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    Unleash your imagination for connected lighting

    November 03, 2020
    Connected Lighting
    Back on September 1, I was invited to speak at the 2020 US Department of Energy (DoE) LED R&D virtual roundtable hosted by Guidehouse, which is an American management consultancy firm that acquired the well-known market intelligence and advisory group Navigant Research. One of the topics of high interest was the challenges with the LED drivers and controls, and what R&D opportunities can address the potential barriers. It was an honor for me to represent Signify and share my perspective on this topic with participants from the lighting industry and the academia. 
    Digital LED drivers flow of data
    Figure 1: Construct of an all-digital lighting system
    For those of you who have closely followed my blogs, webinar, or podcast, you probably correctly guessed that my presentation centered on the critical need to build the digital foundation of a modern lighting system from the ground up. (Figure 1) A key building block of this digital foundation is the digital LED drivers such as the Advance Xitanium SR LED drivers from Signify, which enable two-way digital exchange with the lighting control system. One thing that I’ve never touched on publicly until this roundtable discussion is a key missing element, that will truly unlock the full potential of the connected lighting systems. 

    Imagination drives our world forward 

     

    If you look around, our world has improved dramatically because of the rapid advancement in technologies. Smart mobile devices, electric vehicles, and e-commerce are some of the most well-known and talked about modern inventions that have fundamentally changed how we live and interact with each other. While Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are household names who have transformed their respective industries, their successes are built on many technological innovations that are the fruits of the imagination from countless people.

     

    When it comes to the connected lighting systems, what does imagination have to do with the future of the lighting industry? I’ve been asked numerous times by colleagues, customers, and business partners when would connected lighting become mainstream. Frankly I think all the building blocks are already available now and the only missing element is our imagination. While this may sound abstract, and some may even challenge this notion because it trivializes the market dynamic and economical challenges, I would argue that sometimes it only takes a leap of faith by the right people to reimagine how the connected lighting systems can transform our lives.

     

    From energy savings to values creation

     

    For many years the connected lighting systems has been utilized with the end goal of achieving energy savings. There have been countless articles and studies that explains the energy savings potential of the connected lighting systems. 

    A new paradigm shift
    Figure 2: Shifting of benefits for the connected lighting systems
    In the latest example, Design Light Consortium (DLC), in partnership with The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), published a new report in September of this year titled Energy Savings from Networked Lighting Control (NLC) Systems with and without LLLC. This report builds upon the DLC's ground-breaking 2017 study, Energy Savings from Networked Lighting Control (NLC) Systems, and examines the energy savings of nearly 200 NLC system that have been deployed in various building types for more than three years. One of the most important findings is that 49% represents the average energy savings from NLC systems in the real world. This conclusion is derived from larger project sample size, more NLC solutions, and greater building-type diversity than the earlier study. The significance of this study is that on average NLC systems can help cut the energy consumption by half!

    Moreover, the US Department of Energy (DoE) released a report titled Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications in August of this year. If you analyze the numbers cited by this report, you will be able to derive the additional energy savings potential that the connected lighting systems can produce in the US. Below is the result I calculated for three of the most important categories of commercial and industrial lighting:

     

    Linear fixtures: Additional 3% in energy savings that is equivalent to $13.4B USD

    Low/high bay fixtures: Additional 22% in energy savings that is equivalent to $10.0B USD

    Street/roadway fixtures: Additional 20% in energy savings that is equivalent to $3.3B USD

     

    It’s fair to say that both DLC and DoE reports have put to rest any lingering doubt about the energy saving potential of the connected lighting systems. What is unclear, though, is the value creation potential. How do we quantify the benefits and the hidden potential that connected lighting system can bring? I think this is where our imagination can lead us to the answer. (Figure 2)

    A future world with the connected lighting systems

     

    When it comes to value creation, you may be surprised to hear that I’d be the first to admit I don’t have the answer. The reason is that it really depends on how do the end customers reimagine what the connected lighting systems can do. Specifically, I’m talking about the extra benefits that the connected lighting systems can generate when real-time information becomes available. To quantify these elusive value creation potential, we have to pay attention to clues that are already around us.

