The world of IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a vast and confusing one. We are dealing with rapid changes in technology and the increasing interconnectivity of our devices. With the emergence of smart buildings and smart technology, understanding and keeping up with the evolving infrastructure can be hard to navigate. Anyone, any business, any network, anywhere, anytime, any device. We believe this will have a big impact on the way our lighting design services will be delivered.
We are entering the age of mass data. Therefore, understanding how this new world of data analytics will impact lighting design is vital. Many of these things are already having an influence on lighting. According to The Economist, the world’s most valuable commodity is no longer oil, but data! Today the world of data is ruled by just a few large companies, who have a virtual monopoly.
Here are some of the disruptions that we see are having a direct impact on lighting:
- Convergence: Architecture, data analytics and lighting are converging into one platform. Cross-industry partnerships will be crucial for the lighting design industry to enable such expanded offerings and help integrate IoT into architectural lighting design.
- Drive for sustainability: Consumer demand is looking at the importance of pursuing sustainable development to create maintainable businesses and strategies, estimated as being able to unlock trillions of dollars in new market value. Data-driven lighting and energy saving will be the key.
- As-a-service model: Several pilot projects have already begun incorporating the as-a-service model in lighting. One of the best examples to date is Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam where the airport has essentially a 15-year lease on the lighting installation, which is fully looked after by a consortium led by Philips (Signify).
- Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence: AI and Machine Learning are a major shift in business thinking. One can imagine that integrated IoT-ready and IoT-capable light fixtures will be part of this advancement, capable of meeting the needs of the user by applying context and filtering through multiple layers of information to deliver a personal, specifically curated outcome.
- Data platforms and security: Data value platforms help to inform organisations about the value of their data. However, protection of data—eg. General Data Protection Regulation in the EU (GDPR) and similar—is becoming paramount. IoT-enabled lighting fixtures form part of the overall data collection and data analytics platform and hence will demand the same level of security as stipulated by the GDPR.
- Personalisation and Customisation: Not only can lighting be highly personalised for individuals; lighting itself can be designed for the individual, for whatever time of day and aligning with any occasion, whether it is to enable the individual to relax or to be more productive at the office, or to optimise energy consumption. Data-driven lighting will be more dynamic and automated, responding to user needs to optimise resources and space usage.
- Blockchain: The emergence of blockchain technology is gaining a huge amount of interest for its ability to establish trust networks, improve efficiencies and transparency, and reduce friction and costs. As a disruptor, blockchain technology can allow potentially millions of energy devices (lighting, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar PV installations, and so on) to transact with each other at the electric power distribution edge. There are already instances of this happening in lighting projects around the world.
- Voice-based Virtual Assistants: Google Home and Amazon Alexa are already controlling lighting in the home. It is only a matter of time before this is deployed on a commercial scale. Smart-enabled lighting of the future could have voice-commands built into the light fitting (integrated) without having to go through a wireless speaker.
What Big Data Requires
The main issue with rolling out IoT and data infrastructures is that sensors (and other devices) need to be powered; they need a housing and an identifiable location. They also need to be somehow integrated with an interconnected platform. Lighting points are already powered, available everywhere in buildings with the potential to be optimised as a digital hub. That makes lighting the ideal host: it is the only existing infrastructure present everywhere that already has what is needed for data fabrics. Hence it is not necessary to run another infrastructure parallel to that. It is already there.
The ‘Kodak’ Moment
Just as Kodak was too slow to recognise the camera market’s rapid switch to digital technology, the lighting industry is at risk of reaching its own Kodak moment. Let’s take the mobile phone as an example: in the olden days you bought a mobile phone for calling and texting. Today, calling and texting is a small part of all the functions a phone can do. The functionality of the product and its use totally shifted. The same is happening with lighting. Do we really want to be told what to do with the lighting from outside the industry?
The New Generation of Lighting Designer
We believe it is critical that lighting designers remain in control. Luminaires/light sources still have the key critical task of providing proper illumination, creating mood, ambiences and adequate lighting for comfort, safety and security, while having to comply with lighting standards and building codes. Only an experienced lighting designer can fulfil that role, hence the proposed new generation of lighting designer will manage and facilitate the integration of IoT features and data infrastructures into the overall lighting design approach. We have the opportunity to pioneer this. Why not marry practical and scalable smart building solutions with world-class lighting design?
This opens up a number of choices/new approaches:
- Ignore and keep on doing lighting design and let others take care of any IoT related issues
- Accommodate and adjust to the changes by allowing for integration; or
- Actively manage and take control of the process of integration.
There is no right or wrong answer, everyone can make their own choice.
The Bigger Picture
Intelligent buildings (and cities) are all about minimising costs and maximising the human experience. Lighting is just a minor cost element in the overall picture. The real estate world found out that for every $3 you can save in energy; you can save $30 in more efficient space usage and $300 in reduced human capital…these are big savings! So, it is no longer simply about controlling lights with motion or daylight sensors.
An Active Role for Lighting Designers
Defining an active role for lighting designers in this changing world will be critical for the survival of the profession, but we believe it will bring the lighting designer back to the centre of the design and architectural integration process. However, some barriers to entry for lighting designers to be part of this could include: lack of time, lack of resources to put into researching all this, lack of knowledge of what to do, and who to partner with; something that could potentially be several years in the making. Nevertheless, it requires a brand-new attitude and expertise for lighting designers as they will need to understand the ‘things’ that can potentially be offered and integrated as part of any lighting design and system selection.
This also points to the need for partnerships because as a lighting designer if you’re going to be the facilitator or integrator of all these IoT services and whatever it’s linked to, you need to have partnerships. In other words, a network of knowledge partnerships cross-industry to enable this new service to benefit the lighting designer’s clients. To optimise a building’s potential, the more tools that you have available to make the building more useful, the better it’s going to be. The aim is to eliminate much of the vendor-driven confusion that is currently out there, as the decision on data happens before the decision on lighting design.
It Starts Now
Pilot projects and case studies are already well underway around the world, highlighting how this integration is taking place. It will also demonstrate how a lighting result can be curated that not only integrates IoT and its related data analytics, but most of all how this helps drive costs down, improves the human experience in the use of spaces, and assures that the role of the lighting designer is still about creating beautiful architectural environments.
About Lighting Design of Things
LDoT is a professional, independent consultancy that provides a unified end-to-end platform where IoT solutions are merged within the architectural lighting design space; offering the complete package from facilitation, integration and curation of IoT functions, while maintaining the integrity of good quality lighting design.
For more information: visit www.lightingdesignofthings.com
Business Development & Projects,
KLD, Managing Partner, LDoT