L+B 2016 featured more intelligent, connected lighting than ever, as MARK HALPER reports, as well as examples of lighting companies branching out into services beyond illumination. Next, the lighting industry needs some end users to really prove the point.
The 2016 biannual installment of the Light+Building (L+B) trade fair in Frankfurt promised a strong theme of digital, connected, networked lighting. With lighting poised to play a central role in the fledgling and potentially ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT), CEO Wolfgang Marzin of L+B organizers Frankfurt Messe proclaimed at the gathering's opening session in March that "Light+Building 2016 will put the focus entirely on digitization" and that "the industry will be showcasing smart solutions and forward-looking technologies in digitization and networking."
In other words, the enormous energy-saving attributes of LED lighting are now yesterday's news. Intelligent IoT lighting is the new buzz, and will help secure the future for an industry that in many ways has struggled financially with the transition to solid-state lighting (SSL; Fig. 1).
Strictly speaking, the six-day exhibition, where 2580 vendors and 216,000 visitors sprawled across 248,500m2 - all L+B records - did not disappoint on the connected lighting front (in much the same way that earlier this year in North America, Strategies in Light and The LED Show featured themes of interconnectivity and added functionality with new services enabled by lighting). Stalwarts from across the LED lighting value chain such as Philips, Osram, and Samsung; lesser-known brands like Lextar from Taiwan; start-ups like Gooee and Mozaiq; and many others were on hand to show off and talk up smart, connected lighting systems that do everything - from monitoring crime and air pollution, analyzing retail sales of yogurt, and alleviating illnesses, to improving learning in the fledgling field of human-centric lighting (HCL) and much more.
FIG. 1. At Light+Building, SSL scored high marks for its smart features, but usage scenarios remain a bit shaky. Vendors are still puzzling out how to leverage the benefits of connected lighting systems to make money from burgeoning IoT and services models.Source: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH/Pietro Sutera.
By combining LED lighting fixtures with a broad selection of sensors and data collection technologies, tying them into information networks, and even by tapping the data transmission capabilities of lightwaves themselves, LED-based SSL will play an integral role in the rapidly emerging IoT world where anything that can be digitized will be, vendor after vendor declared.
There was one thing, though, that was conspicuous by its absence - users. Still in its infancy, intelligent connected lighting is at the moment characterized by trial and error, and by early adopters who are piloting unproven technologies and who for the most part remain publicly reticent. Most of L+B's major displays of smart lighting lacked the live user testimonial that would make it all more convincing.
Also noticeably missing from the show floor were the myriad IT companies with whom the lighting companies must partner to make it all happen. Companies such as networking giant Cisco - which has recently struck numerous partnerships with lighting companies - did not have a direct presence. Its absence may be no coincidence: Some say the Googles, Apples, and Ciscos of the world are a threat to the lighting industry in that they, and not traditional lighting companies, will soon control the industry as it moves more into the world of IT.
With that in mind, here are highlights from L+B 2016, including some of the more notable smart lighting announcements, a look at start-up Mozaiq, musings on how Osram might be going to back to the future, and some interesting European developments in HCL.
Data, networks, and analytics
There was a common refrain among lighting vendors at L+B. No matter where in the value chain they reside, lighting companies large and small, known and unknown, echoed the message that lighting is no longer solely about illumination. Rather, with SSL having established a firm foothold on the strength of energy savings, it will now move rapidly into the world of intelligent networking, data collection, and analysis, as lights and luminaires become critical information nodes on the IoT and form the backbone of information networks.
"Our mission is lighting and beyond," said Jacob Tarn, executive vice president of the Samsung LED business team (Fig. 2), which unveiled a module that it will sell on an OEM basis, allowing luminaire manufacturers to turn their products into smart, connected nodes.
"We see ourselves as the lighting company for the Internet of Things," said Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting (Fig. 3), which disclosed new partnerships with tech and telecom companies including Vodafone, and a new trial of lighting-connected indoor location-based services with Dubai supermarket aswaaq.
FIG. 2. Samsung representatives Jacob Tarn and Amar Parmar emphasized the move beyond general illumination to new capabilities and services such as smart connected lighting and Power over Ethernet as the future of the lighting business. Source: Mark Halper.
"The idea is to connect the real world around the lighting installation on the one hand with the digital world on your smartphone," said Christoph Peitz, director of smart lighting solutions in Osram's Innoventures group, which used L+B to enter the indoor location-based services fray with a new technology called Einstone.
