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IoT in Buildings: Lighting Is the Beginning

November 4, 2015
Enlighted Inc.

As the consumer public awakens to the power of the Internet of Things, the business community continues to move forward with increasingly sophisticated and creative applications of transformative sensor-based technologies.

NPR’s All Tech Considered recently ran a story on the power of the Internet of Things, recognizing the centrality of lighting to unleashing the far-reaching power of IoT in buildings and beyond:

“If you can imagine things like these light bulbs essentially as little personal computers, they essentially have a processor that is the equivalent of what would be in a mobile phone … The ARM processor is a system on a chip, it’s a computer on a chip. And it has memory. And it has storage, flash storage like you have on a thumb drive. And it has computing power. And that all fits into something about the size of a dime.”

The NPR story highlighted some valid security concerns, but also recognized the far-reaching power of IoT and that smart lighting was typically the first stage of the journey. Lights are everywhere that people are in buildings, and so installing intelligent sensors at light fixtures is the most rational first step in any IoT strategy – primarily because it opens the full-range of possibilities for improving the human experience of space:

“These devices do more than just talk to the Web. In some cases, Internet-connected embedded devices interact with other things in a way that can affect the physical world: spinning centrifuges a bit faster, unlocking and locking doors, turning up the heat,turning off brakes.”

This new responsiveness will improve our experience of the world in both tangible and eventually transformative ways. In buildings, advanced sensors ensure light and heat levels are optimized to reduce eye strain and headaches, while also promoting comfort and relaxation, and therefore focus and improved productivity.

In more specific contexts, like hospitals, these sensors help to track assets, increase efficiency and care, and ultimately save lives. In government, IoT can improve service quality and efficiency in almost every department, while also empowering new data-driven public-private partnerships. In manufacturing, IoT can improve quality, reduce operating costs and quicken product and service delivery. In retail, store managers will get precise data on what is happening in their space, leading to increased customer engagement scores, and better sales, while consumers gain through frictionless visits where heat, light, and space are designed to create the most enjoyable experience possible.

While the early ecosystems and platforms of IoT are built specifically for buildings, cars, supply chains, and industries, these ecosystems will soon begin to talk to each other, creating new layers of meaning, function, and efficiency that are still hard to imagine.

Without knowing exactly how our IoT-powered future will manifest, we do know that in the next ten years, the amount of data generated by the human race is expected to increase by at least ten-fold — largely due to IoT sensors coming online everywhere from outer space to underground pipes to vehicles, to buildings, to the human body in the form of wearable tech.

What we do with this data — the problems we solve and how we improve our lives and livelihoods — might become an act of imagination unparalleled in human history. But in buildings, it starts with smart lighting.

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