Visible Light Communication

Visible light communication (VLC) is a wireless method that uses light emitted by LEDs to deliver networked, mobile, high-speed communication similar to Wi-Fi, leading to the term Li-Fi. It can be used as standalone solution or in a supplementary role to radio-frequency (RF) or cellular network communication.

The basis of the technology, conceived by Professor Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh, involves switching LEDs ON and OFF within nanoseconds at a very high frequency. Haas demonstrated the technology at a TED Global talk in 2011 and went on to co-found PureLiFi, a Li-Fi technology OEM for LED manufacturers.

As the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the radio frequency spectrum, VLC is regarded as a solution to RF bandwidth limitations. Industry has generated very high data transmission rates, making it competitive.

Though the signal cannot penetrate obstructions such as walls, a direct line of sight is not required as long as long as light is reflected from other surfaces. The LED lighting must be ON for the signal to transmit but can be dimmed to very low levels. VLC has an advantage over Wi-Fi in that transmission does not cause electromagnetic interference.

Applications are broad, but one application has attracted key interest by major lighting manufacturers Acuity Brands, GE and Philips. That is to say, big box retail.

Lighting has long been considered the “silent salesperson” in retail because it facilitates wayfinding and can be used to attract shoppers to key merchandise. VLC introduces a new way to connect retailers and their customers to enhance the shopping experience and improve value.

According to Deloitte Consulting LLP, in 2012, more than 60% of mobile shoppers used smart phones while in the store, and 85% of consumers were using retailers’ native apps or websites during shopping trips. In the solutions being demonstrated by Acuity, GE and Philips, the LED luminaires provide a communication point with shoppers using mobile phones (or camera-enabled tablets) loaded with an app, appealing to a ready market. With VLC, the store’s luminaires communicate with shoppers in two primary ways.

First, VLC provides indoor GPS-like location-positioning functionality that enables wayfinding. Shoppers looking for particular items in their shopping list can be guided straight to them. Second, the owner can deliver targeted information to its customers. As a shopper passes a product section in an aisle, for example, their phone can receive coupons, recipes and other information.

Philips’ “connected lighting system,” demonstrated earlier this year at EuroShop and LIGHTFAIR, consists of LED luminaires in a dense network that provides illumination while also functioning as a positioning grid. Each luminaire is identifiable and able to communicate its position to an app on a shopper’s smart device.

“The beauty of the system is that retailers do not have to invest in additional infrastructure to house, power and support location beacons for indoor positioning,” says Gerben van der Lugt of Philips. “The light fixtures themselves can communicate this information by virtue of their presence everywhere in the store.”

Sample app using Philips connected retail lighting system as demonstrated at Euroshop 2014, Duesseldorf

Sample app using Philips connected retail lighting system as demonstrated at Euroshop 2014, Duesseldorf

GE partnered with ByteLight to demonstrate “LED infrastructure” that will be available in the next generation of GE LED luminaires. The technology uses a combination of VLC and Bluetooth for communication. The lighting can communicate with smart phones and tablets with a camera.

“GE Lighting’s next generation of LEDs not only will save energy and maintenance costs, they will be a strategic enabler to combining big data with location to deliver a more engaging shopping experience that increases customer loyalty and value,” says Jaime Irick, general manager of North America Professional Solutions, GE Lighting.

GE's retail-oriented LED infrastructure using VLC to connect retailers with their customers.

GE’s retail-oriented LED infrastructure using VLC to connect retailers with their customers.

Acuity Brands partnered with Qualcomm Technologies to develop a solution based on its eldoLED driver platform. Lumicast determines a mobile user’s location within 10 centimeters, as well as the user’s orientation within the aisle. Like GE and Philips, Acuity is currently engaging top retailers to conduct proof of concept testing.

“This new technology allows LED lighting to be an asset for retailers, not only because of the productivity gains, energy savings and environment improvements it provides, but also because of its emerging capacity for enhancing and changing in-store customer experiences,” says Steve Lydecker, senior vice president for Acuity Brands Lighting. “Guiding the shopper through the store based on the shopper’s actual position, visible light communication technology opens the door for retailers to more effectively engage and influence consumers on the retail floor.”

