Future Electronics – The challenge of addressing the ‘IoT effect’ which is disrupting the lighting industry

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At the beginning of this century, the lighting industry faced the biggest technological disruption to take place since the invention of the light bulb. The introduction of LEDs for lighting applications has led to an almost complete reconfiguration of the luminaire manufacturing supply chain, as well as to a radical rethinking of product designs and system architectures.

The LED can now be regarded as a mature and well understood technology. However, back in the early 2000s lighting equipment manufacturers struggled with the implementation of LED-based designs, and particularly with the issues of thermal management and driver design.

In retrospect, that period early in the adoption of LEDs can be seen as a turning point for the lighting industry. Today I have
a similar feeling about the early adoption of intelligence in the lighting sector. The industry is starting to recognise the huge potential benefits to be gained from the integration of lighting fixtures, wireless control, sensors and the data these intelligent systems gather, all remotely monitored. Therefore the ‘why’ is clear but the ‘how’ and ‘what’ still appear unclear for many especially as the choice is almost limitless when it comes to potential suppliers offering a piece of the jigsaw.

The recent ratification of the specifications for mesh networking over the Bluetooth® radio protocol, a technology mainly aimed at wireless sensor nodes, has generated a great deal of interest among lighting equipment designers.

At the same time, new use cases and business models are under serious consideration, such as the addition of environmental sensors to street lights as a way to perform granular measurement of pollution levels in cities.

Likewise, there is a strong trend in the commercial lighting sector to add colour sensors to luminaires to create tunable white lighting, in response to research linking changes in the chromaticity of artificial lighting to effects on people’s circadian rhythm, potentially affecting their health and productivity.

Integrating these new networking, sensing and control technologies into market-ready products will involve experimentation, innovation and risk, but the potential commercial benefits to successful manufacturers are huge. And as part of its moves to help the lighting industry handle the ‘IoT effect’, Future Lighting Solutions is demonstrating products and solutions for sensing and wireless control at its stand 4.1 G10 at the Light + Building show (Frankfurt, 18-23 March).

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