The IoT wars are indeed beginning, as lighting vendors start to duke it out not only against each other but also potentially with the IT firms that they may need as partners while they tie their lights into smartphones, home computers, urban information networks, and much more.
FIG. 3. Philips Lighting CEO Eric Rondolat says Philips is "the lighting company for the Internet of Things." One of those things is home security; at L+B, Philips Lighting home business group leader Chris Worp (background) announced new lighting-based home security services. Source: Mark Halper.
One of the early battlegrounds is in the field of indoor location-based services, which is finding early trial uptake in retail stores such as supermarkets like aswaaq. In indoor positioning applications, lights communicate with customers' smartphones to guide them around cavernous stores and offer discounts and promotions on items of particular interest to the individual.
Philips' aswaaq announcement followed a similar Philips project last year at a Carrefour supermarket in Lille, France, which Rondolat declined to confirm will move beyond the pilot stage. Clearly, Philips is still kicking the tires on its version of indoor location-based services, which in its case taps a technique known as visible light communications (VLC). In VLC, LED ceiling lights send information to the upward-facing cameras of shoppers' smartphones.
Osram, in contrast to Philips, made it clear at L+B that it has decided against VLC for its Einstone system. Instead, it is using Bluetooth radio beacons embedded inside ceiling luminaires. While Bluetooth is less accurate than VLC - which can guide users with nearly pinpoint accuracy to the beer or shaving cream or whatever they're shopping for - it can communicate with the phone even when it's, say, in the user's pocket or otherwise not pointing up to the lights. It also requires fewer luminaires than VLC does, according to Osram.
And at L+B, Taiwanese lighting vendor Lextar Electronics Corp. threw its hat into the ring with an indoor location-based services system that uses Bluetooth rather than VLC to communicate from ceiling lights to smartphones. Spokesperson Fiona Chiu explained that the company is avoiding VLC because it requires a phone's camera to be on. Lextar has a trial implementation with a Taipei supermarket, she said. (The VLC versus radio fight is playing out in various installations around the globe. US retailer Target, for instance, is believed to be experimenting with both VLC and Wi-Fi, a radio technology, to determine which will work better).
Technology debates are raging in other areas of smart lighting as well. For instance, Samsung's new Smart Lighting Module (SLM), introduced at L+B, uses several wireless technologies including ZigBee, DALI, and Bluetooth to link office luminaires into various sensors and drivers, and to allow end users to control lighting via smartphones and other devices, both onsite and remotely.
Like similar wireless technology from startup Gooee, the modules will allow users to set lighting scenes that prescribe brightness and color temperature. Using sensors, they will also monitor indoor climate, and via network connections they can adjust heating and cooling systems accordingly. They can also note room occupancy and thus give facilities managers a better sense of how to deploy rooms and other spaces within a building.
But one technology that Samsung is so far avoiding is Power over Ethernet (PoE), a wired scheme that runs both data and electricity over Ethernet cables.
"We are staying abreast of PoE," said Amar Parmar, senior director of Samsung's San Jose, CA-based Strategy and Innovation Center. "We are talking to a couple of companies regarding it, and as it matures, we will bring it to the forefront." One limitation, he said, is that PoE requires new wiring.
That's why supporters of PoE lighting - which include Philips and its networking partner Cisco - often say that it is most suited to either new construction or major retrofits, which by definition would need new wiring anyway. In both cases, the cost of running Ethernet cable is considerably less than running conventional wiring, which requires professional electricians and costly electrical certification, PoE boosters say.
Like wireless modules, PoE lighting offers many operational and financial benefits to office employees and facilities managers, and can help further slash energy bills by more intelligently controlling lights both onsite and from remote locations. Electricity can travel over Ethernet cable because in the case of LED lighting, it is low voltage rather than the 120V and 240V common on conventional wiring around the world.
Philips took the opportunity at L+B to promote one of its most recent PoE installations: an office retrofit at the headquarters of Dutch energy company Alliander, where Philips and Cisco have tied 2200 luminaires into an Ethernet network. Notably, however, no one at Alliander was on hand to describe the project. The company has told LEDs Magazine that it is working out technical issues with the new system.
For that matter, neither Osram nor Samsung presented user testimonials, as smart, connected lighting is still in its nascent stages. Osram said it is trialing Einstone in various local settings, such as at its headquarters in Munich where lighting communicates with smartphones to help visually impaired employees navigate around the facilities.
