alarms. They also can provide 24V of power to connected devices.
And it’s not just lighting. Lighting systems upgraded to LEDs can utilize the infrastructure to connect other types of devices for information deemed valuable by specific customers. This backbone that is used by all to collect, organize, and disseminate data is the heart of the IoT, which will be instrumental in showcasing lighting’s potential and importance in connected cities, buildings, and homes.
A Quick History Lesson
Before LED technology, the latest revolution in lighting came around 1962 with a new high-intensity discharge (HID) technology lamp that provided better light quality but could not be manipulated other than dusk-to-dawn control. There were some options to dim the lights, but the communication technology needed for this feature was not yet ready for deployment on a massive scale.
This new electronic or solid state lighting (SSL) technology could control lighting as needed with LEDs. Adaptive lighting became a discussion, as did energy efficiency and lamp extended lifetime. LEDs helped to have the right light for the right application and at the right time. For example, decreasing parking lot light spill to the surrounding neighborhood, lowering the lights in warehouses at night, and indicating a park is temporarily closed by turning off the lights—all of these became possible. As communication technologies such as 4G mobile, Zigbee, LORA, and Bluetooth proliferated in the following years, customers were able to “connect” to their products to maximize the lighting level, lighting schedules, and maintenance for greater energy savings, comfort, and productivity.
In 2007, I graduated from school in electrical and telecommunications engineering. From there, I worked with my school teammate on a start-up and later joined another start-up neck-deep in RF communication and RFID, when I received an invitation from a lighting company to work on connecting streetlights. When I joined, I realized not much was connected or connectable. It took a couple of years until we started controlling luminaires remotely, but what happened next was beyond what I had imagined. And it happened in just a few years. We could communicate to the luminaires and we were also working on integrating all sorts of connected IoT devices such as ice detection sensors, 5G towers, and gunshot detection systems. Quite a journey in just over a decade.
A World of Benefits from Standardization
Standards will be a key aspect in continuing the move to connected cities. City managers, building owners, and facilities operators will benefit from a platform approach to realize their smart city or connected building projects. This allows the installation of various equipment on a consistent, uniform basis. One example is ensuring that luminaires are placed at the optimum height and in locations that make the most impact.
Standardization lowers the total cost of ownership because of reduced costs for the devices themselves as well as installation and repair services, harmonized system architecture, and lower complexity. It also enables standard features such as data collection from the luminaire components, energy metering, and sensors that monitor motion, noise, vibration, and environmental conditions.
Partnerships with Promise
To transform our industry network to accommodate IoT devices such as road traffic sensors and weather stations, we needed to create an open ecosystem enabling manufacturers to create interoperable devices and connect them.
Similar to USB devices and computers, components need to be installed, powered, and able to share data. Lighting manufacturers currently participate in multiple organizations to improve and move forward in this area. Mostly in Europe, the global consortium known as the Dali Alliance was created to improve internal luminaire communication to enable IoT applications based on the well-known DALI Standard. This is supported by the Zhaga Consortium that standardizes interfaces of components. Specific to the North American region, the NEMA-supported ANSI Committees for Outdoor Lighting (ANSI C136) and Lighting Systems (ANSI C137) develop and maintain Standards for, among others, energy reporting, vocabulary, and requirements for digital interface between devices.
To support the Standards, Zhaga recently created a third-party certification program called the Zhaga D4i certification, to provide customers and manufacturers a way to validate compatibility with their Standards.
Lighting systems are the natural support system for any connected city. Devices in or on the luminaire receive information from the cloud and can control the luminaire and other components and pull data from them. In the past decade, quite a few lights have been installed.
In North America, there are more than 25 projects with over 10,000 connected streetlights. From a humble start to what would become an exciting place for a telecom engineer, new technology has moved us into an IoT world.
In-depth discussions with cities trying to understand how many cars drove by certain streets at 8 a.m., consults with major retailers to help customers find their items more efficiently, and advice to hotels in tuning room lights that keep travelers’ circadian cycles in place are examples of the exciting capabilities of connected systems supported by lighting. Let’s see what the next decade brings. ei