Experts at LuxLive's IoT Arena outline survival beyond bulb sales (MAGAZINE)

Feb. 17, 2017
The future might have more to do with data than illumination, according to presenters on the London stage hosted by Mark Halper, who reports on compelling smart lighting presentations at LuxLive.

The future might have more to do with data than illumination, according to presenters on the London stage hosted by MARK HALPER, who reports on compelling smart lighting presentations at LuxLive.

The question on every vendor's mind in the lighting industry these days is, "Uh-oh, what do we do now that we can't really make a living selling light bulbs anymore?" LED lamps have gone mainstream, and their purported decades-long lifetime has obliterated the time-honored business model of selling replacements every 18 months or so. Common knowledge holds that the new way of life entails smart lighting, which hangs lighting's future on the fledgling Internet of Things (IoT). Some even say that because lights and their infrastructure are ubiquitous, they are a candidate to lead the IoT charge (see the recent interview between Lux Review publisher Ray Molony and Harvard executive Paul Hussey).

For those who need reminding: In the IoT, billions of objects will sport chips that help them gather data they can share via electronic networks, making the devices and appliances more useful and easier to control.

IoT-enabled lights hold all sorts of promise. Ceiling fixtures in retail stores can track customers via their smartphones and offer them tailored discounts. The same lights can feed data about consumer movement and behavior to the cloud for analysis, which retailers and their suppliers can use to their advantage. Similar technology in office buildings can observe how building spaces like conference rooms are being used or underutilized, leading to huge savings via property re-allocation. They can trigger actions in other connected building systems, like heating and cooling, security, and alarms. Smart controls can turn lights on, off, up, or down as required by occupancy and daylight, enhancing LEDs' already substantial energy savings advantage. They can also adjust lights' color tones, perhaps providing more stimulating blues in the morning and more restful reds and ambers later in the day or evening.

In the IoT Arena at LuxLive, gurus across technology, business, and marketing drove the discussion about the data-centric potential of LED lighting and how smart products will push the industry forward.

Those are just a few examples. It's early days, and no one is quite sure how it will all work. But there was no better place to gain insights than in the IoT Arena at the recent LuxLive 2016 lighting exhibition in London, co-located with Strategies in Light Europe 2016. No fewer than 24 astute technology, business, and marketing experts took the stage to help look into lighting's connected future. They probed the relative merits of wired and wireless technologies such as Power over Ethernet (PoE), Bluetooth, and visible light communication (VLC), among others. A brave pureLiFi chief operating officer Harald Burchardt even gave a live demo of Li-Fi, the emerging technology that transmits the Internet via lightwaves. They all warned about IoT security - as we wrote in an earlier story. Ethical hacker Ken Munro of Britain's Pen Test Partners had shown how easy it is to hack the IoT. Many issued a clarion call for greater interoperability between different IoT devices, where some found great hope in an emerging protocol called Thread.

If one word came up more than any other, that word was "data." Presenter after presenter touched on the subject, with some brazenly stating that the future of the industry resides in using lighting first and foremost as a data collection and analysis tool, rendering illumination to a support role. Here are five separate slices of the action, starting with a collection of quotable quotes, followed by an end user's reality check, a look at the show's live Li-Fi demo, an outline of interoperability challenges and an account of how the lighting industry has already changed beyond recognition.

They said it: Blunt talk on new business models and the future

Jan Kemeling, chief commercial officer at Gooee, proclaimed that data is the future of lighting-centric systems.

Source: Mark Halper.

Everyone knows that business models are radically changing in the lighting industry. The industry is abandoning its traditional reliance on replacement bulb sales. It is seeking new revenue sources, many of which will rely on features supported by IoT-connected lighting systems that both collect and respond to data, and often coming in the form of service-based contracts. As we've noted, smart lighting can allow users to intelligently control their output and color levels for enhanced energy savings and human performance. Lights can help collect data that can bring all sorts of benefits such as asset management and sales promotions. The lighting industry will find itself both partnering with and competing against the IT industry. To help remind us of all of that, LuxLive's IoT Arena featured many pearls of wisdom from people in the know. A sampling follows.


Jan Kemeling, chief commercial officer of IoT lighting engine provider Gooee, provided the bluntest take of them all on how business models will change. You could summarize it as "It's the data, stupid" - our words, not his. Kemeling called for a new business model based on using lights to collect and sell data. He would say that, of course - Gooee sells technology that helps lighting systems collect and analyze data. Nonetheless, he made a strong case.

