Transform your city or business with the 'three Ps of lighting'

28th May 2019
Anna Flockett

Lighting systems take on a new role as a connectivity backbone for IoT applications in smart cities, smart buildings and smart business. In the last decade, energy-efficient LEDs have replaced more and more incandescent lamps in the world. Recently, connectivity and lighting have resulted in networked lighting systems that can be remotely monitored and controlled. Now, this smart lighting infrastructure is beginning to make its connectivity available to a variety of new services in networked cities, stores, offices, and factories.

Today, lighting consumes just under one fifth of energy worldwide. The replacement of conventional light bulbs with LEDs alone can save 27-29% in energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six percent. Intelligent lighting systems that integrate presence detection, scheduling and dimming can deliver up to 66% energy savings.

Networked lighting enables facility managers to remotely control their infrastructure, quickly detect and resolve failures, enable preventative maintenance, and enhance residents' well-being. Outside, it can help deliver the right light at the right time and in the right place, reduce power and light pollution, and increase public safety.

Easy to implement, maintain and scale 
A variety of technologies meet the needs of intelligent lighting systems. Low power wide area (LPWA) networks, such as LTE-M and NB-IoT, connect any number of luminaires to control platforms in the cloud via cellular base stations. And short-range technologies such as Bluetooth or WiFi can connect a range of lights with control units.

Mesh technologies such as Bluetooth Mesh , Thread, or Zigbee increase the reach tremendously as they relay messages from node to node to their destination. And capillary networks use cellular or Ethernet connectivity to connect mesh networks to the cloud, from where they can be monitored and controlled.

Regardless of the specific choice, these technologies have the main advantages of wireless applications: they are easy to implement, maintain, and scale.

The ‘three Ps of lighting’
You will find luminaires everywhere where people spend time. Just take a moment and count how many fixed lights you can see. If you are not in the middle of nowhere, they will be abundant. As a rule, they are also well positioned. And necessarily they are also supplied with energy (powered).

The ‘three Ps of lighting’ - Plenty , Position , Powered - are equally important for Internet of Things applications, which also require a large number of well-positioned and powered wireless nodes. By creating a network of wireless nodes spanning a city, office, factory, or mall to which other applications can dock, lighting networks pave the way for a new generation of services that are affordable and easy to access install, maintain and operate.

New value-added services enable
Shopping malls and various retailers have begun using this wireless communications backbone. By tracking their customers with Bluetooth beacons integrated into the lighting infrastructure, they can offer dynamic and personalised loyalty programs through smartphone apps that keep customers in the picture, streamline store layout, and help them navigate the store.

In the industry, the lighting infrastructure can be used to provide indoor positioning services to track valuable assets, tools and equipment, and personnel. Even more applications will be possible with the Bluetooth 5.1 specification announced earlier this year by the Bluetooth SIG, which uses a new direction finding feature to provide centimetre-level positioning. Finally, companies can set up distributed room occupancy sensors to streamline space allocation and track employees. This allows their access to limited locations to be managed.

Smart streetlights provide a natural connectivity backbone for a range of Smart City applications. Battery-powered, intelligent parking sensors could, for example, transmit the status of their monitored parking lots to the nearest street lighting, from where the information can be transmitted to the cloud. Traffic jam monitoring, intelligent digital displays, and intelligent traffic control applications such as V2X communications, traffic lights, and public event monitoring are just some of the other Smart City applications that could enable smart street lighting.  

With a variety of energy-supplied luminaires strategically positioned both indoors and outdoors, the intelligent lighting infrastructure is establishing itself as a viable backbone for delivering value-added services to our connected future.

To see why u blox is a suitable connectivity partner for intelligent lighting solutions, check out its webinar on smart lighting in smart cities and smart buildings.

Guest blog written by Diego Grassi, Senior Manager Product Strategy Cellular, Industrial Market Development, u-blox and Stefan Berggren, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Product Strategy Short Range Radio.

Courtesy of u-blox.

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