Signify pushes into new data territory at Singapore hotel (MAGAZINE)

Oct. 12, 2018
Signify’s Interact IoT system improves heating and lighting efficiency at the five-star Swissôtel and tends to guests’ comfort — all while gathering data and keeping an eye on people via occupancy sensors. And as Mark Halper discovers, there is not a single Signify LED lamp or luminaire in sight. Once again, data is the new lighting.

Signify’s Interact IoT system improves heating and lighting efficiency at the five-star Swissôtel and tends to guests’ comfort — all while gathering data and keeping an eye on people via occupancy sensors. And as MARK HALPER discovers, there is not a single Signify lamp or luminaire in sight. Once again, data is the new lighting.

In another sure sign that lighting companies are staking their future as much on selling information technology and data as they are on providing illumination, Signify is playing a key role in the renovation of Singapore’s towering, 1261-room Swissôtel, but not as a lighting company in the conventional sense.

Rather, it is outfitting the 741-ft-tall, I.M. Pei-designed hotel with a sensor-equipped system that controls heating and lighting both from within the room and centrally. The LED lights at the five-star facility come not from Signify but from Singapore-based Million Lighting, hotel administrators told LEDs Magazine.

Signify — which changed its name from Philips in May and is the world’s largest lighting company — is furnishing an IT system called Interact Hospitality that guests can manipulate via a wall-mounted touchscreen panel to control temperature and to tailor the lighting to their favorite ambience. The panel can even remember specific lighting scenarios and deliver them at the push of a button.

The iconic Swissôtel The Stamford shines with light and, less obviously, with data in the Singapore skyline.

Photo credit: Swissôtel The Stamford.

The control system also helps facilities managers at the hotel cut down on energy consumption. The touch panels, as well as occupancy sensors mounted in each room, alert central staff when the guest is wasting energy.

For example, if the guest is in the room with the balcony door open and the air conditioning on, the system turns off the cooling within 30 seconds, and a staff member will alert the resident to take action.

“A single phone call will do, advising the guest to close the balcony door,” said Katya Herting, manager of the hotel, called Swissôtel The Stamford, in a promotional video.

The system will also turn out lights when guests leave the room — even if guests want to leave a light on — and it communicates through the IT system that the guest has left. Likewise, the lights turn on automatically when the person re-enters the room, and the system is aware of the guest’s return. Swissôtel is also programming it so that occupants cannot leave bathroom lights on when they go to sleep; rather, floor lights turn on whenever the guest gets out of bed in the middle of the night.

Despite some of the Big Brother implications, Swissôtel claimed there are no privacy issues related to the in-room occupancy system.

“Not at all,” a hotel spokesperson told LEDs. While it is possible for guests to deactivate the auto-control and the sensors, “we have not received any such requests to date,” she said.

In addition to offering one-touch heating and lighting control, Interact Hospitality is loaded with other useful guest features, such as the night floor lights, and buttons for do not disturb, room service, and laundry — all communicated to “dashboard” computer screens in an operations room.

“We were looking for a system that meets our sustainability goal, enhances the guest experience, and also provides staff efficiency,” Nicholas Mak, the hotel’s director of facilities, said in the video.

Let there be data

Interact Hospitality is part of Signify’s broader Interact line of Internet of Things (IoT) hardware and software, aimed at using infrastructure such as lighting to deliver the backbone of IT networks that collect and analyze data, which can be monetized. It is representative of the solid-state lighting (SSL) industry’s attempt to transform into more of an IT provider, now that profits are hard to come by in simply selling bulbs and luminaires using long-lasting LED light sources. Industry number-two Osram is also pushing hard into the IT trend, which LEDs has dubbed Data is the New Lighting.

So pronounced is the industry’s intent on recasting itself as an IT player in today’s “everything digital” economy that when Signify unfurled its Interact banner back in March, it mentioned the word “data” no fewer than 17 times in a press release before trotting out CEO Eric Rondolat to extol the new IT value.

“You can imagine all these devices — lamps, drivers, luminaires, sensors — being connected, sending information through software, and all this software sending this information back to a cloud-based platform, an IoT platform that is called Interact,” he said at the time.

The hotel version of Interact exemplifies the new IoT zeitgeist as much as, if not more than, other variations on the Interact theme. “Interact Hospitality is different to our other Interact systems in that it is primarily a room management system that also manages lighting rather than a lighting system per se,” a Signify spokespersonexplained.

“By integrating lighting, sensors, HVAC, and property management systems, Interact Hospitality allows managers to monitor their entire property via a single dashboard,” said Jella Segers, Signify’s global lead for Interact Hospitality. “The system’s open application program interface [API] enables its connection to a variety of hotel systems, so that real-time information can be fed into everything from housekeeping to engineering systems, helping to make hotel operations more efficient.... By using data from occupancy sensors located in guest rooms and information from property management systems, Interact Hospitality can automatically turn down systems — including HVAC and lighting — when rooms areunoccupied.”

Occupancy sensors know when she enters, and when she leaves. Guests can change lighting and other things at the push of a button via touchscreens mounted bedside and elsewhere in the room.

Photo credit: Signify.

Talking the talk

Cloud? Dashboard? API? Real-time information? What kind of talk is that in LEDs Magazine, known for following cutting-edge developments in SSL?

