Better Data

by Katie Lee

Exploring the capabilities of networked lighting systems in the retail environment.

By Zach Gentry

Networked lighting systems are advancing significantly, providing retail operations the ability to increase energy savings, increase light quality and collect a significant amount of data — including energy usage, customer tracking and space utilization — that has never been collected before. The systems — a combination of lighting, advanced digital sensors, smart controls and data analysis — are unlocking the Internet of Things for retailers, and allowing retailers to answer questions like: Am I over lighting the stock room? What aisles are achieving the most foot traffic and on what days and what times? What happens to traffic flow patterns when merchandise is relocated?

Range of Capabilities

Networked lighting systems offer a variety of capabilities, including occupancy and vacancy sensing, flexible programming, task tuning, daylight harvesting and even real-time occupancy data. These features allow intelligent networked lighting systems to collect information about what is happening in a retail facility at any point in time, down to a specific day and time.

For example, smart sensors can detect natural daylight so lighting can be dimmed to reduce energy use. If the highly advanced sensors are installed in every light fixture, retailers can control a single workspace or area — from an office to the entire stockroom — and secure very granular data. And lighting is just the beginning. Intelligent, networked systems collect all types of data, from motion to temperature and energy use, providing retailers a very holistic, as well as specific view of their spaces.

These systems also have the ability to connect and communicate with other building systems — such as HVAC, demand response systems, security, safety as well as other space management applications. These features help retailers and building owners/operators cut down facility operational costs, increase efficiency and improve shopping environments.

Retailer Benefits

Advanced networked lighting systems provide very specific benefits to retailers from energy savings to customer traffic mapping, providing the opportunity to decrease operational costs while increasing retail sales. This increase to the bottom line can help retailers reduce cost of goods, enabling them to better compete in the marketplace. 

1. Energy Savings

One of the key advantages of a networked lighting system is the ability to reduce energy use. Quality systems have proven to save facilities upwards of 70% in lighting energy savings. Integrated sensors, such as occupancy and vacancy sensors, ensure lighting is only being used when necessary. This is especially important in areas besides the sales floor such as bathrooms, stock rooms, break rooms, offices and conference/training rooms.

Smart sensors can even accurately distinguish people from other heat sources like cash registers and space heaters, as well as distinguish between human and non-human movement, such as products on a checkout conveyor belt. This is relevant as it relates to occupancy and vacancy sensors and tracking customer traffic throughout the store.

Some networked lighting systems feature daylight harvesting sensors. Daylight harvesting tracks the amount of natural light coming in through windows or daylighting systems, and adjusts artificial light levels accordingly. The ability to track and adjust lighting throughout a retail facility can make a dramatic difference in energy cost savings.

Additionally, occupancy and vacancy sensors provide data about when retail spaces are being used. This allows retail facility managers to adjust lighting and heating accordingly — based on when occupants and how many occupants are most frequently in specific areas within a retail space.

2. Increase Shopper and Employee Comfort

For shoppers and store employees, networked lighting systems help enhance the atmosphere of retail facilities, making the shopping environment more comfortable. Increased employee and customer comfort is possible with customization options, differentiating the lighting required on the sales floor to lighting in an office space or a pharmacy.

Also, time of day dimming controls also increase the retail atmosphere by helping to support circadian rhythms. For example, reduce light output for employees or shoppers during the early morning or late in the evening, or even those employees stocking shelves throughout the night. 

3. Space Utilization

Utilizing space more efficiently is a top priority for many retailers. Networked lighting systems can collect abundant data used to manage the space more effectively. The ability to track occupancy motion provides retailers, architects and contractors valuable insight into how spaces are used or not used. So much is possible — from identifying traffic patterns for the most visited areas within a store to creating heat maps of motion, motion trails and tracking when employees arrive or leave.  

A very simple application is if shoppers seldom go to a department or aisle.  In this case, managers can allocate the space for another use and relocate the department or aisle products to achieve greater foot traffic. The ability to adjust the sales floor using this data also provides an increased opportunity to sell more products. Retailers can also use the motion trail information to track how moving product affects traffic patterns. This data is available in real-time down to the second or can be viewed over time to identify trends.

4. Safety & Security

Networked lighting systems can also support safety and security by warning occupants prior to lights being turned off with dim-and-linger. They can also enable users to override the control system prior to the lights turning off. Since these systems also have the ability to monitor where occupants are in a building at any time, they could enhance security and safety by providing essential information if there is an intruder in the store for disaster recover purposes.

Applications of occupancy monitoring to increase safety and security also includes sequential and pathway lighting control. Sequential and pathway lighting controls provide additional safety and security by anticipating and illuminating the pathway in front of pedestrians, customers and employees.

Better Data = Increase to the Bottom Line

With the right technology, networked lighting systems gather data that can provide retailers valuable information about what is happening in a space at any given point in time. This intelligence and connectivity among key retail facility systems — lighting, HVAC, safety and security, and space planning — can enable an entirely new set of monitoring, control, optimization and autonomy to help improve retail facilities and increase the bottom line.


— Zach Gentry leads Enlighted’s Global Energy Optimization (GEO) program as the company’s vice president of business development. Prior to Enlighted, he co-founded and served as the CEO and CSO of Adura Technologies.

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