LEDs Need a Sensor Interface

December 12, 2017
Enlighted

This article originally appeared in EE Times.

Evan Petridis, Chief System Architect at Enlighted

Evan Petridis is a technical leader with a wide range of experience as an executive, system architect and designer. An electronic engineer by training, Evan has developed an array of technology products in computer networking, telecom, renewable energy and the Internet of Things (IoT). He has co-founded several companies and now focuses on unearthing concrete business benefits in the realm of IoT systems architecture at Enlighted.


The IoT-Ready Alliance invites engineers to help define and implement an interface between LED lights and sensor modules.

The IoT-Ready Alliance is a non-profit group of companies and thought leaders coming together to create a common standard for IoT-enabled light fixtures. It will define a standard interface between light fixtures and a sensor/communication modules, allowing multi-vendor interoperability between the huge number of light fixtures in the market and the dynamic world of IoT sensors.

Much like USB ports on computers, the IoT-Ready standard will allow for a huge variety of sensor and communication modules to plug into LED light fixtures. These devices can be added to the light fixture at the factory during fixture manufacture, or in the field at any time.

The alliance encourages all leading lighting, building management, and IoT companies to become a member and help shape the development and implementation of the standards. Both fixture-integrated and external sensors are being addressed, and the standards will include definitions for electrical interfaces, connectors, and mechanical form-factors.

The Internet of Things is dramatically transforming the commercial building industry. It is empowering building owners to efficiently implement solutions that reduce energy consumption, enhance productivity and provide better conditions for building occupants.

The lighting industry is undergoing a revolution driven by LED technology, which is now the dominant lighting technology for all new buildings and retrofits. Yet today, only a small percentage of LED fixtures are supplied with IoT sensors installed. LED light fixtures are an ideal carrier for IoT technology, providing a ubiquitous location for data collection throughout the building and a convenient power source for IoT sensors.

LED light fixtures typically boast a lifetime of 15 years or more. The relatively small adoption rate of IoT sensors means that we are condemning these buildings to be unintelligent for at least the next decade.

Additionally, we must consider the rapid evolution of IoT and smart sensor technology. Sensor technology is advancing at a similar pace to mobile phones, and major IoT technology upgrades will certainly occur throughout the LED fixture’s life. These upgrade cycles for the IoT sensors call for a cost-effective, low-impact method of upgrading sensors during the life of the building and its lighting system.

Some lighting manufacturers are using closed IoT platforms that reduce user choice and attempt to use the IoT system design to drag through light fixture sales. This approach forces building owners into selecting all of the building’s light fixture from one brand, rather than being able to select the best lighting fixtures and IoT technology for the job.

The immediacy of this set of issues is a major challenge. According to a recent study from Wintrgreen Research, the LED lighting market is anticipated to grow 45% per year and reach $63.1 billion by 2020. We cannot miss this critical opportunity to ensure all new LED fixtures are future proof, so whether they are installed with a smart IoT sensor or not, they at least have the capability to add sensing intelligence in the future.

The solution is as simple as changing a light bulb.

–An electronic engineer by training, Evan Petridis has cofounded several companies and developed products in networking, telecom, renewable energy and IoT. He now focuses on unearthing concrete business benefits with IoT systems at Enlighted.

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