DOE efforts focus on navigating the new connected-lighting landscape

Jan. 17, 2018
At Strategies in Light, James Brodrick will draw from DOE reports to examine the lighting market, and how research and collaboration should be focused to unlock the full potential of connected lighting.
Connected lighting — also known as smart lighting, networked lighting, and in the case of specific architectures, IoT (Internet of Things) lighting — is pervading the solid-state lighting (SSL) conversation and providing a very clear picture of the industry’s future, boasting digital capabilities and ever-increasing controllability as well as data collection and analysis. We noted this theme of connectivity and capability in our coverage of the conference tracks for Strategies in Light a few weeks back. Experts beyond the product development and supply chains can lend additional insight, context, and objectivity regarding the disruption being caused by connected smart lighting. Enter James Brodrick of the US Department of Energy (DOE) Solid-State Lighting Program, who is in the unique position of having significant study and research into market forces and technology uptake at his disposal. At Strategies in Light, Brodrick will draw from recent DOE reports and analysis to examine the current lighting market; what can be learned from pilot demonstrations of tunable lighting systems and connected lighting test beds; and where future research and collaborative industry efforts should focus in order to unlock the full potential and energy savings of LED lighting. — CARRIE MEADOWS

One of the hottest areas of lighting is being facilitated by the convergence of energy-efficient LED technology with the rapidly emerging IoT. Not only are LED light sources inherently dimmable and instantaneously controllable, but they can be readily integrated with sensor and control systems to enable even further energy savings — as much as 1974 tBtu annually in the US, according to a recent DOE report — through the use of such features as occupancy sensing and daylight harvesting. So it’s not surprising that increasingly, lighting systems are incorporating network interfaces and sensors to become data-collection platforms that have the potential to carry out advanced adaptive lighting strategies.

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But the abundance of these new possibilities, combined with a lack of standards and precedents for such a revolutionary lighting use, calls to mind the “Wild West” climate that reigned a decade ago, when LED lighting was still in its early days. To address this, DOE has created a connected lighting test bed (CLTB) designed to characterize the capabilities of connected lighting systems. The first study carried out in the CLTB focused on interoperability as facilitated by application programming interfaces (APIs). It explored the diversity of such interfaces in several connected lighting systems, characterized the extent of interoperability they provide, and illustrated the challenges, limitations, and tradeoffs encountered.

The study characterized the system architectures and the API structure, nomenclature, and information models; investigated the development of a common integration platform; and simulated two real-life use cases to illustrate the relative effort required to use APIs to enable new features and capabilities facilitated by information exchange. The goal is to provide feedback to technology developers on the capabilities and limitations of currently available APIs, educate potential connected lighting system owners and operators as well as IoT stakeholders, and accelerate the development of interoperability specifications, standards, and frameworks or platforms. Part 2 of this initial study will focus on improved testing and characterization methodology.

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A second CLTB study investigated energy losses in Ethernet cables used between Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches and luminaires in PoE connected lighting systems. A test setup comprising a PoE switch, a set of luminaires, and a reference meter was used to test nine cable models of varying design. Power measurements for two widely differing cable lengths — one near 50m and another near 0m — were used to determine the portion of PoE switch output power dissipated by each cable model. The results were analyzed to explore the impact of cable selection on PoE lighting system energy efficiency, as well as the effectiveness of guidelines recently introduced by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) C137 Lighting Systems Committee. The key finding is that the guidance offered in ANSI C137.3-2017 does appear to be effective in limiting cable energy losses to 5% in PoE lighting applications, provided that the average cable length on a project doesn’t exceed 50m.

Other investigations in the works at the CLTB will look at cybersecurity characterization and street lighting. The results of all of these CLTB studies will increase visibility and transparency on key performance characteristics and new feature capabilities, and create tight information feedback loops to inform technology developers of needed improvements, so that the new Wild West can be tamed and the full potential of connected lighting systems can be realized.

JAMES BRODRICK is the manager of the US Department of Energy Lighting program, directing solicitations, portfolio management, strategic planning, and quality performance.