The time for intelligent LED-based lighting systems is now (MAGAZINE)

July 19, 2011
LED–based light sources are uniquely controllable, and intelligent SSL systems with adaptive controls can greatly enhance energy savings, so what are we waiting for, asks MAURY WRIGHT?

This article was published in the July/August 2011 issue of LEDs Magazine.

View the Table of Contents and download the PDF file of the complete July/August 2011 issue.


We have the technology pieces that are required to broadly deploy intelligent LED-based lighting systems. Sure there are issues to be resolved such as the multiple wired or wireless interconnects that we might use to network a lighting system. But workable networks exist, mainstream LED-based luminaires support dimming and control, and intelligence is the key to really delivering the energy-saving potential of solid-state lighting (SSL).

You will find intelligent lighting as a recurring theme throughout this issue of LEDs Magazine, shared by contributed features on pages 25, 49, and 63.

Intelligent SSL technology was also a recurring theme in the Lightfair International (LFI) educational program. The “Incorporating lighting technologies of today with buildings of tomorrow” session yielded insight into intelligent lighting and perhaps afforded a view at the direction some industry leaders will take. Speakers included Osram Sylvania executives Makarand Chipalkatti and Karl Jessen; Mark Bauserman, executive director of engineering at Paramount Pictures; and Nadarajah Narendran, associate professor at the Lighting Research Center (LRC).

The crowd was sparse at the early-Sunday session and Chipalkatti used that fact to make a key point about the energy-saving potential of LEDs. Noting the two empty rows in front, Chipalkatti suggested that an efficient intelligent-lighting system would reduce the CRI of the lights that were directed at those empty rows and hence drop the energy those lights used by 25%, without affecting the attendee experience. It’s not just output level that’s controllable in SSL.

Still, first-level savings should come from supplying light only where it is required. Narendran stressed that efficient light sources alone aren’t sufficient saying, “Light source efficacy does not tell you whether you are going to save energy.” Narendran stressed the need for using sensors, and leveraging daylight to minimize the need for artificial light.

Bauserman provided insight from the user side of the equation. He said that when Paramount upgraded lighting with dimmable fluorescent lamps with a CRI of 85, he found that the lights could be set at lower output levels yet workers perceived an improvement in the lighting. And he believes that workers will save energy given the option. He said, “If you give an occupant the ability to control light in their space, normally they are going to save energy.”

Financial story is paramount

Bauserman is planning a major lighting retrofit across the 64-acre Paramount campus. His focus is both saving money and improving light quality. Discussing the pitch he will make to management, he said, “I have to tell the story financially, or there is no story to tell.” But he also added that the lighting must maximize worker productivity and mitigate any worker health impact.

For new lighting, Bauserman is looking for bidirectional communications so that he can automatically detect failures and monitor operations. Other goals include a lighting system that is easy to install and commission, as well as long life, and low total cost of ownership.

It turns out that reading between the lines there was a reason the four speakers teamed on the session. Osram Sylvania’s Jessen revealed that his company would be working with Paramount on a case study this fall involving 2x2-ft SSL luminaires with wireless connectivity. Moreover the test will use a DC grid and Class 2 cable to carry power, eliminating the need for an electrician to install the luminaires. Jessen did not say whether the installation will use the Emerge Alliance’s DC technology, but Osram is a member.

The speakers were careful not to provide too many details, but Narendran earlier had mentioned research that the LRC had done with a technology called Future Tiles in which the researchers used LED-based tiles in the walls and ceilings of a room. Jessen also mentioned “LEDs integrated into things like building materials” as a next phase in SSL. It appears we will have a compelling case study to cover later this year, although the speakers declined to provide more details at LFI.

Every retrofit or new lighting installation in commercial applications should include intelligence going forward. Not every case needs the type of technology that we may see from the Paramount installation, but sensing and controls should be universal requirements and LED sources deliver the best user experience and maximum energy savings.