Build confidence in securing smart lighting at Strategies in Light

Jan. 30, 2020
Cree Lighting’s Internet of Things director DEREK LOYER “nerds out” (his own words) about reducing the fear factor of smart systems and touches upon how secure connectivity and communications can create advanced experiences in the built environment.

Once upon a time, LEDs Magazine was simply a publication about light-emitting diodes, new developments in manufacturing better devices, and how they might be implemented, mainly in general illumination applications. But as the solid-state lighting (SSL) industry story continues to unfold with new applications, we notice convergence alongside emergence multiple technologies are now being employed to work in a symbiotic relationship with the lighting to deliver the Internet of Things (IoT) in smart building systems, including artificial intelligence. Application possibilities abound when you connect environmental sensors, data collection devices, lighting, software, and hardware controls into a networked infrastructure. But it can also get a little intimidating, especially when anyone brings up the “S” word security. While much of the popular media focuses on credit database breaches or social media hacks, business owners on a different commercial scale wake up at night wondering if the emergency lighting system can be used as a backdoor into an otherwise secure building. Or any number of other potential vulnerabilities.

Don’t be afraid, is the message we received during a recent Q&A with Cree Lighting’s director of IoT Derek Loyer, who will speak at Strategies in Light very soon. Despite the perceived complexity of all the parts deployed in a smart building, Loyer says that open application programming interfaces (APIs) and open standards are building a community of experts who contribute to improving performance, fixing bugs, and securing critical endpoints. Keep reading for more on his experience with IoT.

LEDs Magazine: We’re going to start with a two-parter, so brace yourself! Are there any particular memories you have that prompted your interest in coding/programming and looking “under the hood” to how things operate, so to speak? Also, I understand that your career started with machine learning in the automotive sector. How did that experience help shape your ideas about how to implement intelligence into lighting?

Loyer: When I was five years old, my grandmother gave me a used TI-99/4A computer. She taught me about operating systems, how computers performed operations, BASIC programming language, and wrapped it in the context of games so it kept me interested. I was hooked! From that point on, I was fascinated with anything that had a processor or an engine.

That was the domino that set me down the path of studying electrical engineering and computer science and starting my career in the automotive world. I love cars, and it was a lot of fun using technology to make subsystems work together to deliver an engaging experience. We are seeing the same thing happen in smart buildings. Disconnected subsystems are coming together, interacting with each other and using machine learning/AI to continually make the user experience better.

It’s amazing that five years ago we were talking about lumen per watt (LPW) and energy savings as the driving force in our industry; now we are talking about connectivity, user experiences, and outcomes. Who would have thought that lighting control would start with blowing out candles and evolve to these IP-connected devices with sensors using machine learning?

LEDs: Okay, now for the serious stuff! Your upcoming presentation at Strategies in Light is called “Opening up Smart Lighting Adoption with an Open Yet Secure API.” You plan to discuss using an open-standards-based API for interoperability with third-party networks and technologies to enable IoT applications that involve connected lighting. If something is based on open standards, isn’t it potentially less secure because any savvy developer might find a back door into it? How do you balance interoperability and security?

Cree Lighting's Derek Loyer. (Photo credit: Image courtesy of Cree Lighting for Strategies in Light.)Loyer: We believe in a future where more things are getting connected every day. As more devices get connected, we have an amazing opportunity to deliver better end user experiences by using APIs to allow these objects to share information, trigger events, and deliver outcomes that end users want/need. We think open APIs are a great path to secure interoperability. Standards based and open doesn’t mean less secure, it actually means more secure. Eric Raymond coined what is called Linus’s law “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs (and security threats) are shallow.” More or less, with a strong community using and contributing to these standards, we see improvements in security, authentication, control, and usability that lead to more robustness than closed systems.

LEDs: Some of your colleagues at Cree Lighting will also be speaking about lighting for health and wellbeing at the conference. How does your connected lighting and IoT work intersect with developing products and systems for that application?

Loyer: The teams at Cree Lighting came together to flex all of our skills from light science, sensor technology, application and software development to deliver innovative products like the Cadiant Dynamic Skylight [which was nominated for a Sapphire Award and its software team for Illumineer of the Year – Ed.]. These types of products are made possible by being connected and adapting to the needs of the people using these spaces. IoT is enabling these outcomes and delivering an amazing end user experience. When you are in a space that works for you, that feels natural, comfortable, and like it was made with you in mind, it changes your experience. We feel we can make our end users’ experiences better where they learn, work, and heal.

Join us at Strategies in Light, at the San Diego Convention Center, on Feb. 12, 2020 to hear Reid’s full presentation on the how to make smart lighting adoption more secure and less intimidating. Experience the full event from Feb. 11‒13, 2020, including the Sapphire Awards presentation aboard the USS Midway on Feb. 12.

Get to know our expert

DEREK LOYER is the director of IoT at Cree Lighting, currently leading the IoT platforms for SmartCast. He started his career in the automotive industry focused on hybrid drive and powertrain controls implementing machine learning for optimization. He then spent time in the startup world building projects to support motorsports as well as web and mobile applications. Loyer holds an MSE in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.