Smart lighting: Is it really smart enough?

Wendell Strong, GENISYS PoE Lighting Manager

It’s fun to play around with smart technology. Smart phones, apps, gaming systems, doorbells, and even light bulbs these days are all smart.  Everything seems to be getting smarter to the point of being simply a buzzword at times.

Furbo, a smart, wireless dog treat dispenser and camera. Yes, we really have seen it all.

However, is smart “smart enough” for the complex, changing world we live in? Maybe we should consider a higher benchmark, like intelligent, and what the difference is between the two in the world of lighting.

Let’s start with a simple definition that seems to fit well. Smart normally applies when a long-held level of performance has been greatly improved upon and has new capabilities as well.

Consider the evolution of the common medium screw base lamp.

Not-So-Smart Lighting
The incandescent lamp might be considered “dumb” by the definition above, but for its time, was brilliant (pun intended) being an awesome, breakthrough technology that enabled electrification to move swiftly forward due to increasing demand while rendering open flame oil lamps, gas lanterns, and candles to emergency backup light sources across time when power was down.

The compact fluorescent, or CFL, replacement wasn’t seen as smart because it failed the definition above. While lasting longer and greatly improving efficacy (lumens per watt), it lost the incredible, smooth dimming capability which the incandescent lamp became the standard.

The CFL was simply an adaption of fluorescent technology designed to displace a less efficient, shorter life light source. The fact that the CFL had to be recycled as well didn’t help its cause either. Maybe not “dumb”, but certainly not smart enough.

The standard LED lamp was a huge breakthrough technology which solved almost all the issues that the CFL had tried to address, and on proper dimmers, performed adequately. No hazardous materials requiring recycling was a huge step in the right direction as well. Smarter than the CFL, it still couldn’t match flawless dimming or be applied in all the sizes and shapes of incandescent lamps.

The creation of the wireless colored A19 LED bulb, on the other hand, was considered smart by the definition above. Color changing capabilities and dimming all the while being programmed and controlled by a “smart device”. Smart indeed, albeit basically as a fun novelty product.

If we look at the commercial lighting world, LED lighting is being deployed faster and faster, and is maturing rapidly.  Wireless controls are now seen as the “smart component” being “layered over the top” of the A/C LED lighting and is viewed as a cost-effective control solution. Often these wireless controls need additional wireless access points and many of the sensor types run on batteries. Smart enough by our simple definition.

“Good Enough” Lighting?
While definitely creating a strong advancement in energy efficiency and sustainability, perhaps we should question just how smart this really is in the long run. Or, are we just continuing down a well-established road without stopping and challenging our long-held ideas and methods?

Is this road we have been on for so long and our methods of deploying lighting now limiting our progress and possibly blinding us from recognizing a better route?

Are we content and blinded from recognizing a better route?

Has settling for “good enough” become the greatest enemy of achieving our best as an industry and the world that relies so heavily upon us to do so?

Perhaps smart is not smart enough in today’s lighting environments and we should consider an equally simple definition or illustration of intelligent by contrast.

Game-Changing Lighting
Intelligent goes well beyond simply smart by calling upon many different disciplines. Much like a scholar draws upon many different fields of study and then applies them in unique ways to create that which was not known before. In other words, “Game changing”.

Perhaps there is a new road, one that doesn’t limit our progress but delivers far more value to those we serve than we ever dreamed possible before. I would humbly suggest that road is PoE Lighting Technology.

Power over Ethernet takes lighting on a completely new road.

In fact, truly Intelligent Lighting did not really exist prior to PoE Lighting Technology. Its remarkably simple design and unique method of powering is what produces the incredible granularity and control performance exceeding that of A/C based controls.

This paradigm shift of lighting being intrinsically as part of the electrical infrastructure of buildings and now becoming part of the networked operational systems of buildings is precisely what this new road is built of.