     

    Back in February, I wrote a blog tilted Lighting Industry A Decade From Now. In that article I explain how the connected lighting systems can play a key role in the world of Internet of Things (IoT). Technological advancement in machine learning, artificial intelligence, mobile devices, coupled with the all-digital lighting infrastructure, will transform the way we interact with the physical world. The concept of mirror world—in which digital information and our physical world are seamlessly intertwined—will enable us to have an even more immersive and intimate experience with all the digital information we access each day through our mobile devices and computers. (Figure 3)

    Future of connected lighting
    Figure 3

    Since this blog was published, I have had numerous conversations with my colleagues, customers, and Signify’s IoT partners. While there is healthy debate on how mature are these three key elements of the mirror world—machine learning, augmented reality, and all-digital lighting infrastructure—everyone agrees that this is where the industry is heading. There is also consensus that building the all-digital lighting infrastructure NOW is the most crucial first step. 

     

    To identify the hidden clues that would reveal the value creation potential of the connected lighting systems, we would first need to have a longer-term vision of what the connected lighting systems can do. In other words, we need to embrace the connected lighting systems with a newer, and dare I say, more disruptive mindset. This is more critical than ever especially given the uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has fundamentally changed our way of working (e.g. work from home, distance learning, etc.). This newer and disruptive mindset requires an imaginative interpretation of how lighting can transform our lives and our current way of working. If you consider the parallel examples of what other thought leaders such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos have done in reimaging what their respective industry would be with smart phones, autonomous electric vehicles, and e-commerce, it’s time for all of us to think bigger and be bolder with our imagination about the connected lighting systems.

     

    Value creation use cases

     

    To help visualize the future state of the connected lighting systems, I listed four most talked-about use cases that can generate additional values beyond energy savings. While these four use cases have yet to become mainstream, and are probably not part of the lighting design specifications, their future benefits are compelling and undeniable. (Figure 4) 

    A new paradigm shift: graph
    Figure 4
    1. Failure detection and prevention: This is perhaps the use case that gets the most interest from lighting manufactures and lighting control solution provides alike. The obvious quantified benefit lies in the labor and material cost savings. While all lighting manufactures have their guaranteed life expectancy for luminaires, there is always something unexpected that would shorten the actual lifespan of the luminaires in the field. For luminaires equipped with the Advance Xitanium SR LED drivers from Signify, you can have access to the asset, performance, and health data of the luminaire at your fingertips. This is because this type of digital LED drivers have standard-compliant built-in memory that can store these vital information. Having these vital information in real time can help improve the failure detection and the failure prevention.
    2. Improve maintenance workflow: The fixture-based information can have critical impact on the business operation. Real-time access to this data can help improve the speed and efficiency of the maintenance workflow. It can also help to reduce expensive idling time or human errors if and when field repairs are needed.
    3. Flexibility in space utilization: Some of the more advanced connected lighting systems available today can utilize motion sensor data from fixtures that have build-in sensor. This information can help generate the “heat map” of the traffic inside the building. This anonymized data is especially useful for facility managers who are trying to figure out how to keep the interior space clean or rearrange the office space in order to meet the social distancing guidelines or other critical business needs and challenges.
    4. Comfort and mood-altering: A happy individual is an engaged individual. Similar argument can be made for any occupants at schools, healthcare facilities, and retail spaces. This is why many organizations have invested heavily to make the indoor environment more hospitable. Lighting can play a key role in improving our mood by changing the lighting intensity and color temperature. The connected lighting systems can also be programmed to elicit targeted behaviors (i.e. focused or relaxed) with different mix of lighting intensity and color temperature (for example think of our biological circadian rhythm). While it may be hard to put a dollar amount on the well-being of the occupants, an inviting indoor environment will be a key selling points as well as the differentiator for many public and private companies/institutions.

    The future is now

     

    As exciting as the connected lighting systems are to some of us, the reality is that their commercial adoption is still at the infancy. The consensus is that the market adoption is well short of 10% in the US. While technologies have improved and prices have tumbled, for the most part energy savings is still the primary decision criteria. I think it’s time for all of us to dream big and use our imagination to visualize what the future might look like. It’s equally important for the decision makers who are tasked with charting the future of their organizations to think of the connected lighting systems with a different mindset. By shifting the focus away from energy savings and toward the value creation, we can better identify and quantify the future potential of the connected lighting systems. Furthermore, technology for the all-digital lighting infrastructure has matured to the point that we can begin laying the digital foundation today by using luminaires equipped with digital LED drivers. In my closing remark at the 9/1 roundtable, I left the audience with this final thought: in the future of mirror world, what the connected lighting systems can do is only bounded by our imagination. 

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    Augmented reality, connected lighting, DLC, DoE, energy savings, IoT, LED, machine learning, mirror world, Signify, Xitanium, Xitanium SR  

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