The ‘internet of things’ isn’t just about controlling domestic appliances with a smartphone – it has the potential to use lighting systems for much more than lighting.

With ongoing pressure to reduce energy costs and environmental impact, many building operators are recognising the benefits of investment in energy-efficient LED lighting. In doing so they are opening the door to a more connected world that goes beyond illumination.

In the last few years there have been some significant advances in the interconnectivity and interoperability of various systems within buildings. Convergence between lighting, HVAC and other building controls is already a reality, facilitated by the move from legacy standards and proprietary implementations to internet-based standards.

Once connected to this common protocol, the elements such as luminaires, sensors and actuators form a smart, connected system – making them part of the much wider ‘internet of things’ – or IoT – that is generating so much excitement currently.
There is a challenge, though, in that all of these low-powered devices will have to submit data at a high frequency rate, and do so for many years without being recharged. Clearly an infrastructure is needed to solve this challenge.
It seems clear that a lighting system using Internet Protocol offers the ideal solution. A lighting network provides a dense network both inside and outside the building, covering the entire facility and, with the growing use of LED lighting, such networks are increasingly digital and connected to a power source. Moreover, lighting networks already collect useful data, such as occupancy, through luminaires and stand-alone sensors. So far this data is only used for lighting control but in the next step it can unleash much more value when deployed outside the lighting world.

A smart and connected lighting system can also underpin a dynamic and context-aware building where settings change dynamically based on a combination of sensory inputs like motion, heat, illuminance, humidity and orientation of objects. Sensory data can also contribute to intelligent controls, adjusting shades and window openings for optimised sustainability.
On the practical side, IoT devices are typically connected through wireless and wired protocols such as Ethernet. However, due to the power requirements and size constraints of WiFi they will ultimately communicate at a common layer to enable cross industry features and communications.

One of the biggest challenges with this concept has been to make the setup and installation experience secure and frictionless. Thanks to collaboration between lighting controls companies, architects, building services engineers, IT managers and installers there is now real progress towards making Internet-connected lighting a reality that takes lighting way beyond just illumination.