Guest post by Mike Skurla, LEED AP O+M & BD+C, ASHRAE, MIES, Director of Product Strategy, BitBox LLC.
Clive Humby, a UK Mathematician, is credited with the phrase. “Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; data must be broken down and analyzed for it to have value.”
The Internet of Everything is leveraged on the connectivity of devices in-mass all creating data. The lighting industry similar to the HVAC world has done a reasonably good job at the proliferation of devices for lighting control and promoting the story of lighting ecosystems in tandem with energy management and sustainability. We are performing the tasks lighting systems are proficient at, but this data we are using to perform this trade is capable of vastly more by entering the second side of Clive’s equation; breaking it down and giving it value beyond this base story.
Enter Space Utilization
Though much can be said about increasing communication with other building systems to offer a myriad of value to the digital building, lighting systems offer the building blocks to a smarter building now. Networked lighting systems, in particular, are already generating an array of data enabled by what is being specified by code compliance through sensing technologies. Given this, lighting is uniquely positioned to offer insight based on spacial analytics.
Space utilization is not a new field of science. Architects and property managers have used manual methods for decades to predict usage of buildings and design buildings and facility layouts to attempt to maximize their potentials to a client. However, this has been a very manual process, and often something that is done once during construction and rarely revisited or continuously monitored over time to adapt to actual usage patterns of a space with the intent to improve. Ongoing space utilization monitoring can offer substantial quantitative benefits as it can impact ongoing operational expenses related to operating the facility.
Organizations involved in Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) have traditionally taken this on with larger property management groups. However, these solutions have been highly focused on the commercial office vertical, and catering to a client base with millions of square feet. These IWMS systems leverage a network of sensing data already in place from other systems through complex integration efforts, or they deploy proprietary sensing technology to accomplish the analytics outcomes. Hence, given the investment, these solutions have been relegated to large institutional customers.
These same spacial problems IWMS is solving are also very applicable in smaller facility portfolios and multisite enterprise portfolios. Additionally, they apply far outside of just commercial office and to just about any application. Networked lighting systems are positioned nicely to fill this void as a value-add given the sensing technology is typically deployed with lighting solutions.
Though IWMS systems offer remarkably evolved analytics for large property management organizations and stakeholders, a lighting system can offer the ability to conquer a significant amount asks in a very cost-effective nature. Example analytics can include:
1. Space Planning – Many organizations plan the layout of a space, and then rarely optimize it based on usage. Do you have hot desking? How much of it is occupied daily and where? Are there enough meeting rooms? Are offices vacant? Do certain doors get used in a retail location more than others which impact traffic flow? Are areas of the store getting lower traffic than others?
2. Janitorial Reporting – Do you need to have the entire floor cleaned each day or are offices un-used? Can cleaning be optimized or changed based on traffic, and at times that minimize interruptions?
3. Room Availability – Are meeting rooms occupied when reserved and do employees have the ability to see this remotely?
4. Leasing / Utility Management – Is the lease for the building meeting the needs of traffic? Are you heating and cooling a space that is unused, or at different times of the day?
Beyond these example applications, a world of other possibilities exists via communications capabilities with other in-building systems such as security, elevators, HVAC, and many others, enabling a truly digitally connected experience and its collateral benefits.
Currently, lighting system designs rely on placing sensors where lighting is needed, and within most network systems this is coupled with driving lighting activity through software. This methodology needs to be decoupled both in system design, software, and market approach to make meaningful outcomes possible.
– System Design – Motion Sensor technology is now highly affordable, and we have seen an uptick in embedded sensing technologies of all types both in network sensors, and embedded fixture sensors. Any meaningful spacial analytics rely on sensing coverage and thought must be put into allowing granular level sensing across a property, not just in areas that would drive lights. This certainly doesn’t mean you need sensors every 3ft, however, understanding the overarching analytics desire of both the vertical you are deploying into as well as the systems analytics capabilities is a must.
– Software – IWMS systems are analytics engines at heart. They accomplish their task by harvesting data from sensing sources, storing it, and using it for spacial analytics outcomes per vertical. A method must exist to not only activate things upon a sensors activity but store this data and represent it in meaningful ways to customers in the context of their specific vertical needs.
– Market approach – This perhaps is the most significant hurdle for lighting manufacturers, but entirely reachable. Lighting systems, and those that specify sell, and manufacturer them are known for their illumination capabilities. We now are entering into the world where the go-to-market lines are blurring. This value needs to be brought to light through education, channel deployment, and marketing as part of what a networked lighting solution can do.
Of these three elements, even just the first step of sensing capabilities increases the reach of lighting beyond illumination if that sensing data is available from the lighting systems for use by a host of 3rd party micro-service analytic providers now looking at building data from different angles to generate different outcome-based analytics.
Innovation is Already Here
The light fixture and the systems controlling them are rapidly evolving into much more than illumination sources. We hear this from all angles of our industry. Technologies such as LiFi will bring vastly expanded tools to us, but there is often a tendency to overlook what we have in the here. We already have a goldmine of information that if looked at through a different lens adds tremendous value to our customers.