VLC is an exciting development and represents a potential shift in the chief value conversation about retail lighting from light/dollar to how the lighting system can more directly support sales. Based on VLC’s success in big box, more commercial building applications will likely follow. There is also strong potential to incorporate other devices within the LED luminaires, such as sensors, that can be used to capture traffic and buying activity throughout the store, providing valuable analytics for retailers.

For more information about GE Lighting, visit

For more information about Philips Lighting Controls, visit

Fort Wellington Visitor Centre Wins IES Lighting Control Innovation Award Of Merit

The Lighting Control Innovation Award was created in 2011 as part of the Illuminating Engineering Society’s Illumination Awards program, which recognizes professionalism, ingenuity and originality in lighting design. LCA is proud to sponsor the Lighting Control Innovation Award, which recognizes projects that exemplify the effective use of lighting controls in nonresidential applications.

This month, we will explore the role that lighting controls play in enhancing the visitor experience at the visitor center of Fort Wellington, a National Historic Site. Lighting and control design by Nick Chu and Frank Park of DIALOG. Photography by Ben Rahn of A-Frame Studio. Lighting controls by LiteTouch.

A visitor center for a National Historic Site, this building was designed to be warm, inviting and required viewing access to the exterior historic grounds. Preservation and exhibition of artifacts was a key component and design challenge. A wooden hull of a vintage 1817 gunboat, was the main lighting feature. The combination of natural and artificial light were balanced via
controls, allowing the building to function as intended while highlighting and preserving irreplaceable historic elements. As the building is directly in the path of migratory birds, the lighting schedule and light pollution were critical design elements to consider. Lighting was an important design feature that highlighted the exceptional project design and the community’s history, while drawing in 30% more visitors.


A central control panel located within the exhibit space controls window shades and dimmable LED (non-UV) light fixtures. To protect against deterioration, it’s important that artifacts have no direct exposure to UV. Photo sensors are strategically placed near exhibits and window shades are set to automatically close when direct daylight crosses a certain threshold. The LED fixtures can be automatically controlled to compensate when the shades are drawn.


Due to the multiple display areas within the space, zoning was crucial for the controls. Designated display areas are separately zoned at the control panel, allowing for dimming and switching as displays change. Discrete lighting and control systems maintain focus on the exhibits.


Dimmable LED fixtures allow for variable lighting levels depending on the amount of daylight while high CRI lamps ensure textures and wood grains are visible from above and below the exhibit. The control panel is completely configurable, enabling the curators to adjust and set appropriate levels.


Energy Efficiency: Project was designed to meet LEED Gold levels.

Budget: Value engineering was completed at multiple stages. The project was ultimately finished on budget.

Lutron Publishes Whitepaper on Controlling LEDs


Unlike fluorescent loads, most LED products are inherently dimmable. However, the dimming performance can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, or even in different fixtures from the same manufacturer. Additionally, the fast-moving state of the LED lighting industry means there is a lot of risk that needs to be managed throughout a job.

In response, Lutron Electronics has published a whitepaper providing guidance on dimming of LED lighting. This whitepaper provides:

• An overview of LEDs and types of LED products

• Advantages and limitations of LEDs for general illumination

• Benefits of dimming LEDs for occupants/home owners

• Important considerations for dimming LEDs

Click here to download it.

For more information about Lutron Electronics Co., visit

ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING Publishes Article on How Lighting Control is Changing Lighting

ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING recently published an article about how the LED revolution opens new possibilities for luminaires to serve other functions such as lighting control, surveillance and other services.

Check it out here.

Lighting Controls Association Whitepapers Receive 1 Million Views

lca-logoThe Lighting Controls Association began publishing a monthly feature article on this website in 2002. Last month, LCA education hit a major milestone: These feature articles received 1 million views from site users.

LCA is proud to serve the construction industry as the leading authority on lighting controls and a respected provider of lighting controls education.

Click here to see the archive of these articles authored by Craig DiLouie, LC, who serves as LCA as its education director.

