Energy saving aspect of IoT lighting is trumping 'beyond illumination'

Dec. 6, 2022
Signify CEO Eric Rondolat says the additional power reduction from connected lighting will be crucial to growth in the commercial sector. Data-driven initiatives appear to be in the back seat.

Signify’s CEO made a compelling case for “connected lighting” recently when he noted that commercial users can increase the already significant energy savings of LEDs by tying luminaires to the internet. With electricity prices soaring, the power benefit of LEDs is back on center stage.

Equally notable, however, was what boss Eric Rondolat omitted as he lauded the progress his company is making in connectivity. There was no mention of the effort to use the lighting infrastructure as a connected IT network to gather data about activities in a building, public space, or roadway, and to analyze that data for insights on assets, properties, traffic, people, sales, inventory, and all sorts of other things. 

Once again, as LEDs Magazine has been reporting, the “beyond lighting” aspect of connected illumination continues to come up short.

The good news for Signify is that connected lighting does indeed seem to be taking hold, or to at least be grabbing mindshare among potential users, as a way to enhance energy savings. When Rondolat told analysts in late October that the volatile economic environment prompted a downward adjustment in sales and profit forecasts, he singled out connected lighting as a bright spot.

“While some areas will be more affected by reduced demand, connected energy-efficient lighting solutions, which are even more relevant and cost-efficient as energy prices surge, will continue to benefit from a strong traction,” Rondolat said on a conference call with analysts to discuss third-quarter earnings.

There is broad agreement among industry vendors that smart controls can add to LED energy savings, although the estimates on the percentage gain vary widely up to 90%.

Rondolat noted that the installed based of Signify “connected light points” is steadily growing, having hit 109 million in the third quarter ending Sept. 30, up from 103 million in the second quarter. The number is believed to be a low percentage of the overall installed base, which suggests plenty of room for growth.

When pressed by one analyst to elaborate on growth prospects in the professional sector, Rondolat returned to the connected theme and its potential to augment energy savings.

“We believe that with connected lighting on the professional side and all the green switch moves that are happening around the world…there is potential, and we see that potential being very concrete,” he said.

In one example of a recent win, he pointed that the Everlast Gym chain in the U.K. has installed Signify’s Interact brand of connected lighting, with the benefits including energy savings. 

And, he noted, connected lighting is key to helping the company achieve its ambitious climate goals. 

“We continue to deliver on our Brighter Lives, Better World 2025 Sustainability Program Commitments,” Rondolat said. “The cumulative carbon reduction over our value chain is on track and is mainly driven by energy efficient and connected lighting in the use phase.”

But from start to finish of the 51-minute call, the word “data” did not come up once. LEDs took this omission as a reason to send the company an email after the call in which we asked if the data-driven beyond illumination connected lighting (also known as IoT lighting) is lagging. 

The company did not directly address the question. A spokesperson noted only that “the call mostly focused on the Q3 results,” and pointed out the presentation mentioned connected lighting.

The non-lighting aspect of connected lighting has been a challenge across the industry, not just to Signify. Vendors are not giving up, though. In one novel move, Norway’s Glamox wants to use connected lighting to help optimize the running of offshore wind farms.

But Glamox and other vendors like Fagerhult and Acuity have acknowledged that data-centered “beyond illumination” pursuits have been somewhat beyond their ability to build momentum in the field. Signify itself has indicated the same in the past, even if it did not want to elaborate this time around.

Meanwhile, energy savings is back in the limelight, as Rondolat underscored in early August, and reaffirmed by adding to its Ultra Efficient line of lamps and luminaires in November.

Perhaps the industry could do with a new tag IoT tagline: Come for the data, stay for the energy savings.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.