Living in a Connected World
With the lighting industry moving steadily towards connected lighting and the variety of demands for smart buildings, Thomas Moder, Segment Manager Controls & Connectivity at Tridonic takes a look at what the future holds and what it will be like living in a connected world.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The IoT is expanding at the rapid pace of more than 40 percent a year and this success can be ascribed in most part to the large number of applications and the added value for users. Connected lighting is changing the future of all commercial space and will allow companies to become more efficient, more sustainable and lead to a greater feeling of well-being and higher productivity.
All types of building can benefit from the use of intelligent building technologies but in different ways. A smart building can meet the combined needs and wishes of users, facility managers and tenants with regard to the quality of light, with optimum results. Integrated sensors, for example, can continuously measure the current outdoor lighting conditions and incoming daylight. This information is sent to the central light management system that controls the lighting throughout the building. As a result, the system provides only as much artificial light as is needed to create the ideal combination of artificial light and natural daylight. The light colour of the daylight is also taken into consideration and replicated with the aid of Tunable White technology, leading to a heightened sense of well-being and more settled biorhythms among users of the building.
For offices, the reduction in general running costs and energy consumption are very important factors along with presence data collected via sensors to optimize room management. This allows end users to review how specific sectors such as communal areas and conference rooms are being utilized. The facility manager can then improve the use of the building and make considerable savings.
For industrial buildings one of the key issues is asset tracking, namely the management of operational and production resources, which enables specific tools to be automatically located. Lighting can account for up to 80% of a warehouse’s energy consumption so it must be as efficient and cost-effective as possible. Systems using PoE (Power over Ethernet) allow for luminaires to be directly connected to a buildings IT network via an Ethernet cable and PoE switch. Each luminaire has a unique IP address that is individually managed and monitored and with integrated sensors each unit can share data such as changes in temperature, daylight levels and occupancy patterns. A PoE based connected lighting system can have a huge impact by reducing operational costs through reduced downtime, lowering energy consumption and making employees safer on the work floor whilst improving productivity.
In hospitals and healthcare applications the focus of connected lighting lies very much in the person and on optimizing safety, comfort and service.
For retail stores there is more pressure on the retailer to create a more pleasurable shopping experience for the customer. Key areas include seeing products and produce in a more natural colour and dynamic lighting with modern sensors enables the optimum brightness of spotlights to be accurately adjusted and set. Apps downloaded by the customer with optical data transfer technology will be able to guide buyers to products of interest in their vicinity. Key benefits to the shop owner will include trackers and beacons that will detect and record movement of customers which will allow the system to change lighting controls accordingly and provide optimized energy management by dimming specific areas when required.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding at the rapid pace but quantity brings complexity. The level of complexity can be reduced and communication among the devices harmonised by using light as the infrastructure for the Internet of Things. Thomas Moder explains how Tridonic is pioneering the use of light as the infrastructure for the Internet of Things whilst helping lighting to become an integral part of our everyday environments.
Artur Siekierski, Publisher at Lighting.eu: The Internet of Things (IoT) promises a wide range of potential applications as we have seen above. What is Tridonic working on at the moment?
Thomas Moder, Segment Manager Controls & Connectivity Tridonic: The possible applications of IoT seem to be infinite, but even for us working in this field every day they are not all clearly defined as yet. Suitable business models are only now taking shape. Together with our partners we are currently testing how we can profitably use our IoT technologies. The office building is of most interest to us right now. It is becoming more and more important for companies to create a healthy working environment. To encourage this, some countries have specified certain legal requirements. In Sweden, for example, the air quality in offices must be measured at regular intervals and must meet certain standards. In Germany too, there are already regulations that define maximum values for the concentration of fine dust particles.
A.S: How can Tridonic contribute to a healthy working environment?
T.M: Our net4more toolbox enables sensors to be integrated for capturing and analysing data – and makes use of the existing lighting infrastructure. This means that net4more acts like a versatile transporter in the Internet of Things. At regular intervals, highly sensitive integrated sensors automatically measure certain air quality values such as carbon dioxide and concentrations of fine dust and organic particles, as well as temperature and humidity. On the basis of this data, building operators can continually monitor the quality of the air and take appropriate measures to comply with statutory requirements. In this way, companies can provide their office employees with optimum working conditions and meet the health standards.
A.S: How are you testing your IoT technology in offices?
T.M: At present, we are testing the practical application of the net4more concept right here in our headquarters in Dornbirn and at five other Tridonic sites in various countries. We have installed 200 devices in an open-plan office at our headquarters: luminaires, sensors, controllers, communication modules and LED drivers. The sensors are linked to the luminaires, and thanks to net4more form a network connected to the internet. In addition to sensors that measure air quality there are presence sensors and daylight sensors.
A.S: Where is the data stored and how can it be used?
T.M: The data collected is saved to the cloud every hour and made available via an open interface for analysis purposes. A heat mapping app is used to visualise the data, enabling it to be evaluated so further process optimisations can be made. We use the presence data to create detailed usage profiles for the various rooms. These in turn provide the basis for developing plans for alternative occupancy and for coordinating the plans with the periods of absence of field workers. Air quality data is also continuously recorded and is available for reporting purposes. The data also serves as a yardstick for optimum control of air conditioning systems to achieve the defined standard values. The captured data therefore provides a basis for extracting solid information which can then lead to concrete benefits. All the data in the heat mapping app can be viewed on a central monitor.
A.S: What are the benefits of net4more compared with other solutions?
T.M: There are benefits that come simply from using the existing lighting infrastructure as the basis for net4more. A large number of luminaires – the majority fitted with energy-efficient LEDs – are installed in every office. The luminaires generally have sufficient space for sensors to be integrated and also have their own power supply. There is therefore no need for extensive wiring for the devices or for battery operation. That naturally saves on costs, reduces installation time and is good news for architects as the ceilings are not populated by unattractive sensor housings. In most cases, luminaires are located in places that are ideal for installing sensors – such as on walls and ceilings. Another special feature of net4more is that it uses both wired and wireless transmission paths for communication between the luminaires, sensors and other IP nodes. The current pilot project therefore includes Ethernet-based LAN cables and wireless technologies based on the Thread standard. The toolbox integrates all conceivable components such as LED drivers, communication modules, sensors, routers and software and offers a data and control interface that third parties can used as a simple basis for developing applications. Power is supplied via conventional power cables or via Power over Ethernet (PoE). The solution is fully scalable and can be implemented even in large office complexes.
A.S: Thank you very much for your time and this very interesting conversation.