Craig DiLouie, LC, CLCP, education director of the Lighting Controls Association and a freelance lighting journalist, recently interviewed Roger Karner, President, Signify US, about connected lighting for an article that will be published in the August issue of tED Magazine. Here’s the transcript.
DiLouie: How would you characterize demand and resulting sales opportunity for connected lighting? Looking at 1) luminaires packaged with integral controls versus control systems added to luminaires, 2) room-based versus centralized building-based systems, 3) new construction versus LED upgrades in existing buildings, and 4) applications, what are the hottest categories and markets?
Karner: Signify offers a robust suite of products, systems, and services to help customers, with different needs, applications and budgets, derive value from their lighting. We have seen strong demand in outdoor, as well as in our commercial segment, where customers are looking to improve operational efficiencies using data-driven insights.
DiLouie: What are the benefits of connected lighting?
Karner: Connected lighting brings LED lighting and information technology together to take light beyond illumination. It allows us to harness the power of the Internet of Things for data-driven insights into activities and operations, to inform decision-making.
Businesses can have better lighting management, diagnostics and maintenance, helping to lower costs, save energy and increase operational efficiency. Data can also be combined with that of intelligent building, smart city and other systems to help control overall environments and better understand everything from office space utilization and occupancy to traffic patterns and road surface conditions, resulting in further efficiency, productivity and safety improvements, for example.
DiLouie: Why should distributors be focusing on this category?
Karner: Connected lighting presents a tremendous opportunity for growth in the lighting segment.
DiLouie: What are the top technological trends in connected lighting?
Karner: Lighting is everywhere, and there are trends taking shape in different verticals. In a retail environment, for example, lighting infrastructure can provide accurate shopper positioning data through Visible Light Communication and/or Bluetooth beacons. Retailers can use this indoor positioning systems and data provided by the lights to help shoppers navigate their stores and easily find the products they are looking for, or provide personalized promotions that enable cross-selling. The in-store navigation system can also enable store employees to fulfill online orders for pickup more quickly. Additionally, when combined with dashboards, retailers can visualize shopper analytics like dwelling time and foot fall information for any particular area within the retail space to further optimize sales.
Connected lighting systems with open APIs are important in unlocking additional value from light. Lighting that integrates seamlessly with building and IT systems, for example, can help create a more intelligent work environment. Building operations managers can optimize the lighting, HVAC, cleaning and space usage to improve efficiency, reducing energy usage and cost. Workers can use software apps on their smartphones to book meeting rooms, navigate within the office and personalize the environment around their workstation, further improving productivity and employee engagement.
One last technology trend worth mentioning is the shift to simplified options that provide basic connected benefits in an easy-to-install package, like our Interact Pro offering. This will enable mass adoption of connected solutions in existing spaces.
DiLouie: In existing buildings, connected lighting requires an investment to produce a return, but due to the lower LED lighting load being installed, the value of energy cost savings can lengthen paybacks. How should distributors approach the sale of lighting controls in these cases?
Karner: It is important to consider the customer’s specific pain points. There are tremendous benefits in going with a connected solution, such as the controllability that can enable a more flexible environment by offering customizable settings. Access to data allows for customized and automated optimization of energy usage, as well as an opportunity for efficiency gains in overall facility planning.
DiLouie: An estimated 95 utility rebate programs now incentivize networked lighting control systems, with a majority basing the rebate on an adder for LED luminaires, and qualifying products based on the DLC’s Qualified Products List for Networked Lighting Controls. How effective are these rebates in promoting adoption in existing buildings, and what is their potential?
Karner: End customers are often unaware of the extent of the benefits that controllable lighting can provide. While we are in this stage of adoption, rebates will be extremely helpful in improving the payback cost of a connected system, which is an important factor for most customers.
DiLouie: When connected across a building or enterprise and operated via software, a connected lighting system becomes not only highly responsive but gains significant new potential capabilities. What can be gained? As building owners look to building Internet of Things solutions, what is the role for connected lighting, and do you see a role for connected lighting as being an “IoT Lite” for medium-sized and smaller buildings?
Karner: An integrated, connected building system allows for the optimization of energy usage and an improved employee experience and more, as described earlier.
Many manufacturers offer “IoT Lite” options for smaller buildings, with less functionality. All of Signify’s light points/offerings will be connected or connectable by the end of 2020.
DiLouie: When looking at new capabilities such as space optimization, what can distributors do adjust their sales approach and properly communicate the value of these capabilities?
Karner: It is important to understand the pain points of the customer and speak in the terms that will resonate with them. Explain the benefits the connected lighting system will deliver. For example, we have customers that have been able to fit more people within existing offices and limit their overall real estate investments by understanding office space utilization via our Interact Office system.
DiLouie: The most recent DOE forecast projected a high CAGR for connected lighting adoption through 2025 but showed a wide disparity between the current market trajectory (low adoption) and one if the DOE SSL program goals are met, notably involving interoperability, demonstration and verification of energy-savings benefits, and complexity. What is the industry doing or what can it do to address these issues and accelerate adoption?
Karner: Signify focuses on addressing barriers to adoption with the products we bring to market and through our future roadmap development. We offer customers the opportunity to start simple and add more sophisticated capabilities when they’re ready.
Our leadership in the connected consumer space has also allowed us to bring simplified, user-friendly interfaces and commissioning technology to the professional channel, helping to reduce complexity.
DiLouie: What can distributors do to position their firms to promote and sell connected lighting?
Karner: Training is critical to help develop an understanding of the benefits of connected lighting systems by application.
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about connected lighting, what would it be?
Karner: Connected lighting is the biggest growth opportunity for our industry, and we can lead this transition together by making it simple for our customers and addressing their needs.
DiLouie: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?
Karner: Interact is Signify’s IoT platform that enables connected lighting systems and software capabilities to bring both lighting and value-added IoT-related applications to our customers. It brings the power of connectivity, software and analytics to help customers access actionable insights, any time and from anywhere, so they can make more informed decisions about their environments. Its API enables us to integrate connected lighting with other management systems and offer data-enabled services.
With connected lighting, Signify is helping to make cities smarter, save energy, reduce operational costs, keep citizens safer, and engage citizens. We make offices better places to work, while enabling them to be more efficient and improving employee performance. And in shops and stores, we’re helping retailers boost sales and improve customer loyalty.