Technology challenges aside, lighting companies are also attempting to figure out how to make money out of smart lighting. One possibility is to sell smart lighting as a service, rather than sell the equipment as a product. It is unclear to what extent service revenue might contribute to the sales of lighting companies in the future. "I wish I knew," said Philips' Rondolat.
But one aspect is sure to generate income - data. Smart lighting systems gather a lot of it, and can send it off for massaging and analyzing of all sorts. Just for a few examples: Facilities managers can analyze building usage and make adjustments; cities can make note of traffic patterns and work out commercial parking schemes; retailers can track individual buying interests and target people accordingly.
"These connected systems are generating a lot of data," said Rondolat. "It's about monetizing this data for different types of services."
Energy management on the move?
If there was a "Peculiar Announcement of the Week" award at L+B, it would have to go to Osram for its portable, energy-monitoring suitcase (Fig. 4).
Officially called the Mobile Energy Monitoring system, the wireless case measures 53×35×22 cm and, when opened, looks like a cross between an aqualung kit and an electrician's playset. It uses technology from German electrical and automation firm WAGO.
Users can haul it around from room to room, floor to floor, or building to building to take real-time measurements of all electricity-consuming systems, be they lighting, information systems, heating and cooling, or others.
The contraption is not so much peculiar in its own right - after all, energy management and monitoring is a cornerstone of today's green zeitgeist. What makes it unusual is that it's coming from Osram - specifically, from Osram's lamps division, now called LEDvance.
The LEDvance unit, which Osram is trying to sell and which it hopes to at least establish as a separate legal entity by July 1, sells bulbs and general lighting products. The kit looks far more like something you'd expect from an engineering, industrial, automation, or energy firm. Osram product manager Andreas Hyde said the company will sell it initially as a product to engineers, consultants and energy providers; it hopes to eventually include it as part of an energy consulting service.
FIG. 4. Osram's Andreas Hyde exhibited the company's new Mobile Energy Monitoring System, a high-tech suitcase that measures the performance of all energy consumption in a building, not just that from lighting. It underscores Osram's move beyond illumination. Source: Mark Halper.
Which gives pause for reflection: Once upon a time not long ago, Osram was part of engineering, industrial, automation, and energy conglomerate Siemens. As Osram and LEDvance seek new business opportunities in a lighting world that no longer gets by selling bulbs, the quirky suitcase suggests that maybe Osram now hopes to succeed by going back to the future. It feels a little bit akin, just a little bit, to the rejoining of Baby Bells.
A winding road to human-centric lighting
There was good news at L+B on the HCL front if you're a big believer in the application: Professional association LightingEurope has put HCL squarely on its new strategic roadmap, recognizing it for potentially adding huge value to the industry and thus adding jobs, revenue, profit, and all that good stuff.
Now for the debate over whether the glass is half empty or half full: LightingEurope is not really pushing for full-on HCL until 2025. That was the upshot of the association's hour-long presentation of its new strategic roadmap at L+B.
For those of you not yet familiar with the concept, HCL recognizes that the amount and quality of light in our daily lives has an enormous impact on how well we sleep, think, heal, and eat and do just about everything. It has a direct bearing on our health and wellbeing, on our alertness, on our ability to learn, and on many other aspects of our lives.
The HCL movement subscribes to the circadian rhythm notion that human bodies and minds have for millions of years been paced biologically by natural daylight and darkness. The last century or so of artificial light has wreaked havoc on our natural state in ways we are only beginning to understand.
The idea of HCL is to both minimize the harmful effects of artificial light while enhancing the beneficial ones. The advent of intelligent, network-controllable, and tunable SSL is making that possible. For example, light with a high dose of blue wavelengths - such as from gadget screens or certain LED lamps - keeps us awake at night because it suppresses melatonin, the hormone that puts us to sleep. Intelligent lighting can minimize the blues and increase the ratio of rest-inducing warmer tones like reds and orange.
Conversely, a jolt of blue light in a morning classroom could stimulate alertness and attentiveness, just the sort of thing that might help students engage with Shakespeare or the theory of relativity rather than yawning it all away.
In HCL, lighting systems can be programmed to mimic the natural progression of daylight, or can be tuned to frequencies and dosages that suit a desired objective. Hospital studies have shown that certain light - including the natural daylight of south-facing rooms - can speed up healing.
FIG. 5. LightingEurope president Jan Denneman (right) and roadmap task force chair André ten Bloemendal (left) urged L+B attendees to focus on improving artificial indoor lighting to have a positive impact on wellbeing and health, along with developing the right metrics to test and verify such human-centric lighting systems. Source: Mark Halper.