WattStopper Brings Time-Saving Ladder-Free Sensor Configuration to Warehouses

wattstopperWattStopper has introduced time-saving remote functionality to warehouse lighting control with its new high/low bay sensor. The sensor is packed with features to simplify installation and maintenance, making it easier to manage energy effectively in applications where lighting is mounted as high as 40 feet.

Part of a new family of fixture-mounted sensors, the infrared (IR) remote-controlled occupancy sensor includes a pre-installed lens for mounting heights from 15 to 40 feet. For aisle way applications, installers can snap on a rotatable masking ring, included with the PIR (passive infrared) sensor. This new lens design simplifies ordering and installation compared to previous products that either work only at specific heights, or require on site assembly using specific lenses for different applications

The compact sensor also features accessible onboard controls for installers who prefer presetting special control parameters. A companion product includes the same controls and lens, but without the IR capability.

WattStopper launched ladder-free sensor configuration with its Digital Lighting Management controls, and subsequently added remote capability to parking lot sensor and now to high bay sensors. Installers and facility managers can store multiple sensor parameter profiles in a single IR remote control device to speed configuration and optimize control for different applications.

Click here
to learn more.

For more information about WattStopper, visit

Memoori Report: Longer Life-Cycles and Price Pressure Push LED Manufacturers Towards Smart Lighting Control

Guest post by Memoori

For LEDs, the push into the building lighting market is well under way, driven by improving energy efficiency of the technology and a longevity that is almost unmatched by competing lighting technologies. Memoori’s analysis indicates that market penetration expressed in terms of overall revenue generation of lighting in buildings grew to around 14% at the end of 2013.

Web-Charts_LED Report-2014_v6

Beyond the often cited initial cost barrier, other factors such as the incompatibility of legacy lighting systems, mixed consumer awareness and perceptions of LED lighting are still to be overcome. It seems clear that several different lighting technologies will coexist for a few years to come.

Although buying choices and procurement philosophies of both consumers and commercial facilities managers have traditionally focused on initial costs, one of the key benefits of a switch to LED lighting lies in its lower total cost of ownership.

The goal for LED manufacturers is now to convince consumers to migrate from a fixed cost of light to a service cost. 5 year payback is a very tough sell; lighting controls can move payback nearer to 2 / 3 years.

How quickly a return on investment can be made on LED lighting versus traditional lighting methods depends of course on both the application and the proportion of time the light is switched on.

The current rate of cost decline in LED lighting systems is about 18% a year. At the time of publication of our research, the average global selling price of LED light bulbs that can replace standard 40-watt bulbs had declined to US$15, while that of 60W-equivalent LED bulbs dropped to around US$21. Prices will continue to drop significantly year on year until around 2018 before starting to level off.

Going forward, successful revenue growth in LED lighting will be dependent not only on promises of longer life and energy efficiency, but also on effectiveness, upfront costs, consumer confidence and improved functionality.

For LED manufacturers to survive in an increasingly competitive market place, they will have to embrace innovation and continue to invest in R&D.

Memoori’s research shows that smart lighting systems are today in use in only a very low percentage of buildings. LED lightings’ controllable nature makes it well suited for use with sensors in smart lighting applications for a number of purposes including increasing energy savings.

With the Internet of Things coming closer to reality and LEDs providing the potential to control every aspect of a light’s characteristics, smart lighting control systems provide another huge potential growth area for lighting companies.

Installation of new LED lighting systems is helping to stimulate increases in the installation of intelligent lighting controls such as occupancy sensors, photosensors and wireless networks that link them. Combining digital LEDs with advanced sensors, control systems and artificial intelligence will reduce the need for separate systems to manage each of these functions.

Also a growing number of innovative companies and universities have also successfully demonstrated the potential of Visual Light Communications (Li-Fi). Using light to increase the speed and rate at which data can be transferred from point to point. These experiments prove that a visible light communication system can be produced to transfer data at speeds up to 10Gbps, which is 666 times faster than average broadband speed in the UK.

Click here to learn more about Memoori’s Report LED Lighting in Buildings 2014 to 2018, now in its second edition.

