Electricity. Luminaires. Photons. Light. This has been the extent of traditional lighting functionality for the vast majority of the last century. Only relatively recently have occupancy sensors, ambient light sensors and other means of control made headway into the lighting space. And even then, those devices have typically been deployed at the circuit or room level, rather than individually luminaire-by-luminaire; hence, providing only a coarse level of control and zero facility insight.

Driven by the convergence of low-cost computational power with low-power distributed communications protocols, devices can now be manufactured and deployed at scale in myriad ways not previously imagined. From autonomous drones to household security devices, wearables and tracking applications, distributed sensory networks are, literally, all around us – generating data.

And lighting is no different.  Outside of radical energy savings and beneficial system control, a distributed, autonomous and intelligent lighting network generates a rich set of data – data that can be leveraged not only to enhance energy savings, but also to provide visibility into previously opaque operations within a facility. The question to ask isn’t whether LED luminaries can adequately light a space. The question is, what else can those luminaries offer your business?

We’ve only begun to see the tip of the data iceberg.  Big data analytics and visualization and ultimately non-lighting system integration will usher in a new era of facility optimization and operation – everything from humble lift-truck routing to more complex retail marketing SKU analysis. In much the same way that high-speed internet access revolutionized retail marketing and distribution, we expect “big data” in big spaces to do the same for facility management.