The light bulb moment

13 Nov 14:00 by Source:


A connected LED lighting infrastructure can bring benefits far beyond just energy efficiency, however. It can positively impact the planet, society, organisations and individuals in a number of different ways. The value of lighting can now go way beyond the traditional expectation of illumination,  

As a lighting company, to call for the extinction of the conventional light bulb as we did in 2007 was a radical thing, but the decision was (and still is) crucial to achieving our energy savings and CO2 emission targets.  

It was also an opportunity that has led to significant advances in data driven technology through the development of connected LED lighting and new IoT applications to enhance its use. Conventional lighting (where to emit light something has to be literally burned) is in sharp decline globally. The market is decreasing exponentially and products such as the incandescent lamp are now harder to come by as they are simply not being made. We have moved away from burning to ‘exciting’ an electrical component in the form of an LED, and awareness of energy consumption amongst businesses and individual consumers is a big reason for the change.

Lighting currently accounts for 15 percent of the world’s electricity, but with a universal switch to LEDs, its share of power consumption would fall to just eight percent. However, even with such vast adoption of LEDs, especially in Europe, we are only at the tip of the iceberg of the potential for connected lighting worldwide.

For example, today there are approximately 300 million streetlights across the world, but only about one in ten are high-efficiency LEDs, and just two percent are connected. If we combine high-efficiency lighting with connectivity and smart sensors, we can achieve energy savings of up to 80 percent.

A wider reaching connected LED lighting infrastructure can bring benefits far beyond just energy efficiency or traditional expectations of illumination. Here are some examples:

  • Public Sector projects such as the street lighting upgrade on the Isle of Wight deliver significant energy savings, improved visibility and reduced light pollution and can free up local funds for alternative investment. Over 12,000 street lights have been upgraded as part of a 25 year programme delivered through the Ringway Island Roads private finance initiative (PFI). Island Roads received an award from the Campaign to Protect Rural England for its commitment to ‘Dark Skies’, reflecting the significant reduction in light pollution that has already been achieved. All of the new lighting assets, including the heritage lighting, are connected wirelessly via a central management system that allows each luminaire to be controlled remotely.
  • In the office environment, integrated sensors within connected lighting systems provide rich data with many uses. For example, in the EDGE building in Amsterdam, it allows employees to personalise the lighting and temperature at their workspaces using a smartphone app, and also provides building managers with real time data for smart workspaces and space management. The system uses 750 Power-overEthernet (PoE) switches to connect the lighting fixtures to the building’s IT network. The integrated sensors capture anonymous data on room occupancy and temperature, data is then used to precisely deliver lighting, heating, cooling and cleaning resources with maximum energy efficiency.
  • In the retail space lighting is improving sales and customer experience. LED-based indoor positioning using VLC (visible light communication) allows shoppers and store staff to receive directions to products or to receive location-based notifications. It allows retailers to engage customers in a meaningful way, and to use location data analytics to measure marketing impact and assess store operations. Carrefour installed a connected lighting system with a VLC indoor positioning system in its hypermarket in Lille. The system allows customers to find products on promotion throughout the store using a specially designed smartphone app and the integrated and connected LED lanterns provide the cost savings and energy efficiencies Carrefour required.
  • In the home, connected LED lighting can transform everyday lighting into an extraordinary experience. Lighting offers infinite possibilities for playing with colours, syncing lights to music, TV and games for immersive effects. Users can turn on Applets that trigger their lights to change colour when the International Space Station passes over their home, flash their team’s colours when they score, or remind them to bring an umbrella by turning their lights blue when rain is forecast. Connected lighting can also integrate with voice control systems like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri.

Moving forward, LED lighting is already extending its capabilities beyond simple illumination. The ubiquity of lighting systems in buildings, and their relative ease of access, makes them the perfect networks on which to build connected platforms which can provide the foundation for many other apps, placing lighting as an integral part of the IoT. It’s exciting to think that the IoT and connected lighting can simultaneously help mitigate the effects of climate change and add value to society in numerous ways. But watch this space, connected lighting developments are going to be game-changing, and most have not even been thought of yet.  

As published in The Electrical Times ( - September 2017. Special thanks to Bas Van Ginkel and Karl Hanuska.