Things We Would Like to Ignore About Smart Lighting

Just a caution, some of my perspective in this article may be based on particular situations and may not apply to all the various applications Smart Lighting may be utilized in.

Aug 11th, 2016
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Just a caution, some of my perspective in this article may be based on particular situations and may not apply to all the various applications Smart Lighting may be utilized in.

‘Smart Lighting’ is all the buzz right now and most of my past blogs have all revolved around this topic. One of the reasons for that is that there is always something new in this emerging market. In this article, I would like to talk about some uncomfortable situations that could be associated with or caused by smart lighting. We always talk about the benefits of Smart Lighting but this new business has been fairly disruptive to the traditional world of lighting.

There are so many benefits being attached to Smart Lighting these days. One of the biggest claims has been that it will further amplify your energy savings if you couple them with LED lighting. So why it is then that the probability of end-users adding smart lighting controls and network is fairly low when they have already installed a LED lighting system. The sad truth of the matter is that the energy saving benefit of smart lighting is only realized when it is coupled with LED lighting in the first stage of installation when replacing incumbent technologies such as HIDs. So in other words if an end-user recently changed over to LED lighting in their indoor or outdoor project the likelihood of them later adding smart controls to their lighting system decreases. Looking at just the energy savings from the smart lighting system in a vacuum doesn’t always make the best business case for installing them. In terms of penetration, Smart Lighting has had high traction in outdoor street light applications. However, cities usually tell us that energy savings is not always the biggest draw to install them since energy bill for street lights are still based on fixed tariff rates rather than the actual energy consumption. It is the ancillary benefits such as lowering maintenance cost, asset management and future energy savings that fuels their decisions to install Connected/ Smart LED Street Light systems. There are however, applications where smart lighting systems have been able to claim actual energy savings such as in high bay applications when the incumbent technology has been HID based.

Another disruption Smart Lighting may cause could be in the field of evaluation, measurement and verification (EMV). Before my current job I was involved in the world of EMV. Programs such as these have been used to justify that the rebates and subsidies given by governments, utilities and cities support effective energy saving technologies and the use of tax payer money is warranted. To calculate the energy savings the analyst/engineer has to painstakingly note down the features of the new and incumbent technology and then depending on the project, model the building/facility that went through the new upgrade. With the integration of Smart Lighting with the overall building all the lighting system, HVAC unit and other building equipment could be monitored directly and evaluated. Also, instead of a one-time evaluation of the newly installed system the continuous flow of data can make real-time system changes possible to ensure that the building/facility is being run in the most effective and efficient way. Integration of smart lighting with the overall building is still a few years away because there are still interoperable issues that the industry has to deal with (the topic of interoperability is a fairly large one that I have discussed in previous articles and will continue to discuss). But many smart lighting systems now will be able to easily detect the light source, its energy consumption and projected lifetime making energy and building simulation models maybe a thing of the past.

Another side-effect of Smart Lighting has been that some traditional lighting companies do not have the in house talent or resources to compete in the fast evolving world of Smart Lighting. Some companies do not think that connected lighting or smart lighting will be something that will catch on. So these companies might get a rude awakening in a couple of years when they have to play catch-up with other competitors who have already built a strong business in Smart Lighting.

Smart Lighting is here to stay and it is something that cannot be ignored. When we look at lighting bodies such DOE’s Solid State Consortium, the DLC and Energy Star we can see that Smart Lighting is very much part of our future and lighting mandates. So what uncomfortable truths do you think Smart Lighting brings with it?

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