"I think most people in the lighting business and in any other industry, for that matter, are not worried enough," Kemeling said. "Luminaires are becoming digital devices that will also give you light. So are lighting people still in the lighting business? Do you illuminate spaces or are you going to sell devices that also illuminate spaces? What needs to change is the perception that we are not selling data that we generate, but actually we should generate the data that we can sell. The customers of the lighting manufacturers need to actually determine what data they need in order to get the value out of the data. So data enables service models which can be created by and for customers. Hardware - lighting, for instance - may act as an enabler of data collection. Data becomes the product. Business models have to change first. If the business model stays the same, people will never be able to sell data. Maybe we need to step away from lighting. I often tell people, forget about lighting. Don't start thinking from the lamp. You're not a lamp manufacturer. If you want to sell services, forget about that lamp first. Eventually your service might require data. That data you require might come from a sensor. That sensor can be built into a lamp. Luminaires will become digital devices that will also give you illumination."

Kemeling even outlined an exploratory conversation he had with the CEO of large German retailer Metro Group, ruminating on how lights might help collect product and consumer information that Metro could share with large suppliers like Unilever and Procter & Gamble. That sort of thing, rather than illumination, would drive the sale of a lighting system: "It starts from the services, not from the lighting."


Russ Sharer, who is vice president of global marketing and business development at LED driver and components supplier Fulham, encouraged lighting vendors to get their fair share of data-related revenue from collaborative smart lighting schemes. "Ultimately in IoT, we have to realize that while lighting is going to drive the initial installations, there will be other apps that run over that network," he said. "I would encourage you as lighting vendors to be thinking about how as you gather that data, you're going to get part of that revenue income as well. If people are doing space planning off the information you've gathered, that might be an opportunity for you to make revenue, whether it's lighting as a service, or light as product."

Emphasizing that interoperability is critical, he noted, "If the lighting industry doesn't understand that, we will get mowed over by the IT and Internet guys, who will say, 'This is just like the Internet; we'll make it work.'"


And finally, Stefan Bernard, proposition manager in the light controls division of Dutch technology company Nedap, zeroed in on the future of lighting in the IoT with a particularly incisive comment: "I think the IoT is successful when people don't talk about the IoT anymore. When it's just working in the background."

Reality check: Do users really want it?

It's one thing to hear lighting and technology vendors extol the virtues of connecting lighting to the IoT. You'd expect it from them.

It's another to hear it from someone in the user community such as Ian Trent, engineering director of one the UK's largest commercial and office property developers, Land Securities. Trent and Land are at the forefront of a real estate movement to install intelligent lighting systems that would attract tenants. While property developers are not always the final end user, they are shaping up as vital facilitators of end-user deployment by providing the systems for tenants to share and tap.

"We are seriously considering using IP-connected light fittings in the next generation of buildings that we'll be delivering," Trent told a packed audience in a presentation ostensibly focused on PoE - one of several different technologies vying for a place in lighting's IoT - but in which he also noted the possibilities for other wired and wireless systems to play a role.

While lighting systems and controls today are already capable of doing many of the things that IoT lighting will be able to do - remotely turn lights on and off, change colors, change color temperature, even collect data - the next step of tying them to the Internet will bring a raft of new benefits, he said.

"We believe at Land Securities that it's the additional benefits of IP-connected technology that are going to make that change worthwhile, especially when we see what's coming over the horizon, and this thing called the Internet of Things," Trent noted. "So by connecting our light fittings to the Internet of Things, each light fitting becomes a node in the network. Now that's not always a good thing, especially if you're the head of cyber-security in a building, or something like that. But the advantage is that light fittings are ubiquitous throughout the office workspace. This means they have the opportunity to do more than just light things."

Like what?

"The truth is we're really not entirely sure yet," allowed Trent. Still, he has several benefits in mind.

For example, sensors connected to networked lights could gather data about room usage and occupancy, which in turn would help facilities operators decide how to reassign, add, or get rid of spaces like conference rooms and hot desk areas. (Dutch standards group NEN is deploying such a system based on Feilo Sylvania lighting in Delft). "An empty office space is wasted," said Trent, who added that benefits of smart lighting systems will probably also include helping office workers connect to IT devices and systems, and that they can help transmit data via technologies such as Li-Fi.

