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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.

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5 comments to The Next LED Revolution is Control

  • Efficiency program administrators (in Vermont) want to see 3-5 yr ROI before they will offer incentives for controls. I’ve gotten a lot of pushback when specifying integrated control systems due to the project cost.
    Do you think advanced integrated lighting controls will ever be cost effective when replacing High Performance T8 fluorescent. Or, do we have to wait until these systems are 15 yrs old and failing before it is “cost effective” to replace them?

  • It is unfortunate that some utility program administrators are shortsighted and only consider ROI when evaluating an integrated controlled proposal. We had a similar situation in the southeast with a five-story library, two exterior sides were total glass, who wanted to utilize daylight harvesting. This was in spite of a 40% connected load reduction before controls. The additional controls costs were marginal, and the customer was insistent on daylight and occupant response. In the end we were able to negotiate an incentive considering maintenance savings (and the size of the customer).
    Indeed many institutions are looking beyond simple ROI, and to the customer and occupant experience when selecting networked systems. Another case in point is a major retailer who is using wirelessly networked luminaires in their parking garages. The additional controls savings is partially offset by costs, but the customer experience and safety is priority.

    • The issue of “cost-effectiveness” often is a result of political pressure. Of course legislators want to see ratepayer and tax resources utilized judiciously. What most politicians do not understand is that the energy distribution world is changing quickly, and the ability to energy use at times of peak demand will create a lot more value as we start to see time-of-use electrical rate structures.
      We’re adding demand response to the energy efficiency model, and its adding more value for controls.

  • Hi Craig, hope you are well. This is a fine article. We would like to publish it in our magazine Sourcing Electricals & Lighting magazine, if no other publication from India has sought permission to do so. We will be giving due credit as before. We will also need a non-passport photo of yours to go along.

    With best regards

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