The Next LED Revolution is Control

With efficacy and service life steadily increasing and costs declining by about 18 percent each year (Memoori, 2014), the LED revolution continues to develop at a rapid pace. LED’s inherent compatibility with digital control, aided by other trends, is setting the stage for the next LED revolution: smart lighting control.

Many LED products are sold with dimming capability regardless of how the owner plans to control them. Drivers and controls are easily integrated. With smart lighting control, luminaires themselves can become addressable nodes in a network, transforming lighting from dumb, fixed-output systems into intelligent, highly flexible systems. That, and a networking platform incorporating other building functions.

xCella by Acuity Controls

xCella by Acuity Controls

The primary driver is energy consumption with a bonus that dimming LEDs can extend service life by reducing lumen depreciation and delaying color shift. As more states adopt a commercial building energy code based on the ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2010 energy standard, demand will continue to increase for controllable lighting.

Besides these requirements, there is evidence owners and specifiers want more controllability. The Sylvania 2010 Commercial Lighting Survey found that 42% of its facility manager, lighting designer and other decision-maker respondents considered easier dimming and control of LEDs a major benefit.

The smart lighting trend started with conventional lighting. Digital hardwired lighting control provides the benefits of individual luminaire addressability, control zoning and rezoning using software, instant setup and remote calibration, and two-way communication providing performance analytics. The advent of digital wireless control simplifies design and installation, facilitates penetration of sophisticated lighting control options in existing construction, and extends control to plug loads. The miniaturization of control devices enables integration of sensors and controllers within each luminaire. Finally, easier color control of LED lighting provides a new dimension of lighting control, which is white light color tuning; the applications for this capability, currently limited, may explode based on developing research into lighting’s relationship to health.

These trends, coupled with inherent compatibility with digital LED devices, laid the groundwork for greater adoption of intelligent lighting control as demand for LED lighting continues to accelerate. They are being tied together into complete solutions featuring luminaires and controls as well as standalone control solutions.

Cree's SmartCast Technology Lighting Controls

Cree’s SmartCast Technology Lighting Controls

Let’s look at some recently introduced solutions as examples, starting with Cree’s SmartCast Technology, available with select Cree luminaires or other luminaires with dimmable drivers, and Philips Lighting’s SpaceWise Technology, currently available as an option for the company’s DuaLED luminaires targeting open office applications. Both feature luminaire-integrated occupancy and daylight sensing, two-way wireless mesh communication, and push-button setup with a handheld remote. These solutions offer a potentially simple, cost-effective path to energy code compliance and energy savings of 50-70 percent compared to conventional uncontrolled T8 luminaires.

Acuity Controls’ XPoint and xCella wireless control solutions offer options as a standalone system or ability to work with other controls to enable implementation of a wireless or hybrid/wireless system offering integration with building management systems and monitoring and analytics software. While XPoint was developed lighting management and building applications, xCella targets room-based lighting, HVAC and plug loads, with the potential for networking between rooms.

Philips Lighting's DuaLED luminaire with SpaceWise Technology

Philips Lighting’s DuaLED luminaire with SpaceWise Technology

Cooper Lighting’s LumaWatt solution, designed as a control platform for roadway, parking and outdoor area LED luminaires, features integral and/or remote sensors, scheduling, power metering and maintenance diagnostics.

Control solutions such as these bring the best of lighting control and LED illumination together in a way that maximizes energy savings, facilitates asset management, and simplifies implementation. But the best may be yet to come.

LED lighting has been called the “Trojan Horse” of the Internet of Things, and we’re at the frontier of this extraordinary revolution. The Internet of Things consists of uniquely identifiable objects represented within a network similar to the Internet. Digital lighting control networks already satisfy this definition but reflect only a fraction of the true potential to add value. What makes the LED luminaire a Trojan Horse is it offers the ability to serve as infrastructure for additional onboard equipment and sensors that can collect and share temperature, occupancy and other data, opening a wide range of new applications. The real potential is to expand lighting’s value proposition from energy savings and longevity toward data and the business value that data can unlock.