The notion of property developers using modern, intelligent lighting as a lure is something that is catching on in real estate circles. In Madrid, for instance, Grupo Infinorsa is installing PoE lighting from Philips and Cisco on 14 of the 32 floors at its 400-ft Torre Europa office tower in an effort to draw premium rents. In PoE, both electricity and data travel to the lights via Ethernet cable, ostensibly saving a lot of money in new construction sites by avoiding the high costs associated with traditional electrical wiring and electricians. Ethernet cable can handle low voltage, which is needed to power LED lights, renowned for their low energy usage.

And in Toronto, Oxford Properties is outfitting the 42-floor EY Tower with a smart lighting backbone in which tenants will have the option to make each of their individual LED lights IP addressable. The Toronto building is not deploying PoE.

For Land, such offerings are still a way off, because the company is holding off on new projects given the UK building recession.

"The good news is, we are planning for the next cycle of development, our next generation of buildings," said Trent. "We believe that the next product that we will be delivering into the market for the next cycle will be very, very different to what we've been doing over the last ten years."

The down market is giving Land the opportunity to experiment with different forms of smart lighting systems on its own premises, before attempting to install them for clients. When Trent spoke at LuxLive, his company was weeks away from moving into a new corporate headquarters building in London, where it was installing not one, not two, but three different smart lighting systems in three different meeting rooms, working with Zumtobel fittings and controls from Zumtobel's Tridonic unit.

One room will sample wirelessly-controlled IP lighting; another will sample lighting connected via PoE; the third will use more traditional lighting controls on lights powered by conventional electrical lines. Land will be noting the relative merits and functionality of each.

With IP and lighting poised for certain convergence, the question arises: To whom should end users turn to supply the systems? Will the lighting companies own the IoT lighting business, or will tech companies like Cisco, Google, Apple, and IBM? While some people - even people in the lighting industry - will confide that the IT industry will win the upper hand in the business of smart lighting, Trent sees it differently.

"I believe that it is the business of the lighting community," said Trent. "Anybody can run networks. Anyone can get things communicating over networks. That side of it really isn't that difficult. There are always teething problems - so I may come to regret that statement - but the expertise for lighting control, that's what really sets apart the companies that we've worked with. The lighting control companies, the lighting manufacturers, the control gear manufacturers. That's really what we're looking for. Cisco doesn't really understand that. They understand how you communicate things. They'll have a part to play in it. But we're looking for that expertise that has literally controlled our buildings over the last ten years very, very successfully."

Regardless of who wins the battle for industry control, in Trent's view, the move to IP-connected lighting is unavoidable and as natural as the shift that took place when CCTV security cameras evolved from being independent analog systems to digital devices connected to IP networks.

"The next step we believe is fully-connected IP light [fittings] talking across a common IP network to a piece of software," he said. "Our lighting control system becomes a device, which is the light fitting, and a piece of software, which sits on the computer, much in the same way we saw the evolution of the CCTV system."

If the user community is saying that, it's all starting to look and sound much more real.

IoT needs a common language

A lack of interoperability between disparate systems is holding LED lighting back from truly emerging as a connected force in the fledgling IoT.

So said a number of top-flight speakers on stage at the IoT Arena, where many of them implored the lighting industry to work out technological differences, lest they abandon their future. Some put hope in an emerging standard called Thread, under development by a San Ramon, CA-based consortium called Thread Group.

With wired technologies such as PoE vying for a presence against any number of wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, VLC variations including Li-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, NarrowBand IoT, proprietary schemes, and more, potential users are either suffering from the old "paralysis by analysis" affliction, or are simply reluctant to adopt something that will either be too difficult to install or won't properly communicate with other things, they noted.

Injecting reality into wild projections that over 200 billion devices including LED light fixtures could be connected to the Internet by 2020, Arrow Electronics' EMEA technology marketing director Andrew Bickley wondered, "Where are all these billions? Because I'm certainly not seeing the billions of things that were anticipated."

Or as Osram business development manager Mark Vermeulen observed, fewer than 10% of devices in lighting controls are wireless and the number will remain that way until at least 2019. That's a grim outlook given that lighting control is a foundation application for smart, connected lighting, and that many wireless vendors are counting on making early headway there before moving into other applications such as occupancy detection or indoor positioning.

"One of the issues that we're faced with is there are too many protocols," said Vermeulen, who pointed out that other obstacles such as security, battery life, and backward compatibility with legacy systems are also holding back the uptake of smart wireless systems.