"We spend 90% of our lives in buildings, not in the open air," said Jan Denneman, president of LightingEurope, as he unfurled a slide showing HCL hitting full stride in Europe in 2025. "Artificial light is definitely not up to the standard of natural light. But now with technology developments, we have the ability to give people back the natural light."
Denneman described an industry progression that is now in the early stages of moving from "LEDification" (the establishment of LED lighting on the basis of its enormous energy savings compared with conventional lighting) to intelligent lighting in which users can control lights through networked computers and gadgets, and combine their controls with other systems such as heating and cooling.
In the LightingEurope roadmap, HCL will kick in after other intelligent lighting takes hold. HCL, which LightingEurope also calls "light for wellbeing," will start to pick up in a few years' time, and could be in full bloom by 2025.
"We really need to make the market aware of the possibilities and what it would mean to people using it, be it in elderly homes, in education, in work - it doesn't matter," said André ten Bloemendal, chairman of LightingEurope's strategic roadmap task force. "And we need new metrics and nomenclature in order to describe what we mean by human-centric lighting and how we can measure human-centric lighting systems."
Bloemendal added that European policymakers need to include HCL as part of healthy building definitions. Given the potential benefit to society, 2025 seems like a long way away for full implementation. LightingEurope is just starting to lay the foundation.
"We need to start embarking on it now," said Denneman. "The name of the game is - how can we change it so that not only the lighting professionals, the manufacturers, the designers, the architects, the installers, but also the public starts talking about human-centric lighting. People must demand human-centric lighting. People must get addicted to good lighting."
Gone are the days when lights were simply for illumination, at least according to the vendors, who delivered that general message in unison at this year's Light+Building, even if they did not always agree on how to accomplish it. It will be a mark of success of L+B 2016 if the 2018 version trots out end users to tell their success stories about smart lighting systems that work toward their goals - and maybe even exceed expectations - in terms of interconnectivity, data collection and analysis, energy management, and human-centric qualities.
Mozaiq offers connectivity of lamps and other IoT devices
After a century of practicing a traditional, straightforward business model selling lamps and other hardware at a markup, some lighting companies are now pondering whether to add services to their revenue mix. The advent of intelligent, connected lighting makes it a real possibility. Under a service model, business and home users might not purchase hardware but would instead buy contracts in which they pay for monthly usage including all the fancy features that smart lighting offers, such as remote operation; fine tuning of brightness, colors, and color temperature; connections to heating and cooling systems; and so on.
But how does a lighting company steeped in 100 years of product sales make the shift? Even if it is not selling a service, how does it assure that its wares interoperate and communicate with the many other objects they might encounter in the Internet of Things (IoT)?
There's no one answer, but business-to-business startup Mozaiq Operations GmbH wants to help. In a debut at Light+Building (L+B) 2016, the Frankfurt-based company unveiled its plans for supporting services for smart homes.
The company provides and operates behind-the-scenes software that ties different manufacturers' devices into a cloud platform, enabling functions including app updates and billing.
Mozaiq CEO Ranier Baumann says his company's software can help pull together the many disparate smart devices that will make up the IoT. Source: Mark Halper.
Mozaiq said it securely ensures compatibility of devices that might come from different vendors and different industries. That will be critical in the IoT where anything that can be digitized will be, whether it's a lamp, a refrigerator, a toaster, a toy, a showerhead, or whatever. Interconnectivity between them will be a must-have if the IoT is to truly take off.
"If you want to grow it, you need this strong collaboration between ecosystems," said Mozaiq CEO Rainer Baumann.
Mozaiq, founded in March 2015, represents a cross-company collaboration. It is a joint venture between industrial engineering and automation firm ABB, networking giant Cisco (a partner of Philips and other lighting companies in Power over Ethernet lighting), and multifaceted engineering and appliances powerhouse the Bosch Group, a big provider of sensors aimed at the IoT, among other markets.
Mozaiq says it is targeting its cloud-based "platform as a service" at companies involved in smart homes, energy management, telecommunications, "white and brown goods," app development, and software and services.
Perhaps it's something that a company like Philips might consider as it expands its own lighting-based smart home offerings into cross-industry territory. At L+B, Philips announced new home security and protection features for its Hue smart lamps in partnership with insurance company AXA, energy firm ENGIE, and telecom firm KPN. The new features will alert homeowners to events such as home intrusions or burst water pipes while they are out.
MARK HALPER is a contributing editor with LEDs Magazine (firstname.lastname@example.org).