Lighting as a Data Collector

Why lighting is no longer just about lighting the space for retailers and restaurants.

By Matt Mazzola

For decades, the lighting industry was fairly static with little to no major innovation. Earlier generations chose incandescent or halogen for the home, fluorescent and compact fluorescent for commercial, and high-pressure sodium or metal halide halide for industrial and exterior lighting applications. Those lighting technologies had their benefits specific to certain applications, but they also had their limitations. You could say life relevant to lighting was much simpler back then, in the “good ol’ days.”

Traditionally, the goal of commercial lighting was to effectively light a space for occupants to perform their tasks. However, over recent years, lighting has become one of the most complex markets in the world and the speed of innovation relevant to LEDs is agile. Lighting now has the potential to become an enabler of valuable data collection, driving the Internet of Things (IoT) within retail and foodservice spaces, with many interested stakeholders eager to know more about these “Things,” their value and capacity.

Lighting Market

The voracious appetite of consumers to have the latest and greatest technology is more commonplace now than ever. Lines can wrap around stores when a new iPhone is released. Relevant to the timeline of the lighting industry, the introduction of plasma televisions, DVR and DVD players were all eagerly accepted and high on the consumer’s wish list. In contrast, the drive for and adoption of new lighting technologies was not. Times have certainly changed, on both the consumer and the commercial side. An increase in energy costs, more stringent energy codes, shared savings programs and favorable utility incentives have all combined and are meeting up with a more educated customer. The number of early adopters for lighting advancements is strong and the constant increasing demand for new, more efficient and more capable lighting technologies has arrived.

Over the next 20 years, the U.S. Department of Energy projects over 1 billion LED luminaries will be installed in commercial and industrial applications, and roughly half of those luminaires will be “connected” systems, which presents an ideal opportunity to utilize LED luminaires as the vehicle for IoT and data collection. This opportunity exists for two main reasons: (1) lighting provides an ideal grid with uniform coverage for IoT devices to live and collect data, and (2) the energy efficiency achieved through the LED upgrade combined with energy conservation through lighting controls can pay for the infrastructure and IoT devices needed for monitoring, collecting, analyzing and delivering the data. 

The IoT for retail and restaurant “Things” shows major promise and expands beyond just unique ways to illuminate product and save energy. Proven and reliable wireless solutions include controls and sensors able to monitor occupancy, including not only the detection of movement, but how many people are in the space and where they are going. These systems also include daylight harvesting, HVAC/R, temperature, humidity, window and door sensors and even surveillance and traffic patterns. Utilizing the lighting grid within a space is becoming a very appropriate way to track human movement, shopping patterns and even valuable assets inside of an environment.

One key component that can make or break a project is the installation and commissioning of a gateway and software package needed to collect, analyze and deliver the data in an efficient, effective and meaningful way. Most companies selling wireless devices today see this as an opportunity to sell expensive software packages with high and often initially hidden recurring fees. There are cost-effective systems, however, that are easy to install, commission and which seamlessly integrate into the facilities’ existing building automation platform. This integration of wireless end devices and the brain that drives the building’s operation can deliver a more streamlined and simplified end user and facility manager experience, especially for IoT analysis and overall building optimization. 

Applications

For a retailer, LED lighting combined with controls can offer it the ability to group and zone lights more effectively and control them accordingly.  For example, you can change the LED color temperature depending on the display, the time of day and season. Advanced lighting controls can also drive data about store traffic, including the direction in which people are traveling around the store. This would help the store better position product, particularly end cap displays. With beacons included in the fixtures, the tracking via beacon technology (BT) can also provide valuable data, and the retailer can drive in-store product suggestions, comparative data and coupons to the shopper if they are connected and have the retailer’s app. Combining point of sales, building automation and lighting will allow for a significant amount of data to be collected and driven to an appropriate IoT backend. 

For restaurants and convenient stores, LED lighting with controls can offer enough energy savings and a fast enough payback period to justify the addition of other wireless devices.  For example, there are wireless temperature and humidity devices that can monitor, analyze and report on refrigeration equipment, anti-sweat heaters and the frequency with which freezer and cooler doors open and close.  There are even wireless devices to track the amount of times employees wash their hands.  These devices are available utilizing the same communication protocol as lighting devices back to the same system platform, which will deliver the data to the same customized dashboard.

In conclusion, the energy savings delivered by LED lighting combined with a flexible and scalable IoT platform will assist in delivering data, provide for effective and more inviting store layouts, enhance point-of-sale displays, accentuate the utilization of lighting and increase preventative maintenance. These advances will result in reduced maintenance costs and a more efficiently operating building.

 

SOURCES: Energy Savings Forecast of Solid State Lighting in General Illumination Applications, September 2016, prepared by Navigant for the U.S. Department of Energy Solid State Lighting Program

 

— Matt Mazzola is executive vice president of sales and marketing at Magnum Energy Solutions. He has 22 years of experience in the lighting and controls industry. Magnum designs and manufactures wireless devices focused on driving intelligence at the device level, making its products software enhanced, but not software dependent. Email the author at m.mazzola@magnumes.com.

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