Seeing The Light of Things

Create: 12/06/2015 - 12:00

While at the O’Reily Solid conference earlier this year, I got to experience the best IoT innovations vendors had to offer. One of the more interesting vendors spotlighted was Digital Lumens, a global supplier of enterprise-scale intelligent LED lighting or "smart lights."

Smart lights are central to lighting-as-a-service, a subset of cloud-based services in which the lights and the operation of their sensors are constantly adjusted through analytics and supporting technological service.  Research firm Gartner has highlighted this trend as a promising IoT influence, projecting that by 2020 the smart lighting installed base will grow from 46 million units in 2015 to 2.54 billion units in 2020. 

Digital Lumens has invested heavily in sensor-bearing light fixtures and has seen several payoffs this year. To demonstrate the technological benefits and cost potential, the outfit deployed sensor-bearing light fixtures within Fort Mason, the facility hosting the Solid conference, and analyzed the energy usage during the conference.  The company garnered praise for its demonstration, augmenting a Product of the Year award won earlier in the year from IOT Evolution Magazine. 

I spoke with Kaynam Hedayat, Digital Lumens’ Vice President of Product Management and Marketing.  Hedayat explained to me the potential in power metering - understanding the cost behaviors associated with power consumption. He explained the benefits as it related to recent API release for LightRules, a protocol meant to connect analytics and signal between Digital Lumens light fixtures and other equipment. 

“Ultimately you learn which area in your manufacturing space you want light at a certain time,” explains Hedayat. “If there is no one in the area, you can achieve energy saving without leaving employees in the dark for critical equipment through progressive dimming, then ramping up quickly when employees come into a work area." 

The chances for Digital Lumens’ continued success seemed favorable as smart lights have increasingly become a staple among IoT-influenced consumers as well as among industrial firms. Smart lights have allowed customization of an environment to fit a specific need, from helping babies to sleep to keeping people alert in low light environments.  The New York Times quoted Mariana Figueiro, who leads light and health research at the Lighting Research Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, about the consumer influence. In the article, she states that “Lighting is really not about a fixture in the ceiling anymore….It’s about delivering individualized light treatments to people."

That customization can also address specific needs in the commercial environment such as safety. Digital Lumens introduced an emergency automation system based on its LightRules protocol called the Emergency Management Solution. The solution is meant to test lights for NFPA-101 compliance. As a result, facility managers can schedule and perform automated emergency lighting tests to ensure employee safety prior to emergency situations. 

As sensors like those in smart light fixtures pick up more applications in the real world, they will introduce new ways to consider analytics. Metrics will still be a proxy for human activity, but within IoT applications the activity will be represented through the trigger of a sensor.  This counters web analytics, which placed human activity in a context of digital media consumption, be it a downloaded white paper or a click from a paid search ad. It ultimately redefines the quality of the data received, with better notions of what to infer from the activity.

With promises of a 90 percent reduction of energy cost, the activity measured within a light-as-a-service environment is certainly more than worthwhile. 

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Pierre DeBois

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