The preponderance of wireless protocols can be daunting. "If you're making a decision to deploy an IoT system for the next six years, you could be faced with selecting the wrong technology," warned Arrow's Bickley, who oversees IoT and connectivity for the global electronics distributor. "I wish I could be the bearer of good news, but unfortunately for us there is not one wireless standard that does everything." Some excel at range, others at low power consumption, others at certain applications, and so forth, he explained.

Bickley saw hope in Thread, a new IoT specification that sits under other layers in the communications protocol stack and thus facilitates their interoperation. Thread is based on Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), a communication protocol by which computers identify themselves on networks via a unique IP address. It deploys a low-power version of IPv6 known as 6LoWPAN, with the "6" standing for IPv6 and the "LoWPAN" for low-power wireless personal area network.

Work on Thread started a couple of years ago, focused on home automation devices such as thermostats, lights, locks, alarms, and window blinds. It has grown from 14 founding members - including Google sister company Nest Labs, Samsung, ARM Holdings, Qualcomm, NXP Semiconductors, lock company Yale, Big Ass Fans, and others - to over 200 members. Its roster today includes lighting companies such as Osram as well as Philips, GE's Current division, Cree, Leedarson, Zumtobel, Eaton, Enlighted, and Haiku Home - Big Ass's new residential division that includes LED lighting, heating, and cooling as part of a company now called Big Ass Solutions.

In November, Thread announced that it is providing testing to certify products as compliant with the first version of Thread, called Thread 1.1. Bickley welcomed the development. Noting that Thread "would be my first recommendation for a lighting network today," he lauded it as a stable technology that draws on the security strengths of IP-based technology.

"It uses encryption standards that you would find in the banking system, so its security is high," he said. "It really does tick all of the boxes in terms of the systems that you want to design for a wireless secure lighting system."

One thing that Thread lacks: It does not allow lighting companies and other IoT vendors to write applications natively into it. Bickley downplayed that shortcoming, noting that apps will run over top of it, and thus benefit from the security it provides. In fact, a few weeks after LuxLive, Thread and the ZigBee alliance announced that ZigBee applications will run over top of the Thread protocol, a move that might have signaled that ZigBee will abandon plans to provide a full communications protocol stack ( ZigBee is not inherently IP-based as Thread is.

Fulham's Russ Sharer also saw some promise in Thread. He likened the current lack of interoperability among standards such as Wi-Fi, Li-Fi, PoE, ZigBee, and Bluetooth to sluggishness in the railroad industry before it settled on common rail gauges, to the electricity industry before settling on alternating current for long-distance transmission, and to the "walled garden" era of the mobile phone industry when network operators would provide their own proprietary collection of data services and entertainment rather than facilitating open Internet access.

In lighting and the IoT, the answer will not be in abandoning the many standards. Rather, it will be in figuring out a way to make them interoperate.

"Everyone up here today, almost, has said we need to get to one network, one service," said Sharer, speaking toward the end of the first day. "Let me tell you something. It's never going to happen. We need to think about how we build networks that work with each other. That's the way the Internet works. That's the way the Internet of Things works."

He lauded efforts by Thread and by another group called the Open Connectivity Foundation, which - like Thread - is working toward IoT interoperability.

"You don't have to settle on one particular technology," Sharer said. "You can settle on something like Thread. Thread and the Open Connectivity Foundation are looking at what's already out there, and kind of bringing it together."

Timo Pakkala, chief executive of Finnish Bluetooth-based lighting controls company Casambi, cautioned that Thread "is in the very early stages" and could take a while to establish itself.

Meanwhile, he encouraged the take-up of Bluetooth-based lighting technologies, pointing out that "Bluetooth is actually the most widely used wireless technology in the world - actually more widely used than Wi-Fi." Noting that Bluetooth is a pervasive feature in smartphones and that it allows direct communication with lights without requiring a router, he added, "If you would have to bet on a radio technology that's going to be here for the next 10 to 20 years, I think one of the safe bets is Bluetooth Low Energy."

But will it interoperate with the Wi-Fi system down the hall? Or the PoE on the third floor? With the ZigBee in the adjoining building? Ladies and gentlemen, for the time being, you might have to put on your language translation headsets.

Spaced out: Business has changed beyond recognition for lighting consultants

Dave Tilley used to be a lighting consultant. In fact, he still is. But to hear him talk, the job has changed almost beyond recognition in today's IoT era.