It’s modern lighting-industry talk, of course. While Signify has left all the new LED lights to Million, its own role at the 70-story Swissôtel is really that of an information technology and building management supplier.

Take, for example, the occupancy sensors. While they might sound like a job for a more conventional electrical, IT, or building management company, they come from — you guessed it — Signify. The Dutch lighting giant is supplying its Dynalite infrared sensors, mounted not inside the lighting but within ceilings and walls insideguestrooms.

“They are recessed into the bathroom ceiling, and surface mounted to the wall as you enter the bedroom,” explained Signify’s Segers. In straight-ahead tech dialect, she added, “These passive infrared sensors with additional lux and IR inputs help to input movement for our real-time occupancy logic.”

That so-called real-time occupancy logic is at the core of the Signify Interact Hospitality systems, as it gathers information that populates the computer screens — the dashboards — that central hotel staff read and act upon.

And oh, those dashboards. Once the project is fully complete, they will display real-time conditions of all 1261 rooms up to the 66th floor (the top 4 floors do not have guest rooms), including granular details such as when the room was last made up, the room temperature and humidity versus what the guest has set, whether it’s occupied, whether the balcony door is open, the fan speed, the status of the do not disturb sign, and more. Hotel staff sit in front of their computers like engineers at a mission control center, looking both for operational inefficiencies and for guest requests.

More and more, lighting companies are selling hardware other than lighting, such as this Dynalite sensor from Signify, which fits into the room ceilings at the Swissôtel.

Photo credit: Signify.

“As a hotel catering for the next generation, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve how we manage our hotels and deliver new value for our guests,” said hotel manager Herting. “This new system helps us to improve levels of service even further and gives our managers a 360° overview of our operations across the entire hotel. This technology is helping us to eliminate unnecessary work for our staff while enabling them to service guest requests in record time.”

While that might sound like the usual scrubbed-up user testimonial for a technology product, what is notable is that Herting is referring here to an IT system provided by a lighting company, Signify. To repeat the point, which cannot be overemphasized: General lighting companies are trying to morph into information technology and data companies as they search for a new business model now that the era of long-lasting LED light sources has destroyed their old model of selling bulbs, luminaires, and their replacements. The transition marks the biggest change in the industry ever — bigger even than the still fairly-recent move to SSL. The IT metamorphosis has been financially difficult, evidenced by recent company reports and warnings from Signify, Osram, and others.

But vendors are intent on making the change to becoming technology providers or facilitators, and it is growing more common for lighting companies to serve as IT providers without furnishing lighting. Osram, for instance, has provided Bluetooth communication beacons to a Swiss retailer, and GE’s Current division has teamed with telecommunications firm Nokia to provide outdoor sensors, software, and data analysis as the two companies jointly seek smart-city deals in Canada, echoing Signify’s technology roll at the Singapore hotel.

Fine-tuning the lighting

There are, of course, also many lighting features at play within Signify’s hospitality systems at Swissôtel. “For example, we know that around 35% of hotel guests leave a light on in the bathroom during the night to orientate themselves when waking up in a new environment,” said Segers. “This may affect sleep quality and prevent deep sleep. With our new room management system, low-level night lights come on automatically when a person steps out of bed, so as not to wake them fully or disturb others in the room.”

Again, with the night lights, Signify is not providing the lights as you might expect from a lighting company, but it is supplying infrared sensors recessed in the back walls of bedside cabinets, which trip the lights into action. And the system allows guests to customize light settings and scenes across the room, from a range of bright to relaxing.

Swissôtel operations staff don’t miss a move as they follow data on their computer dashboards for all those rooms up to the 66th floor such as room 2754, which in this case they know is unoccupied and 25.4°C.

Photo credits: Capture (top) from Signify YouTube Video. Image (bottom) from Signify.

Signify has also fashioned touchscreen controls — another trapping of the IT industry — that not only make it easy to dial up light settings but that also give guests fingertip, fuss-free access to room service, laundry, do not disturb, and so forth.

Many of the rooms have already been refurbished with the Interact system, all part of a general hotel renovation which is nearing completion as Swissôtel works its way up the guest rooms. It expects to complete the final stage — floors 50 through 66 — by the end of the year on this, the maiden voyage for InteractHospitality.

If successful, it will be a sparkling debut for the system, being deployed at a landmark that is a familiar part of the Singapore skyline. It is also part of the city-state’s Raffles City complex of convention center, shopping center, offices, and hotels that also include the Fairmont — which, like Swissôtel The Stamford, is owned by Paris-based Accor S.A.

Could more Swissôtels be in Interact Hospitality’s future? “Yes, plans are certainly in the pipeline,” replied the Swissôtel spokesperson, who also represents Fairmont.

Accor operates a total of 25 hotel brands spanning budget through luxury, such as hotelF1, Ibis, Mercure, and Sofitel along with Swissôtel and Fairmont, plus other related hospitality operations. Its 4500 hotels and nearly 650,000 rooms reach into about 100 countries. Some of those countries might have data and privacy rules that could throw some challenges. But Signify is hopeful that its arrival in Singapore marks a memorable first step in its efforts to check into the IT industry.

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.