Security giant Securitas wants to redefine the way lights deter the burglars (MAGAZINE)

June 4, 2019
The plan has much less to do with illumination and much more to do with — what else? — the IoT. A trial with Fagerhult at a Swedish biotech park could soon help bring the concept to market. MARK HALPER reports.

Here’s an idea that, from a lighting perspective, is as old as the hills:  Keep a few lights on, and you’ll stop the burglars.

Now, Sweden’s international security services giant Securitas wants to take that concept to a whole new level with a strategy that de-emphasizes illumination but still makes lighting technology the indispensable backbone of security schemes protecting commercial buildings from break-ins, intruders, inside jobs, and other nefarious activity.

We are, of course, talking about the lighting- based Internet of Things (IoT), in which ceiling luminaires outfitted with sensors and communication chips take note of what’s happening within a building, sending constant updates to a command central monitoring station and triggering alerts as necessary.

“When I first started in this business, lighting was a lamp in the ceiling and a switch on the wall,” said Kristian Lundin, senior business development manager for SK 101.5 billion ($10.6B) Securitas, which is based in Stockholm.

But oh, how that has changed now that ceiling luminaires can house Internet-connected chips, from rudimentary presence-detecting passive infrared devices (PIRs) to wireless radio components and all sorts of sensors.

“Presence detection is really interesting for us,” said Lundin, pointing out that by putting sensors in all office luminaires, Securitas can obtain a far richer coverage than it has conventionally. He estimated that for every 10 sensors that Securitas has typically installed near doorways and along corridors, it could now have about 50–70 by instead embedding them inside luminaires.

“If you have a sensor in every single lamp, it’s a huge advantage,” he said. 

But how does a security firm go about accessing those lamps?

A natural match

Enter Securitas’ partner, Habo, Sweden-based LED lighting stalwart Fagerhult, which is offering stylish luminaires — its “Sweep” edition — specially equipped with sensors and with algorithmic technology that Fagerhult acquired in 2017 from the now-defunct Organic Response.

The technology has always been intended for lighting controls and can be harnessed for other smart building functions.

Now Securitas and Fagerhult have teamed up to trial the concept in Lund, Sweden at the Medicon Village Science Park, a life sciences research and office complex that is home to a number of fledgling biotech companies.

There, Fagerhult has installed about 70 LED luminaires in a long, narrow lounge and coffee area of roughly 270×56 ft, replacing an equal number of old fluorescents.

The detectors use an Internet connection to send granular heat-mapped, real-time presence information to offsite Securitas security operation centers (SOCs), which display the information on giant screens in a classic mission-control-style room. The centers are in Sweden, and Securitas uses multiple locations for redundancy.

A big part of the attraction for Securitas is that the partnership spares its staff the considerable task of installing sensors.

“We don’t need to put in a single screw,” said Lundin. “We are building security systems based on already existing infrastructure — in this case, lighting.”

Although security service companies like Securitas conventionally purchase standalone sensors from security product companies such as Honeywell, Securitas thinks that it can cut costs by teaming with lighting companies such as Fagerhult. And for Fagerhult, pairing up with Securitas marks a natural alliance in the quest by both industries to leverage the IoT.

“We have more or less the same customer base; we’re centered on serving commercial buildings,” noted Daniel Unoson, Fagerhult manager of controls and connectivity hub.

It started with lighting controls

In Fagerhult’s case, the same wireless technology that links the lights together to provide a heat map to Securitas serves the key purpose of lighting control. The LED lights at Medicon Village intelligently turn on, off, up, and down in response to motion that they detect, guided by Fagerhult algorithmic technology.

The Organic Response technology — which Fagerhult took off the open market and brought in house after its OR acquisition — transmits presence information from luminaire to luminaire and back to an Internet connection using a proprietary wireless mesh protocol that Fagerhult licenses from Finnish software company Wirepas.

“We can install one sensor that controls the light, and the same sensor can be part of the security system,” said Unoson. “It’s one sensor for both.”

The idea is that Securitas’ SOC staff watch the screens for abnormalities, and they can also receive alerts. When they note a suspicious presence, they in turn alert onsite or nearby security guards — about 90% of Securitas’ 370,000 employees are security guards.

