A Solution for Compatibility and Interoperability Issues with Networked Lighting

Today was the first meeting on Connected Lighting Systems (CLS) sponsored by DOE (Department of Energy). Strategies Unlimited was in attendance to witness what lighting and network players thought were the major hurdles for the penetration of connected lighting.

Nov 17th, 2015
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Today was the first meeting on Connected Lighting Systems (CLS) sponsored by DOE (Department of Energy). Strategies Unlimited was in attendance to witness what lighting and network players thought were the major hurdles for the penetration of connected lighting. The current penetration of connected lighting is very low in the various lighting applications. In our recent report on Connected Indoor we dive into the various drivers and inhibitor of connected lighting in the several lighting applications such as retail, healthcare, hospitality, office, industrial and others.

The meeting had many insightful conjectures on where the connected lighting market is falling short and what the industry has to do to drive adoption. Many suppliers and manufacturers turned their questions to governing bodies such as the DOE and DesignLights Consortium to ask what was being done in terms of customer educations. Many claimed that the basic connected lighting packages and capabilities were already there but many end users still lacked the knowledge of what was available in terms of lighting connectivity and its benefits. Could this lack of customer knowledge be associated with current confusion regarding networked lighting? Through their own interviews with current lighting end users, Strategies Unlimited found that the numerous networks on the market is daunting to many and there is uncertainty about what networks are interoperable and or compatible with each other.

In the midst of talking about lack of interoperability and compatibility between the various networks currently in the market, one of the interesting points was brought up by Kishore Manghani of Orama at the CLS meeting. He proposed that IoT (internet of things) should be policy based so that end users do not have to carry the burden of worrying if their networked lighting system is compatible enough. Just as we currently don’t have to worry about making sure the printer, keyboard, mouse or other components we buy would be compatible with our computer system, lighting should be able to achieve the same simplicity. This point completely resonated with me since when researching for our Connected Indoor and Connected Outdoor reports, many lighting end users dreaded being locked into a lighting network system since the current market doesn’t offer much compatibility and interoperability within the various network lighting systems. One speaker described the current state of network lighting as a “walled garden” where things are great as long as the customer stays within the walls of the garden but once a customer ventures outside these walls things start getting scary and messy.

So is this something the lighting manufacturers should consider? Should they hang up their network hats and leave networking side of lighting to an expert like Cisco while they work on areas they are experts in? Manghani even suggested that manufacturers could potentially include a port or connector within their luminaires which can then connect in the way that the end user desires. Such a suggestion could really assuage the uncertainty that end users feel with respect to connected lighting. Is the solution as simple as that or are we overlooking complexities associated with this issue?

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