"I was introduced as a lighting consultant and I guess for all intents and purposes I am," said Tilley of consulting firm NRG Star, during a presentation about an NRG smart lighting project at a commercial building in the UK. "But as you've just seen, I think consultants - energy consultants, lighting consultants, building consultants, property consultants - in our world, technology is overriding all of that. Today we're more 'managing data', and 'managing people' and 'managing space' consultants."

Tilley shared the stage with Ashley Bateup, the managing director of technology company 8point3, an NRG partner. The two of them described how together they outfitted the FM Conway office building in Kent, England with 1200 connected smart LED luminaires that will not only help Conway run a more efficient LED lighting system, but will also lay the foundation to run a more intelligent building in all facets.

In expanding on his own de-facto job description, Tilley compared it to a newfangled operational role that has emerged at upmarket British retail chain John Lewis.

"There's a wonderful title of somebody that works at John Lewis - they're called 'space manager,'" said Tilley. "Clearly, they have nothing to do with NASA. They are, literally, people that look at space. And to a large degree, that's what we need to do now."

His partner Bateup recounted how 8point3 equipped Conway's luminaires with wireless passive infrared sensors (PIRs) that operate at 868 MHz, harvesting information about daylight and about the luminaire's operations that goes off to a cloud computing system for analysis.

Bateup described how the system will also help carry out self-testing of emergency lighting, and how it will help prep the building for broader data gathering to monitor the energy and operational performance of other building systems such as heating, cooling, and water.

"For me, lighting was the Trojan horse of this customer to take them on the journey of connectivity and IoT," said Bateup. "It gave them the business case with an ROI that was successful to their business to put the lighting in with a data backhaul solution that enables us now to do many other things. Controlling lights is not much different from controlling other energy assets. And now we have a data backhaul solution across their building and we're now looking at what other things we can we do. We're looking at embarking on a journey with them to move from an intelligent lighting solution to an intelligent building. [We're looking at] how do we bring other sensors and other actuators into that lighting platform to create a more holistic energy model. And more importantly how do we engage, bring more value to other stakeholders in the business from the data that we can extract through our lighting systems and those other monitoring and metering and actuator assets that we deploy?"

Some traditional lighting consultants like NRG are gaining such IT expertise via partnerships with companies like 8point3, which specializes in smart lighting systems.

"They live and breathe the technology," said Tilley. "I like to think I understand people. If you like, I am the interface between the end user - what they require, what data they require - and the technology groups. Lighting at the moment for me is still the primary business."

Still, there is that other frontier. "The key to wireless technology and all the other technologies is understanding the data you're collecting, turning it into a usable format for clients, and actually delivering that to the client. So all the lighting consultants out there, we're actually becoming more space management consultants," Tilley noted.

The space race is on.

Let there be terahertz

At LuxLive 2016, pureLiFi chief operating officer Harald Burchardt braved a live demonstration of Li-Fi, the technology that can transmit Internet service via lightwaves from LED luminaires. It worked. Burchardt used a combination of a dongle-equipped Microsoft Surface Pro tablet (top photo) and two ceiling lights equipped with pureLiFi drivers, one of which appears above him (bottom photo) and is transmitting to his tablet. As he wandered from under one light to the next, the first handed transmission off to the second.

Source: Both images courtesy of Mark Halper.

Burchardt said Li-Fi will complement, not replace, Wi-Fi, and that one of its main advantages will be to open up spectrum in a world that could rapidly run out of space in Wi-Fi's radio frequencies, especially as billions of devices connect to the IoT. "There are about 30 GHz of spectrum available to wireless communications," Burchardt said, referring to Wi-Fi. "But there are 300 THz of spectrum available for visible light. That's exactly 10,000 times more in light than in radio." He also noted that Li-Fi transmitters - lights - can be more densely packed than can Wi-Fi transmitters, which he said will cut down on sharing and thus effectively support faster end-user data speeds.

For the demo, pureLiFi connected the two lights to a standalone server - not to the Internet - to help ensure fast connections in the busy London exhibition hall. The server transmitted wired data as well as electricity to the lights over Ethernet cable, using Power over Ethernet (PoE); standard electricity wires could also carry the data using power-line communications (PLC). The LED lights wirelessly transmitted to Burchardt's tablet via modulation.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor with LEDs Magazine ([email protected]).