Securitas intends to position the system for other applications as well, such as detecting whether individuals are still inside a building during active emergencies and emergency testing, such as fires and fire drills.

“The question we always get from our customers is ‘If we get a fire alarm, how do we know everyone’s evacuated?’” noted Lundin. “The sensors help.” (That use echoes another deployment of smart lights that LEDs Magazine wrote about in our last issue, at an Ocean Spray cranberry processing plant in Middleboro, MA using rival technology from the Digital Lumens group at Osram.)

Going where no camera can go

The PIRs can even go into lights in private places where cameras are verboten, such as changing rooms, locker rooms, and toilets. Unlike with cameras, the Fagerhult PIRs provide faceless presence detection in the form of digital heat maps. Not only do the sensors spot the presence of non-evacuated individuals in these spots, but they can also alert security staff of the possibility of suspicious dealings, if, say, a restroom or other area has been occupied for an unusual length of time.

Likewise, the sensors cut down on the need for end-of-day sweep-throughs by security staff in a retail or commercial space, because, again, staff at command central will be able to tell whether there are people inside the facilities. 

The pilot installation at Medicon Village, which went live in April 2018, is focused on the security applications.

But the same type of system can also be used for purposes such as feeding data to property managers about how people are using the facility and thus providing insights on how to redesign or reassign space. The PIR sensors could also be tied into the HVAC system to help trigger adjustments to heating and cooling.

“It makes sense to use the same PIR for lighting control, for security, and for other purposes,” said Unoson. “Why use two or more?” Furthermore, the embedded PIRs can draw on the electricity that powers the luminaire, eliminating the need to use problematic batteries often deployed with standalone PIRs, he noted.

Ultimately, though, it is a common interest in the IoT that helped forged the partnership between Fagerhult and Securitas. The lighting industry’s keen desire to tie lighting to the Internet has been well documented by LEDs Magazine. The security industry has similar intentions.

“Our strategy is to look into the fragmented world of the IoT,” said Lundin. That strategy would seem to fit well with a plan announced earlier this year by Securitas CEO Magnus Ahlqvist to modernize the company’s IT infrastructure and to run operations more efficiently.

But the IoT approach is also something that Securitas began 10 years or so ago, linking video cameras to the Internet and to SOCs as part of Securitas’ Remote Electronic Security Solution (RESS). Securitas is also engaging other modern technologies such as robots and drones. Smart lighting with PIRs is one of its latest RESS twists.

The PIRs will add another layer of presence detection to video camera surveillance, which will not be incorporated in the lights, and which Securitas tends to position in a facility’s perimeter areas. At Medicon Village, the cameras come from surveillance camera vendor Axis Communications, which is where Fagerhult CEO Bodil Sonesson served as vice president of global sales before taking the helm at Fagerhult last October. Securitas, Fagerhult, and Axis are funding the pilot at Medicon.

Aesthetics, too

Functional reasons of rich presence detection aside, Securitas likes the idea of luminaire-embedded PIRs for yet another reason — aesthetics. As Lundin noted, “Sensors are not beautiful to look at.” Hiding them away in a luminaire can take care of that problem, which is often an issue in spaces going for a certain style of interior design.

But the primary driver at Medicon Village is pure and simple — to test the effectiveness of the intrusion detection. And in a way, Securitas will still embrace the old idea of leaving a few lights on, because, by default, the system should also switch the lights on with any human intrusion, which is more a feature of the OR-driven lighting control system than specifically of the security system.

Securitas plans to take that one step further by programming the system to trip audible alarms and flashing lights. However, that feature will not initially be part of the commercial package. That’s because the PIRs will not currently resist tampering, and they do not have a backup power supply. In other words, an intrepid intruder would be able to disable the PIRs, perhaps by cutting the electricity.

“We’re working on it,” said Securitas’ Lundin. “PIRs within luminaires are developed to control light. They detect when a person is there and when a person has left. That’s good enough to control light.”

And it’s also good enough to provide a rich amount of lighting-based IoT intrusion detection, which is what Securitas hopes to bring to the general market before the end of this year — just without all the bells and whistles.

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