Guest post by Kevin Willmorth
The general concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is expansive and virtually without limit. The basis of the technology is that devices, appliances, building systems, computer networks, vehicles and personal smart devices become connected together in such a way as to exchange and process information or facilitate integrative control functionality. The impact this will have on industries and individuals is potentially profound.
To get an idea of how significant the concept is, consider how many personal and business decisions are made every day with minimal or no reliable information. Now, make available to every individual and/or marketer, real time data based on actual activities of interest. For example; How many hot dogs does a beach side hot dog vendor prepare to make this Sunday? If he/she were to know the number of people that will be heading to the beach, based on conflicting sports schedules, vacationers on flights heading to the nearby city, accurate weather prediction, surf conditions, percentage of people that purchase hot dogs from a specific beach’s vendors on similar Sunday’s, and at what time. Adding to this the vendors own social media connections and data drivers. Using this data, predicting how many products to prepare for sale is no longer guessing, it is business savvy decision making, resulting in less waste, more profit and higher revenues.
For building owners and operators, having all equipment monitored, connected to manufacturer resources for predicting performance and component reliability could eliminate outages and expensive failures, while providing visibility to managers of future capital expenses. With manufacturers processing reliability predictions against usage, notifications can be sent to maintenance entities for corrective action before a service incident occurs. Expand this to thousands of pieces of equipment, including lighting fixtures, and it becomes clear that elevating preventive maintenance beyond the fix-it-when-it-breaks model, to prevent it from failing through accurate, finite monitoring. This alone will save billions of business dollars every year.
In lighting, monitoring light levels to anticipate end of service life condition, is just the beginning. Monitoring user activity to adjust light levels, tune CCT, or other characteristic, to follow a prescribed human wellness profile, is another area of opportunity. Utilities will collect real time use data to predict and adjust power generation across the country. Occupancy data and traffic within buildings can be collected by remote design resources in developing more effective building system designs. Light level and daylight preferences observed and processed will provide data for future lighting system design approaches. Pairing lighting data with personnel performance data will indicate areas in need of improvement.
Lighting is an ubiquitous part of the built environment, making it a perfect platform to locate sensors to evaluate temperature, occupancy, and illumination states (from natural and artificial sources). This data, coupled with data collected from workstations, smart devices, individuals, consumers, business managers, and operations managers, becomes a rich mine of information that can be used locally as well as communicated and processed globally, to facilitate improvements in service delivery, product development and performance.
The IoT also opens the door to re-dressing the way lighting systems are purchased and applied. Leasing lumens rather than purchasing hardware is an opportunity enabled by luminaires that report their use directly to the leasing entity.
Currently, the number of luminaires offered or sold with connective functionality for participation as data points in the IoT is minimal. Most lighting systems in are controlled within isolated systems, not connected to global networks. The reason for this is based on a composite lack of demand, and lack of available equipment necessary to facilitate implementation. IoT concepts as it applies to lighting and related building systems remains is in its nascent phase.
To bridge the gap between concept to actual adoption, there will be a phase where products capable of being connected are employed and installed, but not yet connected. This will build up an inventory of connectable products for connection when the technology matures. The challenge is to select products that include appropriate features under a uniform standard. To this end, in May 2017, the IoT-Ready Alliance was announced. The organization is focused on creating a common standard for IoT enabled lighting products, including luminaires, sensors, driver electronics, controls and networking components. The goal is to guide new products toward a common IoT strategy within lighting, that is compatible with surrounding building systems soon to be connected, and those already connected in some fashion through web or cloud based functionality.
There remain some concerns about implementation of IoT strategies. In a recent The Economist intelligence report ‘The Internet of Things, Business Index 2017’, chief obstacles in adoption of IoT strategies are; High costs (29%), Security and privacy (26%), Lack of management knowledge (23%), while absence of a business case was far lower (6%), indicating there was no significant global roadblock to implementation. In this same study, implementation has been targeted at information: From third party sources (35%), Learning from early adopters (35%), Training staff for work with the IoT (33%). Use of the IoT for exploitation of opportunities through joint business venture was somewhat lower (20%).
There is no indication that the concerns over security and privacy cannot be met. Data and system security is being addressed through firmware and software interfaces that block access to systems from wireless and wired sensors. To protect individuals from scrutiny by video-based occupancy sensing (to collect movement data), use of very-low resolution (heavily pixelated) imaging has proven as effective in providing the desired input, while having no capacity to capture images of individuals within that population. Infrared sensors designed with low fidelity, capture thermal occupant and room temperature data, are also being deployed.
While IoT technology is just now becoming reality, it’s application is expanding rapidly. Luminaires, sensors, and controls are a solid fit as they present a powered location for data collection nodes, are broadcast throughout building spaces and exterior environments, and already include electronic components easily supplemented to the needs of IoT ready application. For these reasons, it can be expected that IoT connected lighting will play an early active role in the deployment of IoT strategies for new buildings, and eventually retrofit installations.