Cooper Lighting's McGraw-Edison TopTier Parking Garage and Canopy Luminaire with integrated LumaWatt Outdoor Wireless Control and Monitoring System sensor

Cooper Lighting’s McGraw-Edison TopTier Parking Garage and Canopy Luminaire with integrated LumaWatt Outdoor Wireless Control and Monitoring System sensor

What might this look like? In a commercial building, occupancy sensing (which could be video) embedded in LED luminaires could enhance security and building and resource management by monitoring internal traffic and spatial occupancy. In retail stores, sensors could track everything happening on store floors. In parking lots, sensors could guide visitors to open parking stalls and enhance security. Roadway and street lighting could collect traffic, temperature and pollution information. The list goes on. The result is lighting that collects local data useful for strategic management and accumulates big data that fuels strategic ideas.

Besides collecting information, LED lighting can also be designed to enable communication with users. This could be as simple as incorporating public address capability in public spaces and as sophisticated as using visible light to talk to user mobile phones and camera-enabled tablets using downloaded apps. Acuity, GE and Philips are all demonstrating visible light communication solutions, which will allow owners such as big box retail stores to communicate with shoppers for wayfinding and targeted messaging.

Smart LED lighting takes the conversation about light from providing desired light levels for the lowest cost toward the benefits of total control. Lighting that generates big data, expands capabilities and adds business value in new ways. Lighting control is ready to play; the next stage in the game is integration—LED lighting as infrastructure, a platform.

We’re in the most exciting period in the history of the lighting industry, and the revolution is just getting started.

For more information about Cooper Controls, visit

For more information about Cree, visit

For more information about Philips Lighting Controls, visit

Universal Lighting Technologies’ New Headquarters Can Be Viewed Through Google Maps Virtual Tour

unvltUniversal Lighting Technologies, Inc., (a member of the Panasonic Lighting Americas Group) has unveiled its new corporate headquarters at 51 Century Blvd., Suite 230 in Nashville, Tennessee via a Google Maps virtual tour. Users can now walk through the entire office online for an up-close look at the innovative and energy-efficient lighting incorporated throughout the office. Universal added new fixtures and retrofitted old technologies with Universal ballasts as well as LED drivers and modules before moving to the building early this year.

The new Panasonic Lighting America’s corporate office includes leading designs and state-of-the-art technologies. LED technologies in the facility include downlights that use EVERLINE LED Drivers and Chip on Board LED Modules as well as an LED pendant edge-lit decorative fixture in the boardroom. The lobby incorporates LED chain lighting to illuminate the company’s Panasonic Lighting Americas, Inc. entrance sign.

Many of the existing recessed troffer fixtures were upgraded with LED systems that incorporate EVERLINE linear LED Modules and drivers. Universal Lighting’s leading fluorescent technologies are also showcased with the DEMANDflex ballasts in the six-lamp T8 fixtures in the open office areas, as well as VariPRO 0-10V Analog parallel lamp operating dimming ballasts in the main entry.

Lighting throughout the new space is controlled with a Dialog Control System utilizing occupancy sensors and wall controls from Universal’s sister Panasonic company, Douglas Lighting Controls, for local zone control, manual overrides and facility scheduling. All the conference rooms and executive offices use Dialog 0-10V dimming and occupancy control with their LED lighting. The Dialog system allows custom scenes chosen by the occupant to be programmed and recalled by the controls. The lighting system is also connected to the local network for programming and scheduling, also providing override and demand response functionality.

In the open office areas, Universal’s Demand Control Lighting system (or DCL for short) controls the lighting directly over the power line without the need for additional control wires. This technology is incorporated in both the fluorescent and LED fixtures in these open areas, providing energy management and load shedding capabilities. The open areas are also grouped into sections for ceiling mount occupancy sensor control to ensure that the lights are powered off when the areas are not in use, and are never left on late in the evening when nobody is there.

The virtual tour on Google can be accessed online here.

For more information about Universal Lighting Technologies, visit

LED Adoption Depends on Advanced Controls

Lutron’s Dr. Pekka Hakkarainen recently wrote an article for LEDs MAGAZINE that makes the case that further LED adoption depends on advanced lighting controls.

Check it out here.

For more information about Lutron Electronics Co., visit