How IoT Interest Has Changed the Game for Lighting Control

Manufacturers are providing businesses and building owners an array of options for boosting efficiencies as integrators focus on smart control solutions.

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The electronics industry has always been forward thinking when it comes to control and automation and their potential applications.

Recently, goals of convenience and efficiency in commercial buildings have been made even greater through the ongoing development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the general maturing of control and automation products.

Interest in IoT continues to grow — according to research firm Argus Insights, there were more than 2.3 million social media mentions of the platform in Q1 this year, underscoring the public’s awareness of its potential. In addition, the commercial integration market has welcomed an increasing amount of systems developed for increased energy efficiency, and proliferation of LED bulb products.

Together these solutions are providing integration firms with the ability to provide their clients scalable, easy-to-use, energy-efficient products and systems that help meet their money- and energy-saving requests.

Substance Behind the Hype

For many it is easy to characterize IoT as the electronics industry’s latest fad fueled by start-ups and crowd funding campaigns, but that would be misguided. Sure, IoT development has an element of those groups driving interest, but their participation in IoT-based business opportunities is no different than any other category, including audio, video and networking.

Generally speaking, the public has questions about the security and long-term viability of IoT products, but experts in the field are emphatic about the market’s rapid maturation.

“Staying ahead of new IoT entrants and ensuring wide connectivity are difficult in this expanding market,” says Yann Kulp, vice president, SmartSpace, Schneider Electric North America, in a press statement on IoT issued by research company Parks Associates.

“The proliferation of technologies, protocols and startups is huge. And many of them will have a huge impact on energy. But technology and cost are no longer the roadblock; it’s now about value props and providing a great experience to the consumer.”

One of the biggest, highest profile supporters of the IoT is Cisco. Promoting its Digital Ceiling Framework, the company says that businesses and property owners can combine lighting, HVAC, physical security all on a single network to reduce their energy consumption by as much as 30 percent.

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Moreover, according to Cisco, 45 percent of business and property owners receive up to 45 percent higher operating incomes and building asset values and as much as 16 percent increase in worker productivity through improved lighting conditions.

Aiding the adoption of IoT, the large networking manufacturer is working with companies such as Philips, Cree, Eaton, The Siemon Company and Johnson Controls to put together compatible solutions that businesses can easily employ.

“Cisco is excited to work with Cree and the partner community to continue making the Digital Ceiling framework a reality,” notes Tony Shakib, vice president, IoT verticals business unit, Cisco. “Cree’s expertise is important as we make this shift in the industry to help customers in the enterprise begin to harness the benefits of network powered lighting solutions.”

Using Power over Ethernet (PoE) technologies and LED lighting as the foundation for its SmartCast product line, Cree and Cisco state IoT can, “deliver energy savings up to 70 percent greater than LED lighting alone, while making new services and experiences possible.”

Citing a recent case study, the companies point out Mobile (Ala.) County deployed the platform in the district’s school system administrative offices with future plans to outfit the school system’s classrooms. Cree and Cisco make the case that the savings the lighting system will provide the county will ease the financial burden in Alabama to help fund future educational initiatives.

An open API based on a protocol called Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) fuels the SmartCast line’s functionality. Cree’s Gary Trott, vice president, marketing, intelligent lighting, says CoAP will allow integrators to install these systems easily, and that the SmartCast API “makes it possible for third parties to turn lights on and off, dim them [the lights], and change the color temperature.”