TIME TO GET SMART Mark Needham, vice president of European sales for lighting and control specialist Fulham, explains how market realities are delaying intelligent lighting for smart buildings.
Sensors in LED luminaires can be used to form a robust Bluetooth mesh network. Photograph courtesy of Bluetooth SIG
he lighting industry has been promising to deliver smart building-wide lighting control systems, offering advantages beyond simple energy savings and simplified system management. The right smart lighting control system appears to become the ideal skeleton for the Internet of Things (IoT). Why? Luminaires are prevalent in any commercial building, they have a reliable power source, and they are more evenly spaced than any other electrical equipment including wall outlets. By placing sensors in these luminaires, a building owner or property manager can not only monitor lighting and save energy, but the system has the capability to control other systems such as HVAC, building security and emergency systems. So why is the market still struggling to find the right commercial lighting control solution? In addition to dueling lighting control standards and installation strategies, the biggest issue has been dealing with lighting in existing commercial buildings. Smart lighting retrofits can be problematic. It’s the market realities of implementation that have been getting in the way of smart lighting adoption.
Big benefits There are a number of advantages to centralising intelligent lighting controls. For example, according to the US Green Building Council, commercial buildings consume 70% of the electricity load and produce 39% of carbon-dioxide pollutants. The US Department of Energy estimates that buildings consume 40% of all electricity produced and waste at least 30% of the energy consumed. Adoption of LED lighting has helped lower energy costs and reduce emissions. By adopting LEDs, commercial energy consumption from lighting has dropped from 38% to 17% of total usage between 2003 and 2012 (see Figure 1), and market annalist Gartner predicts that by adding smart lighting, savings could jump to 90%. Changing to energy-saving LED bulbs and fixtures certainly delivers immediate savings (see Figure 2), but centralising lighting controls offers so much more. For example, using a building-wide lighting control system allows you to manage and monitor lighting, providing data for analytics to understand power consumption and even detect when a luminaire is ready to fail. Centralised control also gives you control over the quality of light, which is an increasing concern in EU countries that are watching the impact of artificial lighting on human health. For contractors, given the advent of intelligence in the luminaires, how do you make the most of smart lighting controls?
Figure 1: Energy consumption from commercial lighting dropped more than 50% between 2003 and 2012
What’s smart? Let’s start by defining what we mean by smart lighting controls. First, there has to be on-board intelligence in the luminaire itself. The foundation for smart lighting controls lies in the solid-state LED fixtures with on-board, programmable intelligence that can be used to set such light characteristics as hue, light intensity, dimming, and energy consumption. These ‘clever’ LED fixtures can be tuned at the factory or during or post-installation. When you connect these clever LED fixtures together using communications, you move from clever lighting to an intelligent lighting system. Sensors installed in the luminaires can be connected using wired or wireless networking. Using a hard-wired network system such as 10BASE-T Ethernet cable, for example, can provide both control and power as defined by the IEEE 802.3 standard for Power over Ethernet (PoE). Both DC power and data transmission can be sent over the same Category 6 network cable, so it can be used to directly power DC LED luminaires (no DC-to-AC conversion needed so there are no drivers). There are wireless
networking options for smart lighting as well, such as Bluetooth mesh. Once in place, you have two-way communications between a central controller and smart luminaires, allowing you to monitor and control power consumption, lighting characteristics, light levels, and even monitor and moderate heat. Controls can be accessed via a central console, with the right security rights, of any web browser. Once the sensors are in place, the smart lighting infrastructure can be extended to control other building systems such as HVAC, window coverings, fire alarms, etc.
Smartening up “There are a number of advantages to centralising intelligent lighting controls.”
Many commercial buildings are already seeing substantial savings by replacing fluorescent and incandescent lights with LEDs. Market watchers predict that more than 50% of LED lighting installations through 2025 will be retrofits, especially since LED retrofits are easy to install and yield immediate savings. However, connecting installed luminaires into a smart lighting infrastructure has other obstacles. You have two basic connectivity options: wired or wireless. Most commercial buildings already have a computer network that is separate from the electrical system so performing a rip-and-replace to consolidate lighting with the computer network isn’t practical. New building designs may consider PoE as an option and include lighting as part of the IT network. Unfortunately, new commercial construction is only 7-8% of available commercial space. Demand for PoE for lighting power and control is likely to remain low.
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