What is your vision for 2025? What role will light play in the Internet of Things?
I am convinced that by the year 2025 light will play a key role in the Internet of Things. A lighting-related infrastructure will be the backbone and the strongest motor for an extremely efficient and effective Internet of Things.
Why? What are the drivers for this development?
There are several factors that are driving this development forward. Wherever there are people, there is light – in buildings and on the streets. There are billions of light sources, a dense network of luminaires. And there is plenty of room inside these luminaires for integrated sensors and communication equipment, particularly as these are getting smaller and smaller thanks to advances in microelectronics. A factor that should not be overlooked is that these luminaires are already in locations that are ideal for sensing and communicating – on ceilings, on walls and above pavements and roads. Even more important is the fact that they already have power supplies that they can share with the devices in the Internet of Things. No separate cabling is needed and no batteries, and communication can be either wired or wireless. Since light emitting diodes are controlled digitally it is a simple matter to integrate other digital elements such as presence sensors, thermostats and signal transmitters.
In short, the luminaires can also serve as hubs for sensor data of all kinds and as the backbone for smart devices in the Internet of Things. This will considerably reduce the level of complexity and costs and can open up completely new applications and services – and at Tridonic we are right in the middle of this new industrial revolution.
But new luminaires and new hardware and software will be needed to leverage this added value. What do you think will be the first areas in which the Internet of Light will be used?
Initially it will all be about building automation, in other words about using data which is already being collected – such as presence data for room occupancy – not only for automating light but also making the data available for other services such as heating, ventilation, security and room management. Today such data is often collected multiple times with separate presence sensors for each application. Many office buildings and shops have already made the switch to LEDs but because of the high return on investment we expect high demand for renovations and new installations. The first major installations are also to be expected in the industrial sector, for example in warehouses, because the move to LEDs is already happening there and the Internet of Light can be integrated at the same time with a high level of future-proofing. With the Internet of Light we are more or less where we were ten years ago with LEDs, in other words still in the starting blocks but at Tridonic we have already taken the first steps on this journey and with net4more we are able to enter into the new era together with our customers.
Can you name some applications where the Internet of Light will be particularly worthwhile?
One of the important applications will be room management that I mentioned just now. Presence sensors in luminaires will provide information as to how well or otherwise offices, meeting rooms and communal areas are used, and building operators will then be able to use this data to optimise the usage of the building and make considerable savings in costs. It will pay for itself very quickly, particular in buildings in major cities. Remote monitoring, remote maintenance and remote software upgrading are also good examples. If the sensors and communication elements are integrated in the luminaires it will be very easy to reset parameters or start up equipment via mobile devices and apps. Indoor navigation in large buildings is another good example. If there are Bluetooth transmitters in the luminaires they can be used in conjunction with a smartphone app to pinpoint your location to within a few meters. It will be much easier to find your way in airports or hospitals, and customers in shopping centres or supermarkets will be able to find what they’re looking for much sooner – and perhaps can benefit from personal offers sent to their smartphones. For operators, too, these are completely new services that create added value, quite apart from the fact that they can use the data to make their premises more customer-friendly. Within the Zumtobel Group, we have established an interdisciplinary team to bring together all these new ideas, customer requirements and application know-how and to implement pilot projects that will reveal what ultimately will deliver the greatest benefit for customers.
And what exactly can Tridonic offer as solutions?
With net4more we have developed an innovative lighting system for the Internet of Things that enables us to turn any luminaire into a device with an Internet address and provide gateway-free communication. A particularly important point to note is that we believe that only open systems have a future. net4more is an open platform. It is flexible, scalable and future-proof, based on international standards such as the IPv6 Internet Protocol. It is a modular toolbox comprising hardware and software elements which offer customers easy migration. Our partners can equip net4more with their own special sensor elements and write their own software applications.
So does that mean customers are not tied to Tridonic?
No, and that’s where our crucial advantage lies over many competitor solutions. Our customers and partners can integrate net4more in their own environments, or integrate net4more in their solutions, whether hardware or software – just as they please.
If so much data is being collected, exchanged and analysed what are you doing about security and privacy?
These are questions that are always uppermost in our thoughts. We are using the latest security technologies such as encryption with rotating keys which is virtually impossible to hack. Besides, the data we generate on the light network is anonymised. Unlike cameras, presence sensors do not deliver any personal data. What’s more, we can place the entire infrastructure and data storage in the hands of our customers, if they so wish. It is even possible for the cloud, where the data is stored and evaluated, to exist purely as an intranet solution and have no connection whatsoever to the Internet. And last but not least, we will have our systems scrutinized by external experts, known as security auditors.
What are the next steps you have planned?
With net4more we now have a future-proof, flexible, open and scalable platform. We are currently building up a partner network and implementing initial pilot projects in readiness for our solutions to be launched in the spring of 2017. There is much work still to be done. We have extensive expertise in LEDs for general illumination, in electronics, sensor technology and software but the new services that go beyond lighting applications are new territory for us. The important thing here is to find the right partners and develop new business models together. When all is said and done, however, we are convinced that we have a pioneering vision for the Internet of Light and that we are on the right path to turning this vision into reality.