PNNL seeks feedback on IoT-upgradeable lighting, considers SSL luminaire challenge (UPDATED)

July 17, 2020
The US Department of Energy (DOE) seeks to encourage LED luminaire manufacturers to add future proofing for connectivity and IoT support, and PNNL may host a design challenge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have issued a request for feedback for potential guidance on future-proof, LED-based luminaire design that yields products that are cost competitive with luminaires that have no easy upgrade path to connectivity. The DOE is seeking to spur the industry toward a connected lighting future and PNNL is using the feedback-gathering exercise to guide a possible luminaire design challenge. The solid-state lighting (SSL) initiative would require that installed luminaires be easily upgradeable using industry-standard modules from below.

The theme underlying the new DOE and PNNL initiative is a familiar one. The agency wants to convince luminaires makers to add provisions for connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) in luminaires, even if that capability is not installed when a luminaire initially ships to a customer and is installed. The provision would allow a facility manager to upgrade the lighting simply in the future.

Joe Costello, formerly CEO of connected SSL specialist Enlighted, made just such as plea at our Strategies in Light event in a 2017 keynote address. Costello said lack of such future-proofing steps would set the smart building movement back a decade — the typical time period between major commercial building lighting upgrades. Of course, Costello wanted luminaire makers to include a socket for the proprietary Enlighted wireless connectivity and sensor module.

Back in 2017, of course, there were no industry standards for such a simple luminaire upgrade path. And that has changed, as we have chronicled in recent times. The Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA, and promulgator of DALI or Digital Addressable Lighting Interface standards) developed an extension to DALI-2 called D4i for use inside a luminaire (intra-luminaire) to connect an LED driver and a connectivity/sensor module. Moreover, DiiA partnered with the Zhaga Consortium to standardize sockets for IoT modules that mate with a twist-lock action. The first such outdoor products are already certified for interoperability.

PNNL proposes to use exactly this pair of standards in its IoT-upgradeable initiative. The goal is a product design that has a negligible cost premium relative to typical non-upgradeable fixtures. The concept would also apply to SSL retrofit kits.

For now, PNNL is seeking input on the program concept. Comments and feedback are due by August 10 and can be sent to [email protected]. PNNL will also hold a webinar for discussion of the program on July 30.

Meanwhile, PNNL has a draft performance requirements document of what the program might ultimately look like and how a luminaire design challenge might work. The document states that only around 1% of luminaires are today shipped with connectivity or IoT capabilities despite the added energy savings that programmatic and autonomous controls can yield.

Current thinking is that a challenge to luminaire makers would require an upgradeable design to cost no more than the lower of the following amounts: $20 more than a non-upgradeable one or 10% more than the non-upgradeable option. Those premiums do not include the cost of the connectivity/sensor module that would be purchased later at the time of an upgrade.

The upgradeable luminaires would have to include a socket accessible from below the unit where the upgrade could be performed without opening the ceiling. And the upgrade can require no special tools.

Alas, the DOE is no longer handing out cash rewards like it did back in the day of the L-Prize challenge for developing a retrofit lamp that saw Philips Lighting take home $10 million. Then again, this is a far simpler challenge. Products that meet the challenge requirements will get promotion through various DOE activities including press releases and webinars and will be listed on the DOE website.

*Updated Jul. 21, 2020 4:52 PM for organization name correction on DiiA. LEDs Magazine regrets the error.

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.