New HQ connects 6000 lights via PoE

Jan. 29, 2020
Chip giant Arm is using Ethernet for both data and electricity at its stylish four-story building. It installs Bluetooth-enabled smart building sensors too, but mounts them independent of the lighting system.

True to the point that Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting makes the most sense in new builds rather than in retrofits, British semiconductor stalwart Arm has deployed the technology across some 6000 luminaires at its recently-opened four-story headquarters annex in Cambridge, England.

Arm is controlling the lights centrally over 19,000m2 using LightMatrix software from controls company Prolojik, which also provided a network of Bluetooth-enabled sensors to support smart building functions such as wayfinding. The sensors are not embedded in luminaires but reside on walls and ceilings. All the hardware connects to Ethernet.

PoE lighting uses Ethernet cable for the dual purposes of running both electricity and data to luminaires. It can save money because so-called “Category 5” (Cat5) and “Category 6” (Cat6) and other Ethernet conduits do not require the expense of professional electricians, and are deemed safe enough to carry the lower voltages that are adequate to power LED lights, known for their low energy requirements.

The lower voltage itself is an energy saver — and thus also a cost saver — compared to the higher 110V and 220V that tend to run over traditional wires to LEDs and other destinations. In Arm’s case, the Ethernet is carrying 56V.

While the financial numbers generally don’t justify ripping out existing wires and replacing them with Ethernet in retrofits, the economics can shine in new construction.

That was the case at Arm, where at the end of 2019, High Wycombe, England-based Prolojik switched on LED lights installed by London-based mechanical and electrical contractor Bancroft Ltd. DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) protocol travels over the Ethernet to turn lights on and off and dim or brighten them at the stylish quarters designed by London architectural and interior design firm Scott Brownrigg.

What are the main benefits to Arm?

“Reduction in energy usage, as PoE runs on 56V instead of 240V to the luminaire; and installation costs, as you only need to run a Cat5e/6 cable to luminaires,” Prolojik technical manager Dan King told LEDs Magazine.

The lights came from eight different vendors, each of which built Prolojik PoE drivers into its product.

Outside of the LED lights, Prolojik supplied its own Bluetooth-equipped sensors, built into a mesh network that can provide a number of smart building services including wayfinding, space usage, room booking, and targeted messaging.

Sensor functions include occupancy detection, temperature monitoring, and lux levels. They send their findings back to a central server via Prolojik’s Ethernet-connected Proxima sensor network. By noting room usage, facilities managers can reassign or redesign office and common areas; by noting lux levels, they can make necessary lighting adjustments; occupancy and temperature data can also trigger heating and cooling adjustments; and so forth. King said the network can be used for internal marketing, such as pushing out the café menu to employees’ phones. It can even track employee movements by communicating with employee lanyards.

The system could also be used to provide circadian lighting which adjusts lighting characteristics including spectral energy according to needs, but Arm is not currently deploying that feature, King said.

Neither Arm nor Prolojik revealed the cost of the lighting and smart building system. The two companies worked symbiotically, as Prolojik’s Proxima sensor network makes use of designs from Arm, a provider of semiconductor intellectual property.

Arm itself has been expanding into Internet of Things (IoT) technology, including Internet-connected lighting, to gather data from buildings that can be analyzed and monetized. Indeed, in 2018 LEDs hosted two webcasts with an Arm expert on smart lighting system architecture and building security into IoT designs. Prolojik has served as a lighting partner on Arm IoT jobs, and is helping Arm develop a program called Space Analytics that analyzes the collected data.

Although Arm did not mount sensors inside luminaires at its new headquarters, Prolojik makes sensors that can be embedded inside luminaires.

At Arm headquarters, the 6000 lights include a variety of panels, downlights, luminaires, and exit signs. Vendors included Whitecroft, Fagerhult, Future Design, LTS, Wila, Selux, Lightworks, and RIDI. Three of those — Fagerhult, Whitecroft, and LTS — are part of the Habo, Sweden-based Fagerhult Group.

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

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.