At the end of last year, Digital Lumens conducted a poll of customers, contacts, and partners to determine the current state of affairs with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Lighting. This is the second analysis of that survey; the first can be found here, exploring relative importance of key features in Smart Lighting.

Smart Lighting is defined as LED fixtures with intelligence and sensors whose data can be harvested for a range of purposes, primarily to control when and where light is on. We asked respondents to rate the importance of various features from Not Important to Critical in three areas:

  • Energy Savings
  • Space utilization for logistics or other purposes
  • Tracking people within the space

It is no surprise that Energy Savings is the clear winner, with over 96% of respondents rating it as Very Important or Critical. And why not? Intelligent lighting is shown to double or triple the savings of a simple LED, dramatically increasing efficiency and shortening payback periods. So if people are paying attention to intelligent lighting, the primary reason is the impressive efficiency, and the survey data bears this out.

The multiple sensor streams that are used to decide when and where to shine a light can also be used to for other purposes. The Digital Lumens sensor array allows us to know the temperature throughout the facility, and can track ambient light patterns. Temperature information could be tied into a HVAC system, and our light tracking is so precise we can often tell what the weather was outside (watch out Weather Channel). A system like Digital Lumens’ aggregates data from its sensors into a static or animated ‘heat maps’ like this one (‘heat map’ in this case refers to clusters of data, not temperature).

A heat map of occupancy data can be used to understand human movement through a space (in Digital Lumens’ case, anonymously) and distill space or equipment utilization information.

So we asked survey responders if this type of information would be interesting and, if so how could they see using it. The responses show that people do recognize this additional level of value:

  • 82% see centralized visibility and management of operations as a key benefit;
  • 69% see help with supply chain improvements or space utilization;
  • 66% cite insight about employee work patterns as an advantage.

I read these results as a warming to the idea of leveraging sensor information to better understand the use of the building by its occupants – with a bit more interest in space information than occupant information. Applications include:

  • Space utilization data can be used to understand the heaviest uses of the building by time and day.
  • Industrial customers can leverage logistics data to drive warehouse inventory decisions and equipment or manufacturing cell utilization to drive staffing or capital purchases.
  • Office space data shows what conference rooms are busy, showing if there is too much space since all of the sales team are on the road.

Of all applications, people tracking in the retail space is the hottest topic. The idea is that the store recognizes you when you enter, hoping to lure you to purchase with a coupon or making sure the staff knows that a loyal buyer is in the shop. The other side of the equation is tracking employees to understand how to get the best performance be it retail or commercial. This second use is less entangled with privacy concerns and may emerge as leading use case across the vast amounts of industrial space.

The long view? Smart Lighting is uniquely positioned to serve as the infrastructure for space utilization and people tracking. The ubiquity and density of lights in our built world make it an ideal platform to install the necessary sensors, plus each light has access to power. Alternative sensor platforms are security cameras or beacons that — unlike Smart Lighting — do not pay for themselves with energy savings.

In the third and final entry in the series, we will explore the relationship between IT and new building technologies. Spoiler Alert: IT needs to lean forward before complete parallel sensor, data, and storage networks in the build sprout without its control, influence, and strategy.

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