Signify to growers: Give us data access, and watch your plants grow

Feb. 16, 2023
The Dutch lighting giant clarifies that, in the greenhouse, it will work with existing sensors and data platforms rather than provide its own.

There has always been some head-scratching involved with the lighting industry’s attempt to also provide information technology. Why buy internet-connected smart building and city products and services from a lighting firm? Aren’t there plenty of IT companies that already provide those?

And, if an end user does turn to the likes of Signify, Acuity, Fagerhult et al. for IoT systems, just how many of the constituent parts — sensors, wired and wireless communications gear, cloud data storage, and data analysis, for instance — should the lighting company provide?

There is no one answer.

Notably, however, Signify recently issued a press release providing clarity in one sector of smart lighting: horticulture.

With so many greenhouses already outfitted with climate control systems, temperature and humidity sensors, and data connections, Signify made it clear that it will avoid providing those devices.

Instead, it will work with the end user in ensuring that the LED lights in the greenhouse are connected to the existing IT network, so the greenhouse benefits from what Signify calls “data-driven lighting.”

“Growers want to work from one platform and one user interface,” said Kay Rauwerdink, program manager for Horti Data Driven Solutions at Signify.  “That’s why we are designing our data-driven lighting solutions to operate as much as possible on existing data platforms.”

A spokesperson elaborated. “Modern greenhouses are full of sensors to measure parameters such as temperature, CO2, humidity, and plant nourishment,” the spokesperson said. “This generates large amounts of data. A number of technology suppliers are introducing data platforms that growers can use to collect, store, and analyze this data. To implement data-driven lighting solutions, you need to get access to data. Signify will not install its own sensors. Rather, it will use data points that are already stored somewhere in the climate computers of greenhouses.”

The overriding message of the recent announcement was that such data connections can facilitate better lighting. LEDs luminaires — such as Signify’s Philips brand — supplement natural light year-round, and can enable wintertime growing.

By plying Signify’s Philips GrowWise control system with data about greenhouse conditions and crop-specific information, growers can take informed action on light settings, which can be tailored to what they are cultivating.

The intelligence might soon also include energy prices, helping the grower make a cost decision on when to turn the lights down or off.

“Growers will benefit from tools that reduce routine tasks and automate their decision making to lower operational costs, increase harvest amounts and quality, and better predict crop yields,” Rauwerdink said.

Exactly why the Eindhoven, Netherlands–based lighting industry leader chose this point in time to clarify the horticultural IoT furniture allocation is a good question. Despite some notable installations, the company’s horticultural lighting business is experiencing a slump at the moment, so perhaps the idea was simply to reinvigorate things with the general message of how smart lighting can help growers.

It’s also possible that Signify itself has toned down the breadth of products it is supplying to the smart horticultural environment in order to concentrate on optimizing existing systems, and that it wanted to get the message out. Whether it is paring back on things like sensors and communication chips in other sectors is not clear.

For the industry in general, IoT lighting remains an uphill quest.

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.