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Discussion: IoT

Our historic approach to lighting design has been to provide the right light, in the right place and at the right time. Of course there have been changes in the way we do this; debates continue as to the appropriateness of metrics and how we apply them, discussion as to the quantity and quality of light that should be provided in any given situation. We do not pretend that we know all the answers, or that this is an exact science; we do, though, strive to deliver the best solution based on available knowledge and equipment.

‘These functions might require the building designer to specify particular products. This is where a compromise with the primary lighting function might occur’ The object of a lighting system is the provision of a comfortable, effective and efficient environment for people, whatever the application might be. These criteria should be the sole determinant of the choice and location of the lighting equipment in any application. If the intention is to include the IoT in a lighting installation – as a specified requirement for a project – there is a chance that the choice and location of lighting equipment might be dictated by other priorities. It is possible to consider the introduction of the IoT to lighting as just another step in the progress of control systems, only now using the internet model and allowing the interaction of personal devices (for example, smart phones) with the lighting. The use of familiar protocols such as Dali, DMX, KNX, Zigbee and others would still be possible because the whole ethos of the internet concept is the ability to link networks. TCP (as in TCP/IP) is an abbreviation for transmission control protocol and it is the basic communication language of the internet; through gateways it facilitates all the device connections we are familiar with today. On its own, then, IoT might facilitate and develop the abilities of lighting controls to be more personal, more able to adopt new strategies and all at a lower cost with, potentially, better user interfaces. The potential ‘trouble’ for the lighting world comes when the attractions of this pervasive network are recognised. Just as it allows the inclusion of lighting controls protocols so IoT also permits the connection of BACNET and other BMS and building services systems’ communications. It simplifies the business of interconnection and even interoperability, often without compromising the original abilities of the separate systems. Even extending the links to other building services – often already done – is not a threat to lighting. The potential problem comes when there is a desire to go further into ‘location-based services’ and the gathering of ‘enterprise data’. The ability of LEDs to carry information as well as to deliver light offers businesses the opportunity to guide people around buildings or download location-specific data. Shoppers can be alerted to special offers nearby, and so on. At the same time sensors and other links might tell businesses about movement patterns, numbers present or where specific

individuals are located. Some of these functions might, conceivably, require the building designer to specify particular products or equipment, and this is where a compromise with the primary lighting function might occur. Or, maybe, the optimum position for a light fitting to meet the wider purpose is not the ideal place for the lighting designer. The wider abilities and potential of lighting explains the interest of the likes of Apple, Amazon, Cisco and others, informing their acquisition strategies and partnerships, which is where a wider risk to the lighting industry lies. Established lighting businesses might vanish into the modern internetbased global behemoths, and lose the passion and knowledge we have built over the past 100 years and more. Or we could decide to inform ourselves about all the issues surrounding the IoT and ensure our survival by demonstrating better knowledge and skills in the implementation of lighting systems that are demanded by our customers. Like most disruptive technologies IoT will be both a threat and an opportunity; we can only make it the latter by understanding all the issues surrounding the changes in technology. We have, largely, successfully adapted to the LED revolution and survived in a market where some would say business has been better than ever. We should be able to continue in this vein. Taking a concluding paragraph from a previous article, about smart lighting, we can look forward with optimism if we learn new things, employ the right people and maintain our influence. ‘In the longer term the whole lighting industry has an opportunity to be involved in developing lighting systems that become an essential part of a business enterprise, forming a core service network that creates useful data, links systems and delivers greater comfort, productivity and efficiency. We live in exciting times but let’s not be carried away by hype and always be mindful that technology is our servant and not our master; nor is it to be used just because it is there. We may have already opened Pandora’s Box but we must keep our eye on the benefits that can be derived from good lighting, and make sure that all the other features, as well as those new entrants to the lighting industry, do not forget its purpose and its value to our wellbeing.’

‘We could decide to inform ourselves about all the issues surrounding the IoT and ensure our survival by demonstrating better knowledge and skills in the implementation of lighting’ I have deliberately avoided more technical content in favour of raising the major issues, and specifically an issue raised by Richard Caple, in his inaugural presidential speech (see p5). Perhaps others would like to pick up the challenge to present more detailed appraisals of IoT technology, both its future possibilities and pitfalls? @sll100


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SLL July/August 2017  

SLL July/August 2017