While this combination of LED lighting and networking is a high form of Intelligent Lighting based its control capabilities, what words do we use to describe its abilities to enhances other building systems and the wellness and performance of the employees? It quite frankly redefines our expectations of a ‘lighting system’.

Intelligent Lighting
Let’s consider the intelligent aspects of PoE Lighting on a few high-level points:

Since you must run wires to power a luminaire, is there not an elegant simplicity to use those same wires to communicate and control it? Check.

Since that luminaire is a LED based light source, would it also make sense to remove the number one failure point, the A/C driver, at the same time?  And also provide the arrays precisely what they crave? Remarkably “clean” consistent low voltage DC power? Check.

Plug-and-play makes PoE lighting safe and easy.

If you could, in that process, make the power safe and utilize plug-and-play connections that prevent people from contacting live power in the first place, enabling them to reconfigure the lighting, would that not make sense as well? Check.

And, instead of layering controls over the top of that A/C powered lighting system as additional components, what if every known lighting control was built in at a DNA level providing 1% granularity of control and all connected devices are individually addressable? Check.

What if it was possible to provide up to 90% reduction* (and perhaps beyond) in operating costs (OPEX) compared to fluorescent systems of today? And the controls were highly intuitive and simple to manage? Check.

And wouldn’t it be a huge breakthrough if PoE Lighting in new builds and deep retrofits (brown walls) was the single most environmentally sustainable solution available while likely being capital expense neutral or below? Check.

So to answer the question is smart lighting really smart enough? That’s for you to decide and remember, smart lighting may or may not be smart, but PoE Lighting will always be intelligent.

* Gartner, 2012

Want to dive deeper into the world of PoE? Reserve a seat to attend a FREE webinar hosted by Innovative Lighting’s GENISYS PoE Lighting Manager on Tuesday, January 23 at 12pm CT.

The Future of Lighting has Arrived

The Future of Lighting has Arrived [Part 3]

Wendell D. Strong, GENISYS PoE Lighting Manager

Sometimes it makes sense to go “Back to the Future”, so to speak, in order to have a better perspective. In this case, to 1998 in Tucson, Arizona.

Start your DeLoreans, we're heading back to the future.
Start your DeLoreans, we’re heading back to the future.

A gathering is occurring of “stakeholders” in the lighting world. About 60 peopleLighting Vision 2020 are about to participate in a brainstorming session. It is the second meeting launching “Vision 2020 – The Lighting Technology Roadmap” being hosted by the DoE. Yours truly is in the room as a participant.

It was one of the most fascinating lighting events I have ever been a part of. As we were identifying the multiple disconnects that were preventing lighting technology from being more quickly adopted, a woman in the back of the room asked a question that still resonates with me to this day.

“Why do we insist on selling lighting as if it were an ice cream cone and base its value on how many calories it contains”?

The room remained quiet in a moment of reflection and self condemnation it seemed.

How did lighting get reduced to being a base commodity being treated both then and now primarily as a cost per square foot proposition?

“Why do we insist on selling lighting as if it were an ice cream cone and basing its value on how many calories it contains?”

Why do I raise this point?  In  my previous articles, I have pointed out some of these disconnects. Now I will focus on the main one.

Even though PoE Lighting technology is easily capable of saving 90% in energy, and reduces installation time and ongoing maintenance costs while creating a level of intelligence and ease of control which results in greater energy savings across time, we are still missing the point.

While interior lighting has been relied on by humans for comfortable and appealing settings in many venues from hospitality, education, healthcare, retail, office and environments of all types, we seem to have forgotten what its most primary contributions are.

Basic Functions of Lighting

The two most basic functions of lighting date back to prehistoric times and the discovery of fire which provided both safety and productivity to early humans. PoE Lighting technology can help us take those basic functions to whole new level.

In a commercial building, which is more: the utility costs including lighting or the employees working under the lighting? A pretty simply question, but one we should consider further.

Employees typically account for 90% of a company’s operating costs. Typically, operating costs breakdown as 1% for utilities, 9% for rent, and 90% for salaries and benefits.

We have known for decades that poor lighting has negative impacts on safety, performance and productivity. Additionally, numerous studies show when workers are asked what they would change about their personal work-space, over 50% wish to improve their lighting first and foremost. Up to now, the design standard in office lighting might be best described as only adequate.

Poor lighting has negative impacts on work performance and productivity.

What if we could harness the power of the PoE lighting control system, which is paying for itself on the energy consumption side of the business, and apply it to production side and take merely adequate lighting to personally optimized lighting?

Personally Optimized Lighting

What if a menu of positive lighting attributes were available to employees who then could pick and choose from them in order to customize their work-space on demand to their suiting?

Or, in healthcare, patients could control the lighting in their room / over their bed and doctors / nurses could override for treatments?

With the basic capability of changing both the color and intensity of the light, the employee is empowered to “dial in” their lighting to changing tasks as well as their personal preference to the ambiance of the work-space.

For example, I am writing this article under warm color lighting (3000k) at low intensity (35%) as that is the combination which works best for me while being creative. My overall preferred color for detailed work is 5000K, however I normally run Daylight Rhythm (auto sunrise to sunset color and intensity control) as my default setting.  Any changes are made from my smart phone, in seconds. That simple and that easy.

Employees can easily customize work-space lighting from their phones or computers.

I referenced Vision 2020 at the beginning of this article, and I want to leave you the final Vision Statement itself as we are a mere 2.5 years away from that date:

“In 2020, lighting systems in buildings and other applications will:

  • Enhance the performance and well-being of people
  • Adapt easily to the changing needs of any user
  • Use all sources of light efficiently and effectively
  • Function as true systems, fully integrated with other systems rather than as collections of independent components
  • Create minimal impacts on the environment during their manufacturing, installation, maintenance, operations, and disposal

As a result, people will understand, value, and utilize the tangible, personal benefits provided by these lighting systems.”

It would appear that PoE Lighting technology is well positioned to be the driver toward the embodiment of Vision 2020. Sometimes history is the best predictor of the future, especially when it planned to be.  Expect more from your lighting system. Much more.

 

Check out Part one & part two of this three part series.

 

A New Dawn of Lighting Technology [Part 2]

Wendell D. Strong, GENISYS PoE Lighting Manager, Innovative Lighting

A New Dawn of Lighting Technology [Part 2] 

In the first installment of this 3 part series, we walked through a brief review of commercial lighting history starting with open flame sources which carried the lighting banner until just over 100 years ago.

We ended with why SSL, or Solid State Lighting. This was the first true technology that was capable of creating a new dawn of lighting. This is because it had a natural ‘want to be controlled’ as a solid state DC low voltage light source.

“It doesn’t matter how efficient your car is if you leave it running in the driveway.” — Wendell’s Father

My father used to say it didn’t matter how efficient your car was if you left it running in the driveway— and so it is with lighting. Originally, our quest was solely lumens per watt, which was great, but we tended to not apply much control as we were already gaining more efficiency.  When controls were applied, they were costly, cumbersome, and often confusing to the end user. As a result, they didn’t always perform as desired. We seemingly “lost control” while trying to gain it.

This was the result of approaching control as “add on feature” as opposed to control being innately part of the lighting system technology to begin with. This is why truly intelligent lighting control has never really existed before.

There is a very simple truth at the heart of this. We are treating LED technology the same as every other lighting technology to date when it is very different. And missing that difference is missing everything it can become.

PoE lighting installations are quick and low maintenance.

The LEDs themselves don’t want or need A/C power. Power-over-Ethernet provides the DC low voltage power that the LEDs crave. All delivered via a simple everyday Ethernet cable which provides not only their power, but control as well through that very same cable. One wire both powers and controls the lighting. This is a game changer in every sense of the phrase.

This means we no longer require the traditional electrical infrastructure or even the lighting circuits altogether. They prevent intelligent control, and are quite frankly obsolete in a networked lighting world.

Traditional, bulky conduit takes a lot of time & money to install.

PoE Lighting Technology is fully networked lighting at a DNA level. Not only is every energy lighting control function built in with a 1% incremental granularity, everything is individually addressable. This is where the statements of “up to 90% energy savings compared to traditional lighting” come from when multiple control strategies can be brought to bear on a single luminaire easily and simply.

The power of networking via Power-over-Ethernet and the very nature of Solid State Lighting (LED) combined, produce a sum far greater than its individual parts. Needless to say, this is a quantum leap from where we are today and that is looking at this PoE Lighting technology from only a lighting control perspective.

The final installment of this series will outline what this all means as we translate what we are capable of doing today beyond sustainability, energy efficiency, and savings. We will explore what fully networked lighting is capable of delivering to everyone affected by the PoE lighting system.  Meanwhile, start imagining what you wish a lighting system could do!

Missed part 1 of the series? Read it here.

Insights into the World of PoE Lighting Technology [ Part 1]

Wendell D. Strong, GENISYS PoE Lighting Manager, Innovative Lighting


In the Beginning there was light…

With over 30 years of commercial lighting experience, I can honestly say for the first time, we are really starting to innovate as an industry. That will catch some off guard and stir some lively conversations.

Perspective being everything,  it is important to note in our advanced society with all of our bells and whistles of technology, it was just over 100 years ago that most work was being done by open flame light sources. Sources that, inherently, created more heat than light. Hard to believe when you first recognize the truth.

Incandescent, and its close cousin, halogen, are both still with us. The former surviving nearly every attempt to kill it off, and the later still growing in market share today.

Fluorescent, a 1940s lighting technology, is still the lighting technology of choice for most buildings in the US and has quite possibly “over-matured” as lighting source if that is possible.

HID sources continue onward as the workhorses of outdoor lighting and industrial spaces. However, due to their natural inability to control them well, are giving ground to SSL/LED sources more rapidly.

Ah, LED, the saving grace of lighting technology. High efficacy, long life with gradual lumen depreciation and what do we do have with it?  Treat as if it were like all other light sources and operate on AC high voltage systems that have also been around for 100 years or so.

Of course, SSL/LED is much different and much more disruptive as a technology than any of us actually realized early on. LEDs don’t want or need AC high voltage as in their native state LEDs are low voltage direct current devices.

As low voltage direct current devices, LEDs turn on and off rapidly and dim smoothly with no negative effect on their rated life, in fact both actually extending their useful lives. LEDs in their natural state “want” to be controlled.

Voila. We have never had a light source with such characteristics before. All we have to do is apply what the LED “wants” from the power source and we can eclipse 100 years of legacy control at the same time. It is literally a new dawn of lighting. We can expect and deliver far more benefits to the workplace than ever before.

* Article Featured on Electrical Trends

A New Dawn of Lighting

Part two of the 3 part series “Insights into the World of PoE Lighting Technology,” written by our very own Wendell Strong, has been published in Electrical Trends.

In A New Dawn of Lighting, Strong discusses how Power over Ethernet lighting creates a new paradigm for the lighting industry that revolves around the premise of power delivery.  Why send high voltage to low voltage lights only to put a voltage step down (LED Driver) at the end of the high voltage run?  Why not give low voltage devices low voltage from the get-go with built in data for monitoring and controls?

Check out Wendell’s new article here, courtesy of Electrical Trends.

Wendell Strong, GENISYS Manager, Pens 3-Part Lighting Series

As another year is put behind us, GENISYS’ own Wendell Strong reflects on where lighting has been and where it is headed in his 3 part series “Insights into the World of PoE Lighting Technology.”  

Big things are on the horizon for 2017 and major announcements are coming soon, make sure you’re caught up to speed by reading Wendell’s article via Electrical Trends, an electrical distribution industry blog.

Click here to check out the first part of Wendell